College Football Teams That Could Have Benefited from a Playoff (Last 50 Years)
June 27, 2012
1 of 20Neil Leifer/SI
The polls crowned Alabama the 1964 national champion before bowl games were played. The rub: Texas wound up knocking off Joe Namath and the Tide, 21-17, while Arkansas ended the season undefeated. Frank Broyles' Hogs strung together five consecutive shutouts in the middle of the season and a 10-7 victory over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl.
2 of 20AP
Kenny Stabler and the Crimson Tide found themselves snakebit by the polls after No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State tied, 10-10, in their matchup. Bear Bryant's squad remained No. 3 despite outscoring its opponents 144-7 in the final five games of the season.
3 of 20Neil Leifer, James Drake, Herb Scharfman/SI
One of the first vocal proponents of a playoff system, Joe Paterno went as far as President Nixon to voice his dismay with college football's postseason. Paterno was infuriated when Nixon attended the 1969 Texas-Arkansas game so he could crown the winner the national champion. Nixon offered Penn State a trip to the White House and a trophy for the nation's longest winning streak. Paterno replied "Shove It." Paterno also famously claimed "How could President Nixon know so little about Watergate but so much about football?"
4 of 20AP; Courtesy of Arizona State University
Frank Kush twice led the Sun Devils to undefeated seasons, but the WAC was so lightly regarded that ASU was ranked sixth in 1970 and second in 1975. Both times, the Sun Devils were the only team that won every game they played.
5 of 20Heinz Kluetmeier, Walter Iooss Jr./SI
USC and Alabama
USC and Alabama split the 1978 national title even though the Trojans beat the Crimson Tide by 10 points in Birmingham earlier in the season. Alabama knocked off top-ranked Penn State in the Orange Bowl while USC beat fifth-ranked Michigan in the Rose Bowl, which was enough to cause voters to split the vote and produce one of the most controversial co-championships in college football history.
6 of 20George Long/WireImage
Huskies fans were furious that BYU, which ranked 82nd in strength of schedule and did not play a single team that finished the season ranked, was awarded the national title. Don James' squad was ranked No. 1 for four weeks, but an upset loss at USC cost Washington both the conference and national title.
7 of 20Rich Clarkson, Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
Colorado and Georgia Tech
Bobby Ross and fans of the Ramblin' Wreck couldn't have been thrilled that their undefeated Yellow Jackets split the title with 11-1 Colorado. The voters decided that Georgia Tech's tie against 6-4-1 North Carolina was on par with Colorado's loss at 8-4 Illinois.
8 of 20Heinz Kluetmeier/SI; Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Miami and Washington
Miami finished 12-0 behind Heisman Trophy winner Gino Toretta, capping a tremendous regular season with a 22-0 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Washington's season was equally impressive, as the Huskies faced every ranked opponent on the road and finished the season with a 34-14 victory over fourth-ranked Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
9 of 20Peter Read Miller, Robert Beck/SI; Kevork Djansezian/AP
This was one instance where tradition probably got in the way of the best football game. The '94 Nittany Lions had two players finish in the top four of the Heisman Trophy voting (Kerry Collins and Ki-Jana Carter), but because of its Rose Bowl commitment, Penn State played Oregon instead of taking on undefeated Nebraska. Though the Nittany Lions knocked off the Ducks, 38-20, Penn State once again finished an undefeated season second in the polls.
10 of 20John Biever, Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Michigan and Nebraska
Led by a defense that featured multiple NFL draft picks (Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, Dhani Jones, Sam Sword) and quarterback Brian Griese, Michigan impressed in its only undefeated season under Lloyd Carr. However, the Wolverines had to play Ryan Leaf and Washington State in the Rose Bowl instead of getting a showdown with undefeated Nebraska. Scott Frost and Ahman Green led Tom Osborne's offensive juggernaut, scoring 40 or more points eight times, including in the Orange Bowl against Tennessee. The coaches elevated Nebraska as an obvious favor to Osborne, who was retiring, and because of that this matchup remains one of the best games to never happen in college football history.
