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BCS as a Playoff: Does Auburn or Oklahoma play USC in 2004?

Nick Bromberg
Dr. Saturday

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Welcome to Dr. Saturday's BCS as the College Football Playoff feature. This week we'll go through each of the 16 years of the BCS and hypothesize if the national championship would have changed hands under the new College Football Playoff.

Since we don't have the benefit of a selection committee, we're taking the top four teams from the BCS standings entering bowl season. Here's our biggest BCS controversy so far.

No. 1 USC (13-0)

Coach: Pete Carroll

Notable players: QB Matt Leinart, RB Lendale White, RB Reggie Bush, WR Dwayne Jarrett, LB Lofa Tatupu, LB Keith Rivers, DB Darnell Bing

USC's season: After a split title in 2003, the Trojans entered 2004 as the preseason No. 1 team in the country and held the spot all season. USC beat Virginia Tech to open the season and beat Aaron Rodgers and Cal 23-17 at home on Oct. 9. The last close call was against UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Dec. 4, a game that the Trojans won 29-24. Leinart won the Heisman Trophy and threw for 3,322 yards and 33 touchdowns. Bush ran for 908 yards, had 509 yards receiving and had two punt return scores.

No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1)

Coach: Bob Stoops

Notable players: QB Jason White, RB Adrian Peterson, WR Mark Clayton, WR Travis Wilson, LB Rufus Alexander, DB Brodney Pool

Oklahoma's season: The Sooners blitzed through the Big 12 as White returned to school and Peterson ran for 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman. The only two hiccups were close calls against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M on the road in consecutive weeks. Well, the only two hiccups until the Orange Bowl, that is.

No. 3 Auburn (13-0)

Coach: Tommy Tuberville

Notable players: QB Jason Campbell, RB Cadillac Williams, RB Ronnie Brown, WR Courtney Taylor, DT Jay Ratliff, DB Carlos Rogers

Auburn's season: For the first time in the BCS era, three power-conference schools were undefeated and Auburn was the team left out. The Tigers beat four ranked teams in the regular season, including a 10-9 squeaker over then No. 5 LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Sept. 18. That vaulted the Tigers into the top 10 for the rest of the season. Campbell threw for 2,700 yards and 20 touchdowns while Williams ran for 1,165 and Brown ran for 913.

No. 4 Texas (11-1)

Coach: Mack Brown

Notable players: QB Vince Young, RB Cedric Benson, TE Bo Scaife, DL Brian Robison, LB Derrick Johnson, DB Michael Griffin, DB Michael Huff

Texas's season: This team succeeded on the legs of Young and Benson. Young threw for 1,849 yards, 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, but he ran for 1,079 yards and 14 touchdowns. Benson had 19 scores and 1,834 yards on the ground. The only blemish was a 12-0 loss to Oklahoma. Though Texas escaped by just two on the road at Arkansas and by four at Kansas.

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2005 Orange Bowl: This is a game that's officially vacated per NCAA regulations after an investigation ruled that Bush was ineligible in December of 2004. It still counts for our purposes. After leading 14-7 following the first quarter, USC outscored Oklahoma 24-3 in the second quarter to take command. Leinart threw five touchdowns, including three to Steve Smith, as USC won 55-19. For the second straight season, White had a poor championship game. He was 24-36 passing for 244 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Playoff matchups: No. 1 USC vs. No. 4 Texas, No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Auburn

Just missing out: No. 5 California, No. 6 Utah. Both Utah and No. 9 Boise State were also undefeated.

The semifinals: What a delicious set of games this would be. While USC and Texas would meet again for real in 2005, this Texas team is too one dimensional. USC would key in on Benson and Young. Texas' secondary may keep USC's air attack under wraps, but the Trojans are too dangerous.

Would Auburn's national title opportunity arrive after the second semifinal? Yes. The Tigers' two-headed rushing attack of Williams and Brown would propel Auburn to a matchup with USC. Given what we know of White's performance in the ultimate games of the 2003 and 2004 seasons, we don't have much confidence in a hypothetical semifinal.

The final: It's the game that Tuberville has always wanted. However, it would not go his way. If 2001 Miami is our all-time No. 1 seed in the BCS era, this USC team is No. 2. Oklahoma and Auburn are pretty evenly matched. While the Tigers may give USC a more competitive game, the Trojans are still the national champions. Even if it's in our memories rather than in any hypothetical record books.

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