CFB History Lesson: Why Didn’t the 2000 Miami Hurricanes Get a Chance to Play for the BCS National Championship?

We know the Miami Hurricanes of the early 2000s are among some of the greatest teams in college football history. NFL talent all over the field, on both sides of the ball, dominant wins over programs of all different conferences, and a 34 game winning streak that began on September 23, 2000 and didn’t end until January 3, 2003. They won the National Championship in 2001 and came up just short of a repeat in the 2002 season (the loss in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl National Championship game to Ohio State is what snapped their win streak).

Because I am an extreme college football nerd, I often spend time perusing sites like Sports Reference and Wikipedia, just looking at past teams and games and players from before I was old enough to really pay attention to sports.

The other night, I was doing just that and was focusing on The U. I came across the 2000 season, and I already knew that year the National Championship game was Oklahoma beating Florida State 13-2 in the Orange Bowl.

But what I didn’t know was that Miami that year went 11-1 with a win over Florida State and still somehow got left out of the National Championship game.

How the hell did that happen? Miami and Florida State both go 11-1 in the regular season, Miami beats Florida State–but Florida State finishes #2 and Miami finishes #3, giving Florida State the National Championship berth?

Let’s see if we can figure it out.

Miami started the season ranked #5 in the preseason poll. This was a ridiculously stacked Miami squad that had, just to name a few players, Ed Reed, Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne and Jeremy Shockey. NFL players everywhere. Miami moved up to 4 after week 1, however, on September 9, 2000, they went all the way up to Seattle to face the #15 ranked Washington Huskies. Washington beat Miami 34-29 in that game, dropping Miami down to #12.

However, Miami was able to bounce back. They won their next two games in dominant fashion, and got up to #7 heading into the annual rivalry game with Florida State. The FSU-Miami game nowadays is played at the end of the season, but back then it didn’t have a set date. Also back then, Miami was in the Big East and Florida State was in the ACC—nowadays they’re both part of the ACC conference.

So the FSU-Miami game was on October 7 and it was being played in Miami Gardens.

The Canes won the game 27-24, toppling #1.

Miami would go on to win out. In the process, they beat an undefeated Virginia Tech team that was ranked #2 in the nation in all three rankings (AP, Coaches, BCS) and quarterbacked by Michael Vick. This VT squad with Vick had been in the National Championship game the prior season, but lost to Florida State 46-29.

After beating Vick and the Hokies on November 4 (in Miami) by a score of 41-21, the Canes were elevated up to #2 in the country in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll, behind only Oklahoma. Oklahoma was undefeated the whole season and was #1 from week 10 onward.

However, on November 6, when the newest BCS rankings came out, Miami was ranked #3 in the country behind both undefeated Oklahoma and one-loss Florida State—and of course Florida State’s one loss was to Miami. Florida State had jumped from #3 up to #2 after dismantling #10 Clemson 54-7 in Tallahassee. Miami had jumped from #5 to #3, but was not put ahead of FSU even though Miami had already beaten FSU.

And if you’re wondering if Washington turned out to be a bad team and thus a bad loss for Miami, not the case at all. In fact, just the opposite. Washington by this point was 8-1 and up to #6 in the country. (In fact, in the final AP Poll in January, Washington would be ranked #3 with an 11-1 record).

The AP Poll and the Coaches Poll had Miami at #2 after the Virginia Tech game, but the BCS rankings had them at #3. So already there was trouble brewing: Miami was behind Florida State in the BCS rankings even though Miami had beaten Florida State. You could tell the BCS computers were not giving Miami the proper respect.

The following week, on November 13, Miami would jump FSU for the #2 spot after a 35-7 win over Pitt (FSU beat Wake Forest 35-6 that week).

However, just one week after that, Florida State would retake the #2 spot in the BCS poll after a dominant 30-7 win over the #4 ranked Florida Gators. Miami’s win that week was 26-0 on the road against an unranked Syracuse team that would finish 6-5.

This was Florida State’s final regular season game, while Miami had another week to play. They beat Boston College at home 52-6. But it didn’t matter. The BCS rankings held Florida State at #2 behind Oklahoma for the final three iterations, locking in a National Championship game of Oklahoma vs. Florida State, with Miami sitting there as the team left out at #3.

Washington had a legitimate argument to be included in the National Championship as well, since they were at #4 and had beaten #3 Miami, and Miami had beaten #2 Florida State. They probably had an even stronger case than Florida State had.

The only thing I can say for certain about the 2000 BCS rankings is that Oklahoma deserved to be in the National Championship game. They were undefeated.

Behind Oklahoma, there were five one-loss teams that had a legitimate case that they should be ranked #2 and given a chance to play for the National Championship. Let’s take a look at their resumes:

For rankings, I’m using the team’s rank at the end of the regular season, not the end of bowl season and not when the game was played. I’m doing it this way so we can evaluate these teams as they would have been evaluated at the end of the regular season and when they were under consideration for the national championship.