11 of 20Richard Mackson/SI
The first undefeated casualty of the BCS, Tulane's season remains a bizarre outlier in both BCS and campus history. Despite winning all of their regular season games, the Green Wave earned an invitation to the Liberty Bowl against the 9-4 BYU Cougars, whom they defeated 41-27. With two future NFL quarterbacks on the roster (Shaun King and Patrick Ramsey), Tulane had landslide success in 1998, but quickly returned to its usual ways after the departure of coach Tommy Bowden. The Green Wave have had one winning season since 1998.
12 of 20Tom DiPace/SI
The 2000 Hurricanes were well stocked with future NFL stars (Clinton Portis, D.J. Williams, Santana Moss, Jeremy Shockey, Ed Reed, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne), but did not earn a BCS championship berth despite beating Florida State, which was selected over Miami. Matters only looked worse when Oklahoma beat the Seminoles, 13-2, in the BCS championship.
13 of 20Peter Read Miller/SI
This remains one of the most confusing years for the BCS, as Oregon and Colorado appeared to be viable candidates for the BCS championship, but lost out to Nebraska, a team Colorado defeated 62-36 in the final week of the regular season. Oregon may have been the team most unfairly left out, though Colorado's Gary Barnett was the most vocal about his team's exclusion.
14 of 20Al Tielemans, John Biever/SI
LSU and USC
The last of the split championships, college football fans ached to see USC's explosive offense match up against LSU's stingy defense. Excluding a late September loss at Cal, the Trojans won all of their games by at least two touchdowns and averaged 41.1 points per game. LSU's offense wasn't quite as prolific, but Nick Saban's defense only allowed 11 points per game. USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl while LSU knocked off Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. The game was played and the argument still has not been resolved.
15 of 20David Bergman/SI
Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams were all be first round picks the following April, but they never did play for a national title. The '04 Auburn Tigers remain one of the true hard-luck teams of the BCS age, as preseason Nos. 1 and 2 USC and Oklahoma were pitted against one another for the title. USC went on to annihilate the Sooners 55-19, while Auburn knocked off Virginia Tech, 16-13, in the Sugar Bowl.
16 of 20Matt York/AP; Robert Beck/SI
The Utes have gone undefeated twice in the last 10 years, but weren't considered for a berth in the national title game either time. In 2004, coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Alex Smith ran a dizzying offense past pretty much everybody, capping it off with a 35-7 domination of Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. Utah beat every team it played by at least three possessions. In 2008, the Utes beat Michigan and Oregon State in their nonconference games, but could not earn a BCS championship berth. The Utes went on to shock Alabama, 31-17, in the Sugar Bowl.
17 of 20Peter Read Miller/SI
Chris Petersen and the Broncos have become the model for the non-BCS team that never gets a shot. In 2006, Boise State was seen predominantly as a good team in an easy conference until it shocked Oklahoma, 43-42, in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. The cries grew louder in 2009, as both Boise State and TCU were undefeated and seemingly worthy contenders for the national title. Instead, the BCS pitted them against one another, quashing any speculation about how smaller-conference teams could compete with the major conferences.
18 of 20Peter Read Miller/SI
It was personal for Texas in 2008, as it was passed over to play in the BCS championship game in favor of rival Oklahoma, which it had defeated, 45-35, earlier in the season. Texas lost to Texas Tech, a team Oklahoma beat 65-21, and the Sooners would be rewarded. The score "45-35" still surrounds all Red River Shootouts and can be found on the T-shirts of many Texas fans.
19 of 20Robert Beck/SI
The Horned Frogs finished a second consecutive season with an undefeated record, but were not selected to play in the national title game because of two undefeated teams (Auburn and Oregon) from major conferences. TCU kept its perfect season intact with a 21-19 victory over Wisconsin in a historic Rose Bowl and finished the 2010 season ranked No. 2 in the polls.
20 of 20John Biever/SI
The Cowboys had their best season in program history, but a hiccup in Ames, Iowa, kept them out of the BCS national championship -- even though the two qualifiers had played each other once already. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon carried the Cowboys to a thrilling 41-38 victory over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, but an ugly title game between LSU and Alabama left the Cowboys and all fans wondering how Oklahoma State could have tested the Tide's tough, brutish defense.
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