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USC Finishes the 2003 Regular Season Number 1 in AP and CNN/ESPN But Does Not Play In BCS Championship Game

One of the reasons the BCS system was put in place was to avoid split championships so it was ironic when the system put the number 2 ranked team in both polls against the number 3 ranked team in both polls, leaving USC out of the mix. One fact that made the situation completely unacceptable was the fact that USC's only loss was in triple overtime on the road yet LSU and Oklahoma were both defeated soundly in their losses.

NCAA Men's Basketball does not have these issues because of the March Madness Playoff Tournament. Football should be the same way, championships should be decided on the field by the players, not by computers. One of the arguments against a playoff system is that it would extend the season such that the players would play too many games and miss out on school. This argument is weak. In 2003 Kansas State played 14 games before their bowl game. Other top 25 schools played 12 to 13 games before their bowl game. Why not shorten the regular season back to 11 games and have the top 8 teams in the nation square off in a national playoff system? This would only add 3 games to the 11 regular season games. The answer is simple, this is not about the students playing too many games and extending the season. This is about money. The bowls fear they will lose a great deal of money if we move to a nation-wide playoff system. In the mean time we are left with a system that has the potential for disaster every year.

The December 8, 2003 Los Angeles Times had an intersting article by AP Football Write, Josh Dubow that summed some of these points up. The article entitled, A Bittersweet Twist started as follows:
"College football fans, get ready to crown not just one, but possibly two national champions. And get ready for a new round of controversy. That's because the computer rankings had Oklahoma as the country's top team Sunday while the human poll voters picked Southern California. It's exactly what the Bowl Championship Series was designed to avoid, with the prospect of a split title certain to renew cries for a playoff. Despite getting walloped by Kansas State 35-7 on Saturday night, Oklahoma will take its 12-1 record to the Sugar Bowl against LSU, which won the Southeastern Conference championship by beating Georgia 34-13. The winner in New Orleans on Jan. 4 automatically captures the coaches' title under BCS format. USC, which finished third in the BCS rankings, could win The Associated Press championship by beating No. 4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl. 'We're the No. 1 team in the country and we'll do everything we can to hold that spot,' USC coach Pete Carroll said. 'If we win that football game, we feel like we'll be the No. 1 team in the country regardless of what that other bowl is called.' The No. 1 team in the AP poll has never dropped after winning its bowl game."

Los Angeles Times Staff Write Gary Klein wrote about how the news impacted the USC players in his News Leaves Trojans Critical of BCS article on Dember 8th, 2003.
"Less than 24 hours after joyously celebrating a victory that propelled USC to No. 1 in the polls for the first time in more than two decades, Trojan players sat mostly in stunned silence Sunday afternoon in the university's athletic dining hall. USC already knew the final bowl championship series standings before they were announced on television. So players, coaches and administrators stared blankly at the big-screen monitors on the wall, trying to mask the disappointment of being No. 3 behind Oklahoma and Louisiana State, and of playing Michigan in the Rose Bowl instead of Oklahoma or Louisiana State for the BCS title in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans."

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Diane Pucin wrote about how silly it was to have a Hawaii-Boise State game decide who plays for the national championship in her December 8th article entitled USC Is Crunched by the Numbers.
"This made Hawaii's game late Saturday crucial for USC. Because the Trojans had earlier defeated Hawaii, a victory by Hawaii over No. 18 Boise State would have enhanced USC's schedule strength. But at 12:17 a.m. Pacific time, Boise State won, 45-28, sealing the Trojans' fate. USC's absence from the championship game appeared likely to increase pressure on those who run college football to scrap the six-year-old BCS when its contract expires after the 2005 season, or modify it as soon as next season. 'I'd relish that,' Carroll said Sunday. 'It seems so crazy that I'm watching Hawaii against Boise State at midnight and it matters to us. I don't have all the answers but I think it's clear there are some issues.'"

