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Chris Dufresne: Trip down memory lane of 16 BCS title games

By Chris Dufresne Los Angeles Times (MCT) • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:08 PM

If I make it to Monday I will have covered all 16 national title games in the Bowl Championship Series era.

Someone, please, blow a kazoo.

It’s been one crazy ride between Tennessee playing Florida State at the Fiesta Bowl in January 1999 and this week’s final call BCS game in the Rose Bowl.

Did the BCS work?

Of course it did. The BCS exponentially increased college football’s popularity and took a regional sport and made it national.

It made people in Tuscaloosa, Ala., care about a game in Eugene, Ore., and, most years, matched the two most deserving schools in a “title” game.

Did the BCS work?

Of course it didn’t. It gave us colossal controversies because of a standings formula that had to be changed more than a baby’s diaper.

One year, it left the No.1 team in both polls out of the game and, another year, the No. 2 team. Both schools were from the Pac-10 (now 12).

The BCS became the most hated acronym after “IRS.”

If the BCS was so good we wouldn’t be going to a four-team playoff next season, right?

With Florida State and Auburn preparing for the last BCS title game, it’s time to blow out 16 candles.

Here are my top memories (not all of them great).

16. Miami vs. Nebraska, playing in the “Rose Bowl,” in 2002, two days after the parade, on a Thursday night. You needed infrared lenses to see the San Gabriel Mountains.

It was an Orange Bowl, not a Rose. Yuck.

15. Last year, before the game, sitting in South Florida’s Sun Life Stadium before Alabama vs. Notre Dame.

I fixed binoculars on Alabama during warmups. Man, the Crimson Tide looked like an NFL team. Then I watched Notre Dame warm up. Man, the Irish looked like a college team. If I was a gambler I would have called my bookie and bet the house on Alabama.

Final score: Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14.

14. Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant making a great tackle on Auburn’s Michael Dyer in the closing moments of the 2010 championship in Arizona. So why was Dyer allowed to get up and run for a 37-yard gain? Because, like a cat, he somehow twisted free without touching down. Dyer’s run set up Wes Byrum’s game-winning field goal as time expired.

13. Oregon coach Chip Kelly, after losing to Auburn on that last-second field goal, promising everyone at University of Phoenix Stadium his Ducks would be back. Oregon has never been back and Kelly is now coaching the Philadelphia Eagles.

12. Miami, January 2005. Oklahoma’s Mark Bradley fumbling an early punt return he should have never handled. It flipped the momentum in a runaway USC win: Bradley: “Just a bonehead mistake. I have to live with it.”

11. I’m still not sure Alabama deserved a rematch against Louisiana State in New Orleans to end the 2011 season. I am sure the Crimson Tide was so dominant the only question we had was whether LSU would ever cross midfield. The Tigers did, with 7:30 left, in a 21-0 loss.

10. The 2006 season title game in Arizona. Ohio State’s Ted Ginn Jr. runs the opening kick 93 yards for a score as I’m thinking, “the poor SEC, are they ever going to win another BCS title?”

But Ginn sprained his ankle during the touchdown celebration and didn’t return. Florida won, 41-14, the first of seven straight BCS titles for the Southeastern Conference.

9. It’s pregame at the 2005 Orange Bowl and Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is walking through the press box making a case why his undefeated Tigers deserve a share of the national title.

He needed a close BCS game for his argument, but USC crushed Oklahoma, 55-19. Tuberville gave his players rings anyway.

8. Meeting J.W. Marriott Jr. at his Harbor Beach (Fla.) resort in January 2009. Mr. Marriott, as we Gold Members call him, was friendly with Florida coach Urban Meyer. The game was not as memorable as star quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford, who combined for four interceptions.

I think Florida won.

7. Alabama’s Marcell Dareus rocking Texas’ world in the 2009 season title game at the Rose Bowl by knocking Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game in the first quarter.

If McCoy doesn’t get hurt, and Texas wins, isn’t Mack Brown still the coach?

6. Sitting at the first BCS game in the 1998 season and thinking how amazing it was that quarterback Tee Martin, not Peyton Manning, led Tennessee to its first national title since 1951.

5. “Katrina” is what I remember about 2007 and LSU’s 38-24 victory over Ohio State. The title game marked New Orleans’ comeback after the devastating flood following the hurricane. I remember a guided Katrina tour hosted by a Times-Picayune editor who had to canoe back to his flooded home. I remember the Lower Ninth Ward and seeing the second-story balcony where they pulled Fats Domino to safety.

4. Ohio State 31, Miami 24, Jan. 3, 2003, the Fiesta Bowl. What a game, what a double-overtime deadline nightmare. Bob Ryan of the Boson Globe slammed his phone down so hard in the press box you could have heard it on Cape Cod.

3. Same game, first overtime. Miami rushed the field after Craig Krenzel’s pass fell incomplete in the end zone. Fireworks went off as Miami celebrated back-to-back titles. But wait ... what? Referee Terry Porter threw a late pass interference flag on Miami defensive back Glenn Sharpe. Ohio State got the ball on the two and scored the tying touchdown. The Buckeyes won in the second OT.

2. “What we have is an imperfect system.” That’s what BCS coordinator Michael Tranghese said in New Orleans after the 2003 season ended with a split title. The Associated Press voted USC its national champion while the coaches were mandated to vote for LSU. Tranghese said he personally thought an oversight committee should pick the teams. Ten years later, his wish came true.

1. Polishing up my USC “dynasty” story in the Rose Bowl press box. The Trojans, after all, led Texas, 38-26, with 6:42 left. The story still looked good as USC faced fourth and two at the 45. One Reggie Bush run would have sealed the deal, but Bush wasn’t in the game. Texas stopped LenDale White cold, Texas got the ball back, and Vince Young led the Longhorns on the game-winning drive.

Texas 41, USC 38 wasn’t just the best game of the BCS era. It was one of the best games of any era.

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