(Written by Ken Crawford)
It’s been interesting to read some of the message boards post-bowl announcement. As the Texas fans have come to the Cal message boards and the Cal fans have gone to the Texas message boards, the issues of the day has not been which team is better right now (frankly neither fan base is all that happy with the state of their current team) but 2004.
2004, where the Bears were ranked 4th and would have been guaranteed a spot in the BCS in the next-to-last ranking, but were leap-frogged in the final week, ending up 5th, behind Texas. Texas went to the Rose Bowl in Cal’s stead. Cal fans were outraged.
I have no interest in debating the worthiness of each team, which is an entirely subjective activity, but I did want to set some facts straight. Feel free to reference anyone who’s stating BS to this list:
(Note: all rankings and records are pre-bowls, as that’s what the voters had to pick based on)
- Cal beat Southern Miss 26-16 in the final week, but were down to S. Miss 17-16 early in the 4th quarter. However, Cal had statistically dominated the game, particularly the rushing game. It was a relatively easy grind-it-out win for the Bears and Cal pretty quickly put an end to S. Miss’s 3rd quarter rally.
- Texas was idle that same week.
- Texas did not go to the Rose Bowl because the Rose Bowl wanted them more than Cal. This was the older BCS, where the championship rotated between the major bowls. Therefore there were only 8 spots for teams. The following teams were guaranteed spots: #1, #2, the winners of the 6 BCS conferences, a #6 or higher non-AQ team and the higher of #3 or #4 that didn’t win their conference. That year both #1 and #2 won their conference (as is usually the case), so it was the 6 BCS conference champs, plus Utah at #6 (non-AQ) and Texas at #4 who made up the 8 teams. There were no options and the Rose Bowl was forced to pick between Texas, Utah and Pittsburg.
- In the new 10 team BCS, there’s no question that the Rose Bowl would have picked Cal.
- Texas’s only loss was to Oklahoma, the #1 ranked team. Final score, 0-12.
- Cal’s only loss was to USC, the #2 ranked team. Final score, 17-23.
- Of course, Oklahoma was ranked #1 before the bowl game, but we all know who ended up being the far better team. USC destroyed Oklahoma 55-19.
- Most pundits believed Cal played a closer game against USC than Texas did against Oklahoma.
- Texas had beaten more ranked teams than Cal did, but all of them were ranked 20 or lower. It’s not like they were all that impressive wins, either (26-13 over A&M, 56-35 over OSU, 51-21 over TTech (OK, that one is)). BTW, all those teams were 7-4.
- While Cal only beat 1 ranked team, Arizona State, they were ranked higher than all the teams Texas beat (#19). They were also 8-3 instead of 7-4. Cal also beat unranked 6-5 Oregon State, who was under-appreciated as they destroyed Notre Dame in the Insight Bowl. Finally, Cal beat 6-5 UCLA.
- Don’t let any Texas fans understate how hard Mack Brown campaigned. See here, here, here (scroll down).
- Cal went on to lose 31-45 to Texas Tech, a team Texas had beat handily, validating to most that Texas was the most deserving team (dismissing/overlooking the lack of motivation Cal had).
- Texas went on to beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl, winning on a late field-goal 38-37. Of course one doesn’t know how Cal would have done against Michigan.
- Cal was actually ranked 4th in both the AP and Coaches poll, it was the computers that ranked Texas higher (significantly at that).
- It was the coaches poll that changed most in the final week of the season, the assertion being that Big-12 coaches significantly lowered their rankings for Cal in the final week.
- I actually had a hard time finding detailed data on the polls in the next-to-last week and the final BCS rankings week. If someone has links, I’d appreciate it. From my memory, no coaches poll from 2004 was public on a vote-by-vote basis. Even now, only the final week’s ranking is made vote-by-vote public, so one wouldn’t know who changed their vote from the next-to-last week to the final week.
Those are just the facts. Feel free to continue the debate, but at least let’s keep the facts accurate.