Bill Plaschke wrote about the nightmare in his No. 1 and Done? It Does Not Compute article in the LA Times on December 8, 2003.
"They shuffled into a cafeteria across the street from the site of their rowdy Saturday victory, silent where they had once been celebrating, stunned where they had once been certain. Under backward baseball caps and tugged-low ski caps, behind baggy shorts and wrinkled shirts, members of the USC football team looked up at giant TV screens with childlike confusion. How did this happen? Where did it go? They went to sleep on Saturday night as the No. 1 team in the America. They woke up Sunday morning with no chance of winning the bowl championship series national title. They went to sleep as a living, breathing, title-contending football team. They woke up as a computer virus. 'I can't lie,' giant defensive tackle Shaun Cody said softly. 'This is really tough.' Those university presidents who sold college football's integrity for $900 million and the BCS, they should have heard that voice. 'It's not right,' receiver Mike Williams said, wincing. 'It's just not right.' Those fools who program computers that determine a team's worth without understanding a team's heart, they should have seen that face. In the end, the BCS snub that left USC, the top-ranked team in the Associated Press and coaches' polls, out of the national championship Sugar Bowl is not about schedules or scores, but humans. It's about lessons that universities have been entrusted to teach them. It's about how the BCS represents an enormous failure of that mission."

One of the most interesting articles about the situation was written by Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, Chris Dufresne. Specifically, his Closer Inspection Reveals Reality Bytes for Trojans article discusses just how close it was between USC and LSU for the right to play Oklahoma. He even talks about how the Peter Wolfe computer run by Wolfe, an associate professor at the UCLA School of Medicine and a confessed Bruin fan, could have boosted USC to the Oklahoma game had USC remained No. 2 in his rankings after December 6th.
"We know top-ranked USC lost a shot at playing in the Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl because it finished 0.16 behind Louisiana State in Sunday's final bowl championship series standings. Close, right? Actually, it was closer than anyone could have imagined. So close it took an astronomer to explain it. A review of final BCS calculations reveals that had the order been flipped in only one of the four BCS computers that had LSU ranked No. 2 ahead of No. 3 USC, the Trojans would have advanced to the Sugar Bowl and LSU fans would have been crying foul. And get this: Had that one computer placed USC ahead of LSU, the Trojans would have nipped the Tigers by the margin of 0.01. And you wonder why the controversy rages?
...
LSU finished second at 5.99, and USC was third at 6.15. The schools with the two lowest scores in the final BCS standings advance to the BCS title game, which left USC out despite finishing No. 1 in both human polls. USC and LSU basically finished in a dead heat in a race that was decided by decimal points. The Trojans led the Tigers in four of the seven computers last week, but LSU's weekend win over No. 5 Georgia allowed for an almost complete turnaround. Still, had USC earned a No. 2 rating instead of No. 3 in either the Seattle Times, Wes Colley, Peter Wolfe or Richard Billingsley systems, the Trojans' BCS computer average would have dropped from 2.67 to 2.50, giving them at least the 0.17 they needed to pass LSU and finish at 5.98. How close did USC come to overtaking LSU in any of those computers? The margin in the Colley Matrix borders on mind-boggling.
Here is his order of finish:
1. Oklahoma, 0.91723
2. LSU, 0.88160
3. USC, 0.87636
'It was razor thin, any way you look at it,' Colley said Monday. Colley has a doctorate in astrophysical sciences from Princeton University and is a lecturer in astronomy at the University of Virginia. For what it's worth, Wes' brother, Will, played football in the Southeastern Conference ... for Georgia. Colley rates his teams on a scale from zero to 1. He said the difference between LSU and USC came down to a factor of five-thousandths. Asked to put this in astronomical terms, Colley said, 'If the Earth was LSU and the sun was zero, USC would be twice the distance to the moon.' Yes, that close. Colley said any number of results would have pushed USC ahead of LSU in his final analysis. What if Notre Dame had defeated Syracuse? 'Let's see if that was enough to do it,' Colley said over the phone as he substituted a Notre Dame win into his computer. 'Yeah, that's enough to do it.' Colley said the chances of making a miscalculation are remote as long as he feeds the correct scores into his formula. Colley said he downloads his scores from Yahoo and double-checks them against scores posted on http://espn.com. There is always the chance for human error, he said, adding, 'You've got to be vigilant.' The Colley Matrix was the closest finish in this LSU-USC computer war, but not the only close one. The other tallies from computers that factored into the ultimate BCS outcome:
Peter Wolfe 1. Oklahoma, 7.175; 2. LSU, 7.032; 3. USC, 6.789.
Seattle Times 1. Oklahoma, 0.781; 2. LSU, 0.776; 3. USC, 0.760.
Richard Billingsley 1. Oklahoma, 309.799; 2. LSU, 300.683; 3. USC, 300.567.
Wolfe, an associate professor at the UCLA School of Medicine and a confessed Bruin fan, could have sent USC to the Sugar Bowl had the Trojans remained No. 2 in his rankings. But that's not how it came out in the end. Wolfe said LSU's victory against Georgia was enough for the Tigers to pass the Trojans in his final rankings."

