CONTROVERSIAL BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: A LOOK AT WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN IN A FOUR-TEAM PLAYOFF – 2007
Sure, it may be only a couple days until the 2012 season, but with the installation of a new four-team playoff structure this off-season (set to begin in 2014), it is as good of a time as any to ponder what teams should have made the playoffs in the 15 years of the BCS’ existence.
Nearly every year one or more teams are left complaining about the final polls not falling in their favor. Now there are only two more seasons to endure the BCS structure before college playoffs begin, two more years of a team or two getting robbed from their shot at a title.
This series leading up to the kickoff of the 2012 season will feature a mock playoff from specific years when the BCS system seemed to get it all very wrong. Based upon the team’s record and players, we will simulate who would have played whom and come out victorious had the playoffs existed from the get-go, starting with the 2000 season. This will focus only on controversial BCS national championship games, explaining what could have happened had there been a playoff.
For part 1’s look at the 2000 season’s proposed playoff, click here.
For part 2’s look at the 2001 season’s proposed playoff, click here.
For part 3’s look at the 2003 season’s proposed playoff, click here.
The 2007-08 Season
2007 BCS Recap – The Controversy
The controversy in the 2007-2008 football season stemmed from the fact that a two-loss team would participate in the National Championship game. The regular season had been filled with upsets, continued onto the last two weeks when the top two teams in the standings lost on the same weekend for two weeks straights, throwing the BCS into upheaval.
After then #1 LSU lost to Arkansas in triple overtime, Ohio State which had been idle for the last two weeks, climbed from #5 to #1. The biggest curse reigned over the #2 position in the polls, nearly every team that ascended to the 2nd place spot immediately losing their next game. After the smoke cleared from the multiple upsets, it could be argued that the top 11 teams in the BCS had the same or better record than LSU, and in the case of Hawaii, the only undefeated record.
Oregon fans were left wondering what would have happened if QB Dennis Dixon had not gotten hurt. With a healthy Dixon, the Ducks were the hottest team in the country having suffered only one loss on a last-second fumble at the goal line, and Dixon was considered the best player in the country–the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Yet when Oregon reached the dreaded #2 spot in the polls once again the curse emerged, Dixon tore his ACL on national TV, ending Oregon’s hopes as they lost the final three games of the year to slide out of contention.
The Hypothetical 4-Team Playoff
#1 Seed: The 2007 Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes started the season off with a bang, thrashing their first two opponents, Youngstown State and Akron 38-6 and 20-2, respectively. Next up for the Buckeyes were the University of Washington Huskies, with hopes of tying a school record 21-consecutive regular season wins as well as head coach Jim Tressel’s 200th career victory.
Early in the second quarter Ohio State’s offense was able to get to the Huskies’ 9-yard line, but were forced to settle for a 28-yard field goal. The first touchdown of the game would occur when Husky QB Jake Locker threw a 23-yard pass to WR Anthony Russo with only :03 seconds remaining in the first half, heading into halftime 7-3.
Washington looked ready to take advantage of the momentum on their home turf at the start of the second half, driving to the Buckeyes 19-yard line before losing yards on three consecutive plays, the last thanks to a sack of Locker by LB James Laurinaitis. Washington’s 46-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Ryan Perkins, lighting the fire that the Buckeyes desperately needed. Ohio State would not let the Huskies lead again, handing them a 33-14 loss.
The Buckeyes next two games, against Northwestern and Minnesota, were lopsided victories with a combined score of 88-14. Now 5-0 on the year, Ohio State would face its first ranked team of the season, #20 Purdue. The Boilermakers would prove to be no match for the Buckeye either, held scoreless until the end of the fourth quarter, a 23-7 Ohio State victory.
Ohio State appeared unstoppable, rolling through their foes with little resistance. Kent State, Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin all fell victim to the Buckeye machine…but then came Illinois. Led by dual-threat quarterback Juice Williams, premiere running back Rashard Mendenhall, and stalwart cornerback Vontae Davis, the Illini gave the Buckeyes all they could handle and more. Illini held on 28-21, running out the clock at the end, stunning Ohio State with what was instantly deemed the greatest win in Illinois history, Coach Ron Zook’s first win over a #1-ranked team.
Licking their wounds, Ohio State recovered in prime fashion, taking down their arch-rival Michigan Wolverines in the big game 14-3, earning the Big-10 title. Ohio State, with the Big-10 title in hand, was bound for the national championship once more, the stunning Illinois loss the only blemish on their season, to face a two-loss LSU team in the Sugar Bowl. The home field advantage for LSU was too much to overcome, as the Buckeyes succumbed to LSU 38-24.
