National and Big 12 Recap

In 2003, the Bowl Championship Series failed to produce a consensus national champion.

LSU defeated Oklahoma, 21-14, in the Sugar Bowl to claim the BCS Championship, while the University of Southern California claimed the Associated Press National title with a 28-14 win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The rift between the polls came when Oklahoma, despite losing the Big 12 title game to Kansas State, remained as the Bowl Championship Series Rankings No. 1 team, followed by LSU and USC. This required the Sugar Bowl to take the Sooners and the Tigers, leaving the Trojans out of the BCS championship game. USC made a believer out of the Michigan Wolverines, though, along with enough Associated Press writers to create the split title.

The Heisman Trophy in 2003 went to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, besting wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald from the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Oklahoma, which spent much of the season as the nation’s No. 1 team, received numerous individual awards. In addition to the Heisman, Jason White received the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback award, linebacker Teddy Lehman picked up the Dick Butkus Award (nation’s best linebacker) and the Chuck Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year), while fellow Sooner Derrick Strait picked up the Bronko Nagurski Award for the nation’s top collegiate defensive player.

With all of the national accolades, it would correctly be assumed that Oklahoma had a successful season in the Big 12 standings as well.

The Sooners were the pre-season No. 1 pick, and held the top ranking for most of the year, running out to a 12-0 record. Oklahoma finished the season 12-2, though, after losing to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game, 35-7, and to LSU in the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners, despite the two consecutive losses to end the year, did manage to hold onto the third overall spot in the rankings.

Joining Oklahoma in the final polls was 10-3 Texas, which finished at No. 12 after falling, 28-20, to Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. Kansas State, which surprised the nation in dominating previously unbeaten Oklahoma to claim its first Big 12 title, capped off an 11-4 season with a No. 14 ranking after falling 35-28 to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

The only other ranked Big 12 team in 2003 was Nebraska. The Cornhuskers rebounded from a disappointing 2002 season to finish 10-3 (and No. 19 in the polls) after a 17-3 win over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl.

Other bowl teams from the conference were Oklahoma State, 31-28 losers to Mississippi State in the Cotton Bowl; Missouri, which fell 27-14 to Arkansas in the Independence Bowl; Kansas, which succumbed, 56-26, to North Carolina State in the Tangerine Bowl; and Texas Tech, 38-14 winners over Navy in the Houston Bowl.



– The last split title prior to 2003 came in 1997, when Michigan was the AP champion, with Nebraska being crowned the No. 1 team in the coaches’ poll.

– After winning the Heisman trophy in 2003, Jason White would return for the 2004 season, looking to become the first two-time winner of the Heisman since Archie Griffin of Ohio State (1974-75), but would finish third in the final balloting.

– With eight teams bowling, there was balance in the Big 12. 2003 marked the first time since 1998, however, that only one team from the conference finished in the top ten. Overall, no conference had more top ten finishes (18) than the Big 12 since the advent of the BCS. (And this statistic does not even account for 1995, when, in the last season of the Big Eight, the conference placed four teams – Nebraska No. 1; Colorado No. 4; Kansas State No. 7; and Kansas, No. 10 – in the final top ten rankings).


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