Number one ranked USC defeated number four ranked Michigan soundly in the Rose Bowl. During the regular season, the Michigan QB was saced 15 times. USC had 9 sacks in the Rose Bowl. During the regular season Michigan allowed only 5 Touchdown Passes. USC had 4 touchdown passes agains Michigan in the Rose Bowl. ESPN did not waste any time in recognizing the way USC capped off their season. Ivan Maisel, a senior writer for ESPN.com, wrote an excellent article shortly after the Rose Bowl
"PASADENA, Calif. -- In the days before the NFL merger, the teams that lost the conference championship games used to play the following week in a game called the Playoff Bowl. The game died because of a lack of interest.

No one is suggesting that the Sugar Bowl not be played Sunday night. It's a nice bowl game. The LSU and Oklahoma fans will have a lot of fun on Bourbon Street. There are drinks to be lifted, and blouses to be lifted, and, at the end of the game, a trophy to be lifted.

But the No. 1 team in the country played in the Rose Bowl on Thursday.

USC toyed with Michigan, winning 28-14. The Trojans will win their fourth Associated Press championship, and anyone who believes they aren't deserving after Thursday is wearing a) purple and gold or b) crimson and cream.

...

The final score doesn't begin to describe the Trojans' dominance.

The Wolverines came in with a 10-2 record, a Big Ten Conference championship and a six-game winning streak, but they were never in the game. As a month-long, three-way argument about who should be No. 1 continued, Michigan smiled and went about its business, hoping that USC was so busy being fitted for rings that it would forget about blocking and tackling.

No such luck. If the four teams were the Marx Brothers, Michigan would be Zeppo. And it should be said that if the Wolverines hadn't played as hard as they did, the difference in points would have gotten wider.

The winner of the Sugar Bowl will win the coaches' poll, and there will be two national champions, and we'll all survive. But even Michigan coach Lloyd Carr acknowledged the ludicrous corner that the American Football Coaches Association had painted itself into.

"I'm committed to vote the winner of the Sugar Bowl as the national champion," Carr said. "If I was a member of the media or the press, you could certainly make a case for Southern Cal. You could make me an honorary member."

Carr offering to be a member of the media? Michigan got hit so hard that its coach suffered a concussion.

In the days leading up to the Rose Bowl, coaches and players from both USC and Michigan talked about how great it was to have the Granddaddy of Them All like it used to be -- two tradition-laden champions from the Big Ten and the Pac-10.

This Rose Bowl was exactly like it used to be. Even Bo Schembechler, the Michigan coach of a generation ago, who went 2-8 in Rose Bowls, was there. But this time, the speed and athleticism of USC overwhelmed the strength and girth of Michigan.

...

If this had been the British Open, the silversmith would have started inscribing "USC" on the Claret Jug. Back in the day, before televised golf, the leaders didn't tee off last. Sometimes the champion finished well before the last twosome straggled in. The final pairing in this event won't finish until Sunday night, but USC is in the clubhouse, and its lead is insurmountable."
ESPN footnoted the article mentioning that Ivan Maisel is a senior writer. The 2003 season showed that college football without a playoff system does not make sense. The irony is that college athletes do not get paid partially because people argue that it would be bad for the integrity of the games. However, the reason we do not have a playoff system in college football is because of the money at stake if we lessen the importance of bowl games.

The Orange County Register recognized the remarkable year USC had in their Friday, January 2, 2004 copy of the paper. In the You can't argue: USC is No. 1 article by Blythe Bernhard, the facts are documented.

"Fans at the Rose Bowl say the convincing victory over Michigan settles the dispute.
PASADENA Travis Biffar, a USC graduate and Newport Beach lawyer, had good arguments Thursday for the Trojans' case for the national championship. "We've been underrated all year," Biffar, 27, said in his opening statement with USC leading 14-0 in the second quarter of the Rose Bowl. "Playing a team like Michigan that has a tough schedule and dominating the way we are says a lot."

USC's football team is ranked No. 1 in the coaches' and media polls but came in third in the year-end Bowl Championship Series computer standings that determine the national championship game matchup.

Oklahoma and LSU will play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Sunday.