#2 Seed: The 2007 Virginia Tech Hokies
The Virginia Tech Hokies started the season with an easy win against East Carolina, 17-7. In only their second game of the season, the Hokies faced the LSU Tigers, their first ranked opponent, a major test. LSU QB Matt Flynn led the Tigers to scores on four of their first five possessions, handing the #9 Hokies a devastating 48-7 loss.
The hurting Hokies next two opponents were easier to take care of, defeating Ohio 28-7 and William & Mary 44-3, before having to face a stout North Carolina Tar Heels squad. The Hokies had to count on their defense to hold off the Tar Heels as still-new QB Tyrod Taylor struggled, throwing only 10-for-19 for just 66 yards and one interception. Beamer’s boys on defense came through however, and the Hokies barely escaped with a 17-10 victory, with #22 Clemson looming.
A game that many thought would be competitive vs. Clemson turned out to be a mostly one-sided affair, Taylor performing much better helping lead Va Tech to an impressive 41-23 victory. With other teams around the country falling, Va Tech’s one-loss to #1 LSU didn’t appear so bad, elevating the Hokies back into the national championship hunt.
The Hokies walked away with an easy 43-14 win against Duke, leading to yet another matchup against a #2 team, this time ACC rival Boston College. Wide receiver Eddie Royal scored on an 8-yard pass from Sean Glennon, the “other” quarterback in Virginia Tech’s dual-QB system. The Eagles would go into halftime scoreless, trailing Virginia Tech 7-0.
An early third quarter field goal put the Hokies ahead 10-0, the defensive battle remaining largely a stalemate until a nine play, 92 yard drive with only 2:05 left on the clock put the BC Eagles on the board, scoring on a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Ryan. An onside kick recovery gave the BC Eagles life, a chance for Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan to lead an epic comeback against the #8 Hokies. With only two minutes left in the game, the fans were on the edge of their seats as Matt Ryan found Andre Calendar in the endzone, giving the Eagles a 14-10 victory and putting Ryan squarely in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy.
The Hokies next three games were blowouts as Virginia Tech beat Georgia Tech, Florida State and Miami with a combined score of 111-38. The rivalry game against Virginia would prove to be no problem for the Hokies as well, beating the Cavaliers 33-21, setting up a rematch against Boston College in the ACC conference championship. The Hokies got their revenge for the comeback loss, defeating Boston College 30-16 to claim the ACC title.
With two losses including one to two-loss LSU, the Hokies were denied their shot at the BCS Title game, relegated to the Orange Bowl. Perhaps letdown from the Boston College loss denying the Hokies their shot at a title, Virginia Tech struggled vs. Kansas, losing 24-21.
#3 Seed: The 2007 LSU Tigers
The second-ranked Tigers offense looked sloppy in its first game against Mississippi St, but thanks to Michael Henigs record six interceptions thrown three of which were grabbed by Craig Steltz helped the Tigers defense led LSU over Mississippi St 45-0. LSU then faced #9 Virginia Tech in one of the few marquee non-conference matchups of the year. Everyone expected the game to be close, but LSU dominated the Virginia Tech defense, statistically the best in the nation the previous two seasons.
Keiland Williams rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Matt Flynn added 217 yards passing to lead LSU to a dominant 48-7 victory, handing Coach Frank Beamer the worst loss of his storied Va. Tech career.
LSU defeated helpless Middle Tennessee State 44-0 before hosting #12 South Carolina. LSU reached into its bag of tricks, scoring on a fake field goal to take a 21-7 halftime lead and deflate a Gamecocks defense that had before that kept them within a touchdown.
The Tigers did not suffer a letdown the next week against Tulane, winning 34-9. Next up were the defending national champions the Florida Gators. Tim Tebow shredded the tough LSU defense for 158 yards and two touchdowns while also adding 67 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, leading Florida to a double digit lead three times, but it was not enough. The mad hatter pulled one over Urban Meyer as the top-ranked Tigers gambled and won scoring two touchdowns on fourth down and another on a fake field goal to take down the Gators 28-24.
The Tigers luck finally ran dry against #17 Kentucky, relying on Andre Woodson who passed for 250 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers and Wildcats played a thrilling triple overtime game. The Tigers could not answer Andre Woodson’s third touchdown pass and were stopped on a 4th and 2 as Kentucky sent LSU home with a 43-37 defeat, their first of the year.
