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National and Big 12 recap – USC and Matt Leinhart win the national championship

2004 – “Shoulder to Shoulder” – National and Big 12 Recap

National and Big 12 Recap

USC, left out of the BCS Championship Game in 2003, left little doubt as to the nation’s best team in 2004, closing out a 13-0 campaign with a 55-19 thrashing of previously unbeaten and 2nd-ranked Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.  Heisman trophy winner Matt Leinhart led the Trojans with 332 yards passing and five touchdowns in the title game.

There was, of course, the annual controversy surrounding the BCS selection process.  In 2004, no fewer than five teams finished the regular season undefeated.  The Auburn Tigers were the odd-men out in 2004, as the undefeated Southeastern Conference champions were relegated to the Sugar Bowl, where they dispatched the ACC Champion Virginia Tech Hokies, 17-14, for a second-place finish in the final polls.  Also undefeated were the Utah Utes, becoming the first team from a non-BCS conference to play in a BCS bowl, concluding a 12-0 season for a 4th-place finish after handling Big East Champion Pittsburgh, 35-7, in the Fiesta Bowl.  The final regular season undefeated, Boise State, settled for a 12th place ranking after losing, 44-40, to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl.

The Big 12

In the Big 12, it was a mixed bag.  Before being dominated in the BCS title game, Oklahoma had its way with the conference.  The Sooners, who finished 3rd in the final polls, ran out to a 12-0 record, including a 42-3 humbling of Colorado in the Big 12 title game.  Texas, which lost only to Oklahoma on the year, played Michigan in the Longhorns’ first-ever appearance in the Rose Bowl, winning 38-37 to finish with a 5th place final ranking.

The only other ranked Big 12 squad were the Red Raiders of Texas Tech, who concluded an 8-4 campaign with an 18th place finish after defeating California, 45-31, in the Holiday Bowl.  Also making the post-season from the South Division were Texas A&M, 7-5 after losing, 38-7, to Tennessee in the Cotton Bowl, and Oklahoma State, concluding 2004 at 7-5 with a 33-7 loss to Ohio State in the Alamo Bowl.

The Big 12 North set records, but they were not positive ones.  Colorado survived to capture the North Division flag with a 4-4 conference record, the first time a Big 12 team had qualified for the conference title game with more than two losses in conference play.  The Buffs concluded an 8-5 season with a 33-28 win over UTEP in the EV1.Net Houston Bowl.  The only other team to make the post-season from the North Division was Iowa State, with the Cyclones finishing 7-5 after defeating Miami (Ohio), 17-13 in the Independence Bowl.  Missing from the bowl scene were Kansas State, failing to qualify for a bowl for the first time in twelve seasons after a 4-7 campaign, and Nebraska, missing a bowl for the first time in 35 years after finishing 5-6.

 Notes:

– The 2005 BCS title game marked the first time that two Heisman trophy winners squared off while still in college, as Matt Leinhart (2004 winner) defeated the 2003 winner, Oklahoma’s Jason White.

– The 2005 Rose Bowl was a landmark game for several reasons. First, it marked the first time Texas had played in the oldest bowl game. Second, it was the first time that two storied programs, Texas and Michigan, played each other. Finally, with the win, Texas moved past Nebraska (787 to 786) for third on the all-time NCAA wins list.

– With Nebraska’s consecutive bowl streak halted at 35 in 2004, the team with the longest streak became Texas, which played in its 30th consecutive bowl.

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