Although LSU, Oklahoma and USC each have one loss, Biffar said the Trojans presented sufficient evidence to prove they belonged in the title game.

"LSU played a Division II team, and Oklahoma got blown out in their last game," Biffar said. "Clearly it should have been us in the national championship game."

Even Michigan fan Carlos Banuelos came to USC's defense after the Trojans' 28-14 victory.

"Although USC will share the championship, I still think they deserve the full championship. I think the BCS is flawed," Banuelos said.

Banuelos, a lawyer who works with Biffar, had hoped for a more competitive game and accused Michigan's players of incompetence in the first half, when they went scoreless.

"I expected Michigan to run the ball more effectively," Banuelos said. "I expected the defensive line to put more pressure on the quarterback."

Michigan's defense assured the final verdict by allowing USC's star receiver, Mike Williams, to throw a touchdown pass to quarterback Matt Leinart to make the score 28-7.

"It's game over," Banuelos said.

The game was supposed to be a close one, Banuelos said, with his alma mater Michigan pulling it out in the end.

But USC's convincing victory proved the Trojans faithful's point that their team deserved to be playing in the title game.

"I can't imagine a national championship game without the No. 1 team in the nation," Fountain Valley resident Edward Halley said.

Other witnesses at the game said the Trojans overwhelmingly proved their superiority.

"We are the No. 1-ranked team, and we did win our bowl game against a quality team," said Yoji Kawaguchi of Irvine. "I want us to be the consensus No. 1."

Karen Tonelli said she wished college football had a playoff system to determine a champion. She is confident USC would beat either LSU or Oklahoma.

A shared trophy is a tarnished trophy, she said.

"Of course I think USC should have the No. 1 ranking alone. But in reality it's going to be split," the Yorba Linda resident said.

In his closing arguments, Biffar charged the BCS championship game with irrelevance.

"The human polls put USC first," he said. "We're the people's champ."

Case closed.
The O.C. Register article continues to recognize a constant theme, the BCS is flawed. USC demonstrated that they deserve not only a share of the national championship, they deserve the whole thing. If playoffs were in place for the 2003 regular season, USC would go into the tournament as the favorite ahead of both LSU and Oklahoma.

Stewart Mandel from si.com is another author who wrote about the silly BCS system. USC deserves the championship but it is questionable whether the Oklahoma/LSU winner deserves the other half. If we had a playoff system in place everything would be decided on the football field. The situation is so ridiculous that people are talking about the "human" championship and the "computer" championship. This is stupid because humans programmed the computers. The only way to eliminate the controversy is to move to a playoff tournament. Here are some of the strong points from Mandel's Easy Street article.

"Trojans have little trouble stating case for national championship
Posted: Friday January 2, 2004 12:30AM; Updated: Friday January 2, 2004 12:37AM

PASADENA, Calif. -- This time, USC didn't need to put a 50 on the scoreboard to prove its dominance. In fact, it was only the second time all season the Trojans had won a game by fewer than 20 points.

Only it didn't seem that way watching it.

It's not that Michigan didn't play like a No. 4 team in Thursday's Rose Bowl, and it's not like the Wolverines failed to put up a fight.

But the Trojans, despite facing their toughest adversary to date, simply did what they always do in the course of their 28-14 victory: make football look like as effortless an endeavor as tying one's shoes.

"From the jump, we said it doesn't matter what team we play," animated USC defensive lineman Omar Nazel proclaimed in the aftermath of his team's split championship-clinching victory. "As long as we go out and execute to the fullest, no one can stop us."

Unfortunately, we'll never know whether Oklahoma or LSU could have proven otherwise.

But after watching the way quarterback Matt Leinart and receivers Keary Colbert and Mike Williams picked apart the Wolverines' highly-regarded secondary, after watching the Trojans rack up nine sacks against a Michigan offensive line that had allowed 15 all season, after watching their defense hold All-America running back Chris Perry largely in check, AP voters will have no trouble justifying their expected opinion.

"I think we stated our case to being No. 1," said USC defensive end Shaun Cody, "by beating them so handily."

...

Fact is, what Pete Carroll's team did, both in this game and all season, only looked easy. The effort that went into it was actually quite remarkable, and it's only fitting they'll be rewarded with a spot atop the final AP poll when it comes out late Sunday night.

As for that other poll -- that, of course, is a whole other can of worms.

