Ranking the 20 BCS/College Football Playoff title games
It has been two decades since we finally got a true national championship game in college football.
Yep, 20 years of having that one game to end all arguments once and for all, nice and simple, no more debate needed.
Why are you laughing?
In truth, controversy almost never ends in college football. That’s one thing that makes it so wonderful. But one thing that everybody should agree on is that the Bowl Championship Series from 1998-2013 was slightly better than the poll system that had produced “mythical” national champions for several decades, and that the current College Football Playoff is better than the BCS.
Is the 4-team Playoff better than inviting eight teams in the FBS? Oh, geez, here we go with the controversy again.
Anyway, since 1998 either the BCS or the CFP has give us a championship game played on the field, however the two participants got there. With another sequel coming in Monday’s national title game — let’s hope Alabama-Clemson IV is closer to Stark Trek IV: The Voyage Home than Jaws IV: The Revenge — we thought we’d rank the 20 national championship games since the birth of the BCS.
These are listed by season. So the first BCS title game, which Tennessee won in January 1999, is listed under the 1998 season.
20. Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2, 2000
The offense was uninspiring, plodding and ineffective. And that was from the winning Sooners. The Seminoles, even with Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, were putrid.
19. Miami 37, Nebraska 14, 2001
The fact that so few people felt the Cornhuskers — blown out in their season finale by Colorado — should have even been in this game makes this rout even worse. Miami led 34-0 at halftime.
18. USC 55, Oklahoma 19, 2004
The Phantom Game: You could swear you saw it, but USC’s win officially doesn’t exist. The Trojans vacated this national title in the wake of NCAA sanctions. This game was a snoozer anyway.
17. Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14, 2012
This blowout wasn’t even as close as the score would indicate. The Crimson Tide led 35-0 in the third quarter, outgained the Fighting Irish 529-302 and possessed the ball for 38:13.
16. Ohio State 42, Oregon 20, 2014
In the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game, the Buckeyes blew open what had been a 21-20 game in the fourth quarter. OSU’s comeback semifinal win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl was more memorable.
15. Florida 41, Ohio State 14, 2006
Florida scored 21 unanswered points after OSU’s Ted Ginn returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. Chris Leak and Tim Tebow both threw TD passes for the Gators and Tebow ran for a TD:
14. Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29, 1999
The Hokies led 29-28 before the Seminoles owned the fourth quarter. The novelty of Virginia Tech being on this stage, and a young Michael Vick doing Michael Vick things, boosts this game a spot or two.
13. LSU 38, Ohio State 24, 2007
After trailing 10-0 early, LSU scored 31 unanswered points and became the only 2-loss team in the BCS/CFP era to win the national title. Matt Flynn threw 4 touchdown passes for the Tigers.
12. Alabama 21, LSU 0, 2011
The thought of an all-SEC matchup excited the league’s fans. The actual game didn’t (they got a way better all-SEC game last year). Bama hit five field goals and held LSU to 92 total yards.
11. Alabama 37, Texas 21, 2009
Texas star quarterback Colt McCoy left early with an injury, taking the air out of this matchup of unbeatens. A 24-point second quarter helped deliver Nick Saban’s first title as Bama coach.
10. Auburn 22, Oregon 19, 2010
It was close throughout and Auburn’s winning field goal came as time expired, but for the most part the matchup was slightly underwhelming. The anticipated offensive shootout never materialized.
9. Florida 24, Oklahoma 14, 2008
Like No. 10, a lack of points felt disappointing — and this one matched the previous two Heisman winners, quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford. UF’s two goal-line stands stood out more.
8. Tennessee 23, Florida State 16, 1998
The first BCS title game saw quarterback Tee Martin, who threw for 2 TDs, deliver the national title to the Volunteers that Peyton Manning never quite managed.
7. LSU 21, Oklahoma 14, 2003
Current SEC Network analyst Marcus Spears made the signature play in this game, a 20-yard interception return for a TD to give LSU a 21-7 lead:
The Tigers shut down the nation’s top offense.
6. Alabama 45, Clemson 40, 2015
Now we’re getting to the real thrillers. There were 40 total points scored in the fourth quarter and, even in defeat, this was the day Clemson proved it could truly hang with anybody, even Alabama.
5. Florida State 34, Auburn 31, 2013
Tre Mason was a wrecking ball for the Tigers, but FSU rallied from an early 21-3 deficit. Kelvin Benjamin’s winning TD catch from Jameis Winston with 13 seconds left was the last of three lead changes in the final 4:31.
4. Alabama 26, Georgia 23 (OT), 2017
The comeback was terrific, the legend of Tua Tagovailoa was launched. This was a very good game with a truly great ending rather than a truly great game throughout, which is why three games rank higher.
3. Clemson 35, Alabama 31, 2016
The Crimson Tide lost leads of 14-0 and 24-14, but what really made this special was that the lead changed hands three times in the final 4:38, capped by Hunter Renfrow’s TD catch with 1 second left.
2. Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2OT), 2002
Ah yes, controversy again. A late pass interference penalty called against Miami in overtime led to an OSU score and eternal debate. But this game, stuffed with future NFL talent, was a stone cold classic way before then and marked the end of Miami’s epic 34-game winning streak.
1. Texas 41, USC 38, 2005
Another 34-game winning streak, by USC, bit the dust here. Many fans believe this was the greatest game ever and that Texas quarterback Vince Young (267 passing yards, 200 rushing yards, winning TD run in final seconds) had the best individual performance in bowl history. I agree on both counts.