The next week against #18 Auburn, LSU was involved in another thrilling game to the finish, this time with a few seconds left Matt Flynn found Demetrius Byrd for a 22-yard fade in the back of the end zone ending Auburn’s bid to repeat what Kentucky had accomplished the previous week.
LSU shot through Alabama, Louisiana Tech and Ole Miss before setting up against Heisman hopeful Darren McFadden and Arkansas–McFadden living up to all the hype. McFadden rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns and even managed to throw for another lifting Arkansas to a 50-48 victory, dealing LSU their second loss of the season..
To end the season the Tigers faced Tennessee in the SEC championship game. After finding out from head coach Les Miles, that he would still be their head coach following rumblings of his departure for Michigan to replace Lloyd Carr (who had been embarrassed on national TV to start the year by Appalachian State and Oregon). The Tigers defeated the Vols 24-17 by scoring on an 18-yard interception return ending the regular season at 11-2. Despite having two-losses, LSU won the SEC Title, and with it a trip to the National Championship game, played in their own backyard at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. LSU would prove victorious over Ohio State with the help of a partisan crowd in Louisiana, 38-24, the only two-loss team to ever play in the BCS Championship much less win the national title.
#4 Seed: The 2007 Oklahoma Sooners
To start the season Oklahoma’s freshmen backfield made sure its debut was a memorable one as Sam Bradford threw for 363 yards and running back Demarco Murray added five touchdowns on the ground. Bradford kicked of his Sooner career with an astounding 21/23 passing, helping Oklahoma thump North Texas 79-10. Oklahoma kept on rolling, Bradford throwing a school-tying five touchdown passes to help the fifth-ranked Sooners 51-13 over the Miami Hurricanes.
Oklahoma flew by Utah State and Tulsa before traveling to Colorado for their first Big-12 conference game. The wheels on the Boomer Sooner fell of the wagon in Boulder, Cody Hawkins (the son of head coach Chris Hawkins) threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Buffs over the Sooners 27-24. Colorado had to overcome a 24-7 halftime deficit, but 17 fourth quarter points and a tenacious defense held the normally-accurate Bradford to only 8/19 passing and 112 yards and the potent rushing attack to 118 yards.
Next, it was time to face arch-rival Texas in the annual Red River Rivalry. Bradford was back to his usual self, completing 21/32 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, all three of Bradford’s touchdown passes broke a tie, the final being the last straw as Oklahoma defeated Texas 28-21.
Oklahoma then faced a stiff test from Chase Daniel and Missouri. Both quarterbacks put up big numbers, with Daniel throwing for 361 yards and Bradford 266, but it was turnovers that separated the two as Daniel also threw two interceptions, Oklahoma toppling the valiant Missouri Tigers 41-31.
The Sooners faced a scare from Iowa State but eventually won out 17-7, then easily handled Texas A&M 41-14 and Baylor 52-21, before carrying their #4 ranking to Texas Tech.
Against Tech, Oklahoma’s national championship hopes suffered a blow when Sam Bradford was knocked out of the game with a concussion midway through the 1st quarter. Without their quarterback Oklahoma had no chance, mustering only two late touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the score a more respectable 27-34 loss.
The next week in the annual Bedlam game against in-state rival Oklahoma State, the Sooners rallied behind Allen Patrick, who ran for 202 yards and two touchdowns, to hoist Oklahoma to the Big-12 championship game, 49-17.
Oklahoma faced a rematch against Missouri, hell bent on revenge for the close mid-season loss to the Sooners. Oklahoma showed that the Missouri Tigers still did not have enough firepower as Oklahoma rushed for three touchdowns and Bradford threw two more touchdowns to upend the Tigers clinching the Big-12 title with a 38-17 victory. However it would be hollow victory, the Sooners were passed over for a spot in the National championship game in favor of Ohio State and a two-loss LSU team.
The Hypothetical Playoff –
Semifinal Game 1:
*Simulated using whatifsports.com
The Oklahoma Sooners came into the game hearing all week how Ohio State, the only one-loss team in the playoffs, was the most complete team in all of FBS that year. The Sooners put an end to that talk quickly by taking control of the game right from the beginning. Bradford finding tight end Jermaine Gresham for a 6-yard touchdown pass.
After a clock-chewing drive by Ohio State stalled when RB Chris Wells dropped a pass on the sideline, Oklahoma went to work again. After some tough running from the duo of Murray and Patrick, Bradford fired a pass to the pylon for Manuel Johnson who caught it for a 9-yard touchdown.