After the game, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr reaffirmed that he would adhere to the coaches' pre-existing agreement with the BCS to vote the Sugar Bowl winner No. 1, but there remains to be the slight possibility that other coaches will, as Carroll put it, "rebel."

For their part, the Trojans, as they've been for most of the last month, were universal Thursday night in their insistence that they really don't care that they'll probably have to share their title.

"What matters to me is we accomplished everything we could possibly accomplish," an extremely amped-up Carroll said in his postgame news conference. "No one will ever be able to take that away from us no matter how the polls go."

Of course, when asked whether his team would welcome a chance to play the Oklahoma-LSU winner a week from now, he lit up like a Christmas tree, as did an assortment of players.

"It would be great to play Oklahoma next week," said Nazel, "but I don't think they'd really want to see us."

Certainly not if the Trojans plan to make that one look this easy.

Stewart Mandel covers college sports for SI.com."
It is silly that we have to show that USC would be favored against either LSU or Oklahoma. In NCAA basketball we let the tournament decide everything. This type of change for football is long overdo. We don't need 64 teams, even a small 8 team tourney would be a dramatic improvement over the BCS joke that is in place today.

The OC Register and other publications across the country noticed immediately when the head of the BCS admitted that mistakes were made in the 2003 season. The January 5, 2004 OC Register article BCS head concedes 'mistake' from Register news services has some interesting points,
"NEW ORLEANS Conceding "we made a mistake," the head of the BCS said an NCAA basketball tournament-style committee might become part of the selection process next season - reducing the possibility of a split national championship in football.

BCS coordinator Mike Tranghese said Sunday that several changes could be discussed in the coming months, from the elimination of computers as a selection factor to adding an extra Bowl Championship Series game.

...

"We've got a system that somehow leaves the No. 1 team in both human polls out of the championship game," Tranghese told a group of football writers. "We've got to do something."

One possibility that would address several different proposals is to set up a panel modeled after the one that selects the field for the 65-team NCAA basketball tournament.

...

"Computers don't calculate when you lose a game," Tranghese said. "The polls are a reflection of your performance from week to week. We should have thought of that. We made a mistake, and we should be criticized." "
This sounds a lot like the start of a 4 team playoff tournament. This would be much better than the current system. The amount of controversy over the would be greatly reduced. Instead of writing about the top 2 teams that get to play each other, writers would look at the top 4 teams that get to make it into the tournament. In the case of the 2003 regular season, USC, Oklahoma and LSU all would have made it in. Whether or not Michigan got the 4th place spot in 2003 would not have stirred up a whole lot of controversy.

Playoffs will solve the types of issues seen in the 2003 regular season. Even if it is only 8 teams we will avoid the problems that are seen today. For example, if two teams both deserve the number 8 seed it is not nearly as much a controversy as two teams deserving the number 3 seed today. We see this in basketball. There is debate as to which teams should make the 65 team field but people reason that it may be better to limit the field to 65 and to have debate then to expand the field to 128. Football should follow this model. Moving to an 8 team playoff system will take a lot of heat off the NCAA and restore credibility to college football.

USC Rose Bowl Game Results 
  1923   USC          14   Penn State    3 
  1930   USC          47   Pittsburgh   14 
  1932   USC          21   Tulane       12 
  1933   USC          35   Pittsburgh    0 
  1939   USC           7   Duke          3 
  1940   USC          14   Tennessee     0 
  1944   USC          29   Washington    0 
  1945   USC          25   Tennessee     0 
  1946   Alabama      34   USC          14 
  1948   Michigan     49   USC           0 
  1953   USC           7   Wisconsin     0 
  1955   Ohio State   20   USC           7 
  1963   USC          42   Wisconsin    37 
  1967   Purdue       14   USC          13 
  1968   USC          14   Indiana       3 
  1969   Ohio State   27   USC          16 
  1970   USC          10   Michigan      3 
  1973   USC          42   Ohio State   17 
  1974   Ohio State   42   USC          21 
  1975   USC          18   Ohio State   17 
  1977   USC          14   Michigan      6 
  1979   USC          17   Michigan     10 
  1980   USC          17   Ohio State   16 
  1985   USC          20   Ohio State   17 
  1988   Michi State  20   USC          17 
  1989   Michigan     22   USC          14 
  1990   USC          17   Michigan     10 
  1996   USC          41   Northwestern 32 
  2004   USC          28   Michigan     14
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