USC celebrated a national championship in 2005, but the BCS could leave it to be vacated. AP photo. The BCS can do themselves right by vacating USC’s 2004 BCS crown and stuffing it in the closet and locking it up for years to come.
That is exactly what Bill Hancock, Director of the Bowl Championship Series, and the rest of the BCS officials will be reviewing over the coming weeks. USC, who has been ruled to have been using an ineligible player (Reggie Bush) during the 2004 season has already vacated wins against UCLA and Oklahoma from that season, as well as the 2005 season, but vacating the actual national championship from the record books is a different story and decision altogether.
To be frank, vacating wins really does do nothing to punish a program. Video and photos of those wins will still exist and the collective memory banks of college football fans and media will always remember who won the big game each season.
Even Oklahoma fans cannot extinguish the memories from the 2005 Orange Bowl, in which USC thrashed the Sooners for a 55-19 victory and the BCS national championship. It was supposed to be a heavy-weight match-up between a pair of 12-0 teams, and Oklahoma was tripped up after delivering the first punch.
So if the BCS does decide to vacate that 2004 BCS title, what should happen with it? Should another school be awarded the championship?
Not a chance.
If it does reach that point, and given the information available today it seems like this is a real possibility, there will be three teams to consider as an alternative BCS champion; Oklahoma, Auburn, and Utah.
Oklahoma was looking to avenge a BCS championship loss from the previous season (against LSU) and had a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Jason White. They also had some running back named Adrian Peterson.
The Sooners handled their business from start to finish that season but were no match for a USC offense that has been called one of the best offenses in college football history.
The stain left by that game should rule the Sooners out of any conversation regarding the 2004 BCS title, but what if they had been paired against Auburn or Utah?
If Oklahoma played Auburn or Utah the Sooners likely would have been the favorite and who knows how the game would have turned out? A computer simulation between the 2004 Oklahoma and Auburn teams handed the Sooners a 37-23 victory on a neutral field in ideal playing conditions.
Oklahoma also blew away Utah, 45-23 under the same conditions. Take the computer simulation for what it is, because we know that real-life gameplay often is different than computers.
The Tigers surprised everybody in 2004 as quarterback Jason Campbell and the running back duo of Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and Ronnie Brown led Auburn’s offense to 32.1 points per game.
The Auburn defense was the best in the nation according to the numbers, allowing just 11.3 points per game. Auburn’s defense allowed more than 14 points just twice during the season, allowing Arkansas to score 20 points and Tennessee to score 28 in the SEC Championship game.
Auburn gained respect from the voters as the season went along, starting the season ranked 17th in the AP poll and rising to third by the end of the regular season. What the voters did not like in Auburn was their strength of schedule, ranked 55th in the nation.
Games against Lousiana-Monroe, Citadel, and Louisiana Tech did not impress anybody. The SEC was still strong but not quite up to the level they are today, so the national respect for the conference was not as prominent. Today there is no doubt an undefeated SEC team would be playing in the BCS championship game.
Unfortunately for Auburn, they went undefeated just a tad early. Two years later the conference started its current string of consecutive BCS titles at five and counting.
The original BCS Buster ended up with Utah shocking everybody with a blowout of Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. Quarterback Alex Smith made a name for himself that season and increased his NFL Draft profile so high that the San Francisco 49ers took him with the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Utah started their season ranked in the Top 20 of the AP poll and started the season with wins against Texas A&M and Arizona. A win at North Carolina in the middle of the season allowed the Utes to crack the top ten and the Utes were off from there, ending the year with a 35-7 victory over the Big East champions in the Fiesta Bowl.
So who should get the 2004 BCS title?
Auburn and Utah had fine seasons, as did Oklahoma, but the best move for the BCS to make is to leave the title without an owner.
USC deserves to be punished for its actions and lack of control and leaving an empty space where its name should appear is the ultimate course of action. It will serve as a reminder of what is right and what is wrong in college football, and collegiate athletics.
We all know that USC was the best team in the country that season. Nobody would have defeated them that season, and nobody should be crowned as a champion when they could not beat the best, with or without ineligible players.