While Missouri fans were focused on making to the Mecca known as Shreveport, LA, the college football landscape was changing. Florida (8-5) was taking a step backwards, Florida State (10-3) was attempting to rebound after a couple of off-years, and Miami (11-2) was getting ready to slide. Meanwhile, Nick Saban's LSU team was surging, and USC had made a startlingly easy transition from Carson Palmer to Matt Leinart, with obvious help from LenDale White, Reggie Bush, Mike Williams, Steve Smith, etc. In this fanciful alternate history, they had already racked up one national title and were looking for another. Standing in the way: LSU and undefeated Oklahoma.
Conference Champions: Boise State, Florida State, LSU, Miami-FL, Miami-OH, Michigan, North Texas, Oklahoma, Southern Miss, USC, Utah
At-Large Bids: Georgia, Iowa, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas
Biggest Snubs: Purdue, Florida
That's right, one of the biggest postseason stories of '03--K-State beating OU in the Big 12 title game--doesn't happen, and K-State is relegated to the Holiday or Cotton Bowl.
1 Oklahoma def. 16 North Texas in Norman
8 Florida State def. 9 Tennessee in Tallahassee
12 Miami-OH def. 5 Texas in Austin
13 Boise State def. 4 Michigan in Ann Arbor
6 Ohio State def. 11 Miami-FL in Columbus
3 LSU def. 14 Utah in Baton Rouge
10 Iowa def. 7 Georgia in Athens
2 USC def. 15 Southern Miss in LA
After the most chalky year in tourney history in '02, the '03 bracket implodes with Ben Roethlisberger and the Miami Redhawks taking out Texas in Austin (Why? Why not! And because Wazzu took them out in the Holiday Bowl that year--they were ripe for the picking. So says me.) and a pre-Ian Johnson Boise State team winning in Ann Arbor. So after the first round, one thing's for certain--either Miami-OH or Boise is making the semis...which also means that the loser has also clinched a BCS bid. ESPN gets some talking heads on to ask (in high volume) whether the draw should be re-seeded after the first round. Outcry outcry, rabble rabble.
Meanwhile, the big dogs--OU, USC, LSU--all advance with ease.
1 Oklahoma vs 8 Florida State in Norman
12 Miami-OH def. 13 Boise State in Oxford, OH
3 LSU def. 6 Ohio State in Baton Rouge
2 USC def. 10 Iowa in LA
For the second straight year, OU takes out FSU in Norman. Owen Field is what wins this game, as Jason White's injury spree begins at some point in here. And for the second straight year, USC takes out Iowa in the quarterfinals in SoCal. USC is to Iowa what Kentucky was to Utah in basketball all those years.
Meanwhile, the magic of Big Ben rolls on...Miami-OH wins a home game to advance to the national semifinals.
1 Oklahoma def. 12 Miami-OH in Sugar Bowl
2 USC def. 3 LSU in Rose Bowl
8 Florida State def. 10 Iowa in Orange Bowl
6 Ohio State def. 13 Boise State in Fiesta Bowl
Thanks to a super-lucky draw, OU continues to advance as Big Ben Magic runs out after a dramatic run. They will face USC who creeps by a stout, fast LSU team in the other semifinal. LSU was outstanding in '03, but I do think USC was better. Plus, it was in their backyard. So we get a dream matchup in the finals...
2 USC def. 1 Oklahoma in New Orleans
...and that dream matchup ends up not-so-close, as a hobbled Jason White isn't able to lead the OU offense to too many points, and USC wins their second straight national title in comfortable fashion.
2003 BCS National Champion: USC