Five Greatest College Football Bowl Games of the BCS Era

With the 2011-2012 college football bowl game schedule set, the BCS National Championship Game between LSU and Alabama promises to be one for the ages. As the college football bowl season begins, let’s take a look back at the five greatest bowl games of the BCS era.

5. 2004 Sugar Bowl: LSU 21, Oklahoma 14

While today’s college football fans debate the merits of Alabama versus Oklahoma State earning the right to take on LSU for all the BCS marbles, a similar debate was had in 2003.

LSU—interestingly, coached at the time by current Alabama head coach Nick Saban—and Oklahoma, which had been blown out by Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game, were selected to play for the BCS National Championship in the Sugar Bowl, resulting in outrage by fans of USC and college football.

The No. 1-ranked defense of LSU smothered the No. 1-ranked offense of Oklahoma, holding the Sooners to a paltry 154 yards of total offense, with the Tigers emerging as the BCS national champion. USC, however, was crowned college football’s national champion by the AP Poll after its Rose Bowl triumph over Michigan.

4. 2000 Orange Bowl: Michigan 35, Alabama 34, OT

The Alabama Crimson Tide held a 28-14 advantage over Michigan in the third quarter of the 2000 Orange Bowl, but Wolverines quarterback Tom Brady engineered two scoring drives that knotted things at 28 points a piece heading into the fourth quarter.

Michigan twice blew opportunities to win in regulation, with a fumble at the goal line and a blocked field goal as time expired, so the two teams headed to the first overtime period in BCS bowl history.

Brady wasted no time putting points up on the board in overtime, throwing a 25-yard touchdown strike on the very first play. Alabama responded with a quick score of its own, but the extra point attempt sailed wide right, giving the Wolverines the heart-stopping victory.

Five Greatest College Football Bowl Games of the BCS Era

3. 2007 Fiesta Bowl: Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42, OT

Cinderella crashed the BCS Ball in 2007 when Boise State of the WAC was finally invited to a BCS bowl game normally reserved for the heavyweight college football conferences. The Broncos would face Adrian Peterson and the Oklahoma Sooners.

In a wild finish that featured a combined 22 points scored in the final 86 seconds of regulation, Oklahoma returned an interception for a touchdown with 1:02 left to play, seemingly sealing the game for OU.

Boise State, though, unleashed three unforgettable trick plays: a hook-and-ladder on 4th-and-18 for the game-tying touchdown with :07 left in regulation, a halfback pass for a touchdown in overtime, and a Statue of Liberty play on a gutsy two-point conversion to end the game and shock the college football world.

2. 2003 Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State 31, Miami 24, 2OT

The Miami Hurricanes, winners of 36 consecutive games, were heavily favored over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl that served as the BCS National Championship Game for the 2002 college football season. The Buckeyes would have none of it, though, battling the Hurricanes to a 17-17 tie at the end of regulation.

Miami scored first in overtime, but Ohio State converted twice on fourth down during its overtime opportunity, including on a very controversial and late flag for pass interference in the end zone that gave OSU new life with first-and-goal from the 2-yard-line. The Buckeyes scored the touchdown, forcing a second overtime.

Ohio State quickly scored in the second OT, but Miami responded by driving down to the 2-yard-line, where they were set up with first-and-goal. The suffocating Buckeye defense held Miami out of the end zone on four consecutive plays, however, culminating in the first national championship for OSU in 35 years.

1. 2006 Rose Bowl: Texas 41, USC 38

The Granddaddy of Them All in 2006 featured Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns against Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush and the USC Trojans for the heavily hyped BCS National Championship Game. USC entered the contest as winners of 34 consecutive games and two-time defending BCS National Champions.

Young, who accounted for a record-breaking 467 yards of offense in the game, led Texas back from a 38-26 fourth-quarter deficit with the help of a Longhorns defensive stand on 4th-and-2 for the Trojans near midfield with 2:09 left to play.

Texas drove to the USC 9-yard-line before stalling out and facing a 4th-and-5 and trailing by five points with :26 left on the clock. Young dropped back to pass, couldn’t find a receiver open, and took off running, instead. He glided through the corner of the end zone with :19 left to play, giving the Longhorns their first national championship since 1970.