BCS as a Playoff: USC takes care of business and is a unanimous champ in 2003

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. Does Nick Saban's team win a Playoff in 2003?

No. 1 Oklahoma (12-2)

Coach: Bob Stoops

Notable players: QB Jason White, RB Kejuan Jones, WR Mark Clayton, DL Tommie Harris, LB Teddy Lehman, DB Brodney Pool

Oklahoma's season: The Sooners went undefeated through the regular season. OU's closest win was a 20-13 win at Alabama and every other win was by at least 14 points, including a 77-0 drubbing of Texas A&M. But Oklahoma was the one that got drubbed in the Big 12 title game. The Sooners lost to Kansas State 35-7, yet still stayed at No. 1 in the BCS. White, who won the Heisman Trophy, threw for 3,846 yards and 40 touchdowns while Clayton had 1,425 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns.

No. 2 LSU (13-1)

Coach: Nick Saban

Notable players: QB Matt Mauck, RB Justin Vincent, WR Michael Clayton, WR Devery Henderson, DL Marcus Spears, DB LaRon Landry, DB Corey Webster

LSU's season: LSU got its loss out of the way in October. On Oct. 11, the Tigers lost to Florida 19-7. LSU then climbed back into the title hunt with six wins to end the regular season and a 34-13 win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Vincent ran for 1,001 yards and 10 touchdowns while Michael Clayton caught 78 passes for 1,079 yards and 10 touchdowns.

No. 3 USC (12-1)

Coach: Pete Carroll

Notable players: QB Matt Leinart, RB Lendale White, RB Reggie Bush, WR Keary Colbert, WR Mike Williams, LB Lofa Tatupu, DB Darnell Bing, DB Will Poole

USC's season: The Trojans lost even earlier than the Tigers, yet didn't get back into the BCS race. USC lost 34-31 in triple overtime at Cal on Sept. 27. After that, every win was by double digits, including a 28-14 win over Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl. Because of that win, the AP awarded the No. 1 ranking to USC while the Coaches' Poll sided with LSU. Leinart threw for 3,556 yards and 38 touchdowns while both Williams and Colbert topped 1,000 yards receiving for a second season.

No. 4 Michigan (10-3)

Coach: Lloyd Carr

Notable players: QB John Navarre, RB Chris Perry, WR Braylon Edwards, WR Jason Avant, OL Jake Long, LB Lamarr Woodley, DB Leon Hall

Michigan's season: The Wolverines lost at Oregon and at Iowa and stood 3-2 through the first five games. After beating Minnesota by a field goal, Michigan won its next five games to set up a Rose Bowl with USC. Navarre threw for 3,331 yards while Perry ran for 1,674 yards and 18 touchdowns. Edwards had 85 catches for 1,138 yards and 14 touchdowns.


The 2004 Sugar Bowl: Saban's defense put the clamps on Oklahoma's vaunted offense. Vincent gave the Tigers the lead before halftime on a 16-yard touchdown and in the third quarter Spears returned an interception for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead. Jones added his second touchdown of the game for Oklahoma in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late. White was 13-37 passing and threw two interceptions as LSU won 21-14. Think that Stoops had this game on his mind when he met Saban in the Superdome 10 years later?

The Playoff matchups: No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Michigan, No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 USC

The semifinals: Does Michigan beat Oklahoma? No. The Wolverine defense was exceptional – both Hall and Woodley were first-round picks – but it's not good enough to stop White a la LSU. Oklahoma wins that matchup by a touchdown. In the other semifinal, USC takes down LSU. While LSU's defense may slow down Leinart and the Trojans' three-pronged rushing attack of White, Hershel Dennis and Bush, USC's defense stops Mauck and Vincent.

The finals: Had USC's schedule strength not kept the Trojans out of the Sugar Bowl, the storyline of the 2005 season would have been a third straight national title. Oklahoma's blowout loss in the Big 12 title game should have elevated USC to play LSU. Instead, that's a matchup that we can only pretend to happen in our hypothetical College Football Playoff. Just like we think USC beats LSU, it also beats Oklahoma. We envision a shootout and Leinart hits Williams for the game-winning score. There's no split national title here.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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