Ohio State took the next possession and rallied behind the strong legs of Chris Wells running for 50 yards before a Todd Boeckman pass to Maurice Wells for a 4-yard touchdown pass. Oklahoma got the ball back, switched to a ball-control offense, and marched down to the Ohio St. 11. With 21 seconds left Allen Patrick ran through the Buckeye defense for an 11-yard score to end the half– Oklahoma 21 Ohio State 7.
Ohio State started the with the ball in the 2nd half, but after a Todd Boeckman interception Jermaine Gresham scored his 2nd touchdown of the game on a 12-yard flag route. Ohio State got back into the endzone when a Bradford pass was intercepted by Larry Grant, Boeckman capitalizing with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie. Ohio State managed to add another field goal to come within 28-17 but would get no closer as Oklahoma ran out the clock scoring two more field goal, final score 34-17, with Oklahoma advancing to the national title game.
The Hypothetical Playoff –
Semifinal Game 2:
Virginia Tech vs. LSU
*Simulated using whatifsports.com
Virginia Tech got their best game of the season out of freshmen quarterback Tyrod Taylor. After using two quarterbacks all year, Taylor separated himself while Sean Glennon struggled, throwing an interception on his first play of the game. LSU took the Glennon interception and marched 44 yards, capping off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jared Mitchell from Matt Flynn. Tech answered with the legs and arm of Taylor, who accounted for 60 yards of the 70-yard drive, capping it off with a 7-yard pass to Eddie Royal.
After Matt Flynn threw an interception, Tech marched down the field, scoring when Tyrod Taylor ran to the corner for a 3-yard touchdown. After a quick three-and-out from LSU, the Hokies were threatening again but a fumble by Jahre Cheeseman killed the drive. LSU took over on its own 10-yard line, marched all the way to the Hokies 3-yard line, but were forced to settle for a 29-yard field goal.
Virginia Tech took the next possession and reached the LSU 32, but only netted a field goal. After a fumble by LSU kick returner Brandon Lafell, Tech got another field goal as time expired with three seconds left on the clock before halftime.
LSU down 20-10 turned to Keiland Williams running right past the entire Hokie defense for a 68-yard touchdown. Both teams traded a few possessions but netted zero points until the start of the fourth when Va Tech finally managed to put a field goal on the board for a 23-17 lead.
LSU was not ready to give the game up yet scoring two field goals to send the game into overtime. LSU lost the toss and after getting to the 12 yard line was shut down on three consecutive running plays with 1 yard to go settling for a 29-yard field goal. Virginia Tech responded with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Taylor, who finished 20-29 for 288 yards two touchdowns adding 70 yards on the ground.
The Hypothetical Playoff –
Oklahoma vs. Virginia Tech
*Simulated using whatifsports.com
Va Tech kicked off the scoring when Branden Ore ran 33 yards to the endzone untouched. Oklahoma mounted a drive of its own, coming away with a 27-yard field. After a three-and-out by Va Tech, Oklahoma again went deep into Hokie territory but was stopped just short when a pass from Bradford to Juaquin Iglesias was knocked loose by a jarring hit delivered by Victor Harris.
Va Tech got the ball back and delivered with a 25-yard pass to Josh Hyman for a touchdown. After Demarco Murray fumbled, Taylor threw to Eddie Royal hauling it in for a 21-yard touchdown pass giving the Hokies the halftime lead, Va Tech 21 Oklahoma 6. Oklahoma came out of the half roaring as Bradford completed two long passes to get into Tech Territory, hitting a 17-yard slant to Joe Jon Finley Va Tech would mount a long drive of its own, but after stumbling in the redzone settled for a 25-yard field goal and 24-13 lead going into the fourth quarter.
At the start the fourth, Bradford dropped back and threw a rope to Demarco Murray but Cam Martin stepped in front of the pass for an interception and returned it to the Sooner 30-yard line. The Sooner defense managed to keep the damage to a minimum, forcing a field goal.
After two three-and-out by both teams, Oklahoma found itself with the ball at its own 5-yard line. Bradford found Jermaine Gresham, who had been mostly silent for the game,for a 27-yard gain. On the next play, the aggressive Tech defense failed to recognize the screen and DeMarco Murray ran 68 yards to pay dirt.
27-19 though would be as close as the Sooners would get after their onside kick failed, Virginia Tech scored one last field goal to finish the Game 30-19.
The playoff MVP would go to Tyrod Taylor who passed for 217 yards and ran for a 110 yards in the Championship game. Had there been a four team playoff rather than the BCS structure, according to whatifsports.com your 2007 National Champions would have been the Virginia Tech Hokies.