College Football Playoffs: How The BCS Years Would Have Looked Part 1 (1998-2002)


Playoffs are coming to college football. To paraphrase John Lennon, all our troubles seem so far away. But how much more perfect is the proposed four-team tournament system? After all, when instituted in 1998, the BCS was to be the solution to problems like the 1997 Michigan-Nebraska split title; the consecutive years of splits in 1990 and 1991 between Colorado/Georgia and Washington/Miami; the 1996 rematch between Florida State and Florida.

Instead, it caused all new problems.

Looking back at the BCS years, a four-team playoff could have answered a lot of still asked questions such as: who really was the best between USC and LSU in 2003? Would Auburn have posed a stiffer challenge to USC in 2004? Was two-loss LSU really the best team in the nation in 2007?

But as we’ll see, the proposed system isn’t exactly flawless, either, when evaluated through the scope of the past 13 years.


The inaugural season posed challenges for the BCS, including how to handle an unbeaten from beyond the six-conference sphere of influence. A four-team playoff might actually have compounded some of the other notable headaches the BCS faced in Year One.

No. 1 Tennessee vs. No. 4 Wisconsin

The first year in, and already there would be some controversy. Big Ten champion Wisconsin actually finished lower in the polls than conference counterpart Ohio State. Though the proposed system does not necessarily take conference titles into account,

No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 UCLA

First Four Out: Ohio State (10-1), Texas A&M (10-2, Big 12 champion), Arizona (10-1), Tulane (11-0)


Year Two would have been much more smooth for a playoff. Though Marshall’s impressive 12-0 regular season would have commanded attention, the Thundering Herd had no wins over ranked opponents and just one against a BCS conference foe. The top four were apparent, including two unbeatens in Florida State and Virginia Tech.

  • No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Alabama
  • No. 2 Virginia Tech vs. No. 3 Nebraska
  • First Four Out: Tennessee (9-2), Wisconsin (9-2, Big Ten champion), Michigan (9-2), Marshall (12-0)


Under BCS rules, the 2000 season was noteworthy because it was the first time Notre Dame’s clout was felt. The 9-2 Irish received a bid to the Fiesta Bowl, only to be waxed by Oregon State. ND AD Jack Swarbrick was part of the committee formulating the playoff, so how the Irish factor into the new system will be interesting to see.

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Washington

No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Miami

The proposal FBS commissioners have on the table does not have a rematch caveat, so the Seminoles and Hurricanes could have locked up in a colossal sequel to their Oct. 7 rumble, which The U. won 27-24.

First Four Out: Virginia Tech (10-1), Oregon State (10-1), Kansas State (11-2), Nebraska (9-2)


There was little doubt Miami was going to steamroll its way to the BCS championship in 2001. However, there was controversy over just who the Hurricanes would flatten last. Nebraska was decimated in its season finale vs. Colorado, yet earned the bid to the title game. Oregon probably had the best claim, finishing strong and going 10-1 en route to the Pac-10 championship.

No. 1 Miami vs. No. 4 Colorado

CU is slotted at No. 4 despite finishing No. 3 in the BCS polls due to its two losses.

No. 2 Nebraska vs. No. 3 Oregon

This is the match-up the nation would have loved to see. Though the winner was not going to compete against one of the best college football teams in history, at least this game could have provided fireworks.

First Four Out: Florida (9-2), Maryland (10-1), Illinois (10-1), Texas (10-2)


One of those rare occurrences when the BCS got it right, Miami and Ohio State delivered an unforgettable national championship performance. Would the Buckeyes and ‘Canes still have met under a playoff?

No. 1 Miami vs. No. 4 Iowa

Here we have an instance when a team might sneak in ahead of those more deserving. USC handled Iowa in the Orange Bowl; Washington State beat USC; Oklahoma beat up on WSU in the Rose Bowl. By that rationale, the Hawkeyes were fourth on that totem pole of teams battling for the final spot. Further, the Hawkeyes’ one loss was to Iowa State — we saw how detrimental that can be, right Oklahoma State?

No. 2. Ohio State vs. No. 3 Georgia

First Four Out: Washington State (10-2, Pac-10 champion), USC (10-2), Oklahoma (11-2, Big 12 champion), Texas (10-2)