Florida State boasts two top-10 wins, both at home, plus a third blowout win on the road against an NC State team that, while not ranked, was a respectable 8-4.

Miami, however, boasts two top-5 wins, including a win over Florida State, which you’d think would count for a lot.

Washington’s only loss was to Oregon, the #10 team in the BCS polls at the end of the regular season. It was on the road, and only by 7 points. In Washington’s favor is that they beat Miami and Oregon State. So Washington had two top-6 wins.

Virginia Tech, while 10-1, had no real case because they had no real quality wins. They wound up blowing out Clemson in the bowl game, but we’re not evaluating bowl games right now. VT’s only ranked opponent was Miami and they got destroyed by Miami. As far as wins go, they beat 7-5 Boston College, 7-5 West Virginia, and 7-5 Pitt—those are not real quality wins. So we’re going to disqualify VT here.

As for Oregon State, they’re disqualified as well because they only have one good win, over #10 Oregon. But they lost to Washington, who is ahead of them, so they have no real case to be any higher than #4. Although Oregon State probably does have a case to be ahead of Virginia Tech.

Now we’re between FSU, Miami and Washington.

Honestly, of those three, I think FSU was the least deserving. They are the only one of those three teams that hasn’t beaten either of the other two. I think it should’ve been between Miami and Washington, and then in that situation you have to give Washington the nod because obviously the had the head-to-head win.

So really it shouldn’t have been FSU or Miami in the National Championship. It should’ve been Washington vs. Oklahoma.

The reason FSU wound up at #2 is because of the inherent flaw in these rankings systems, which is that when you win or lose a game matters a lot. (This is still a flaw that exists today, by the way.) Florida State lost relatively early in the season to Miami, which gave them time to recover and work their way back up the rankings. And then they beat a highly ranked Florida team late in the season. In the pollsters eyes, they have to move you up for beating the #4 ranked team by 23 points, even if they’re moving you ahead of a team that has beaten you already. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I understand it.

Again: going into week 12, Miami was #2, Florida State was #3 and Florida was #4. Florida State beat Florida 30-7, while Miami beat unranked Syracuse. So even though Miami had already beaten Florida State, the pollsters moved Florida State ahead of Miami, because Florida State had just beaten the #4 team in the country 30-7. In their minds, they had to reward Florida State somehow for such a dominant win over a highly ranked team, even though the only way to reward them was to put them ahead of a team that beat them.

In other words, no matter what they did, somebody was going to be pissed: if they didn’t move Florida State up after being Florida, then FSU fans would’ve been pissed that they got nothing for beating the #4 team in the country soundly. I guess they simply chose to piss the Miami fans off. In my view, it was the wrong decision.

Up to this point, we haven’t even really talked about how the FSU-Miami game went. Because that could be the key to this all: if Miami won lucky or something, then that could be a reason to essentially give FSU a mulligan here.

Well, Miami was up 17-0 at halftime, but Florida State was able to score a TD to take a 24-20 lead with 1:38 left to play. However, Miami’s Ken Dorsey threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey with 47 seconds to play to make it 27-24. The Seminoles tried to get down the field, and set themselves up for a 49 yard attempt to tie the game with 5 seconds left, but their kicker pushed it wide right and Miami held on to win.

So obviously it was an extremely close game, and it really could’ve gone either way.

But Miami still won it!

And yet the BCS computers did not give them credit for winning it.

It had to be the computer rankings, because the BCS rankings, from my understanding, were derived from three main inputs: the AP poll, the Coaches poll, and then an aggregate of six different statistical team ratings (colloquially known as the “computer rankings”). And in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll, Miami finished the regular season as #2.

In the Coaches Poll, after Miami beat FSU, they never once had FSU ahead of Miami. Florida State never got higher than #3 in the Coaches Poll after losing to Miami. Same with the AP poll.

Florida State went on to lose to Oklahoma 13-2 in the Orange Bowl National Championship game.

If you go and watch the highlights of that game, Florida State had plenty of opportunities to win the game, but their quarterback, Chris Weinke, had an absolutely horrible game. And their kicker missed a few.

Weinke was absolutely terrible in this game.

Guess what? He won the Heisman that year!

Weinke is an interesting sub-plot from the 2000 season. He narrowly beat out Oklahoma QB Josh Heupel for the Heisman, but was not even selected as a first team All American. Heupel was. Weinke became the first ever Heisman winner to not be named a consensus All American.

Weinke was also 28 years old that season, as he had spent most of his 20s playing minor league baseball before enrolling at Florida State to play football at the age of 25.

So basically the takeaway from the 2000 season was that the wrong team was selected to play against Oklahoma in the National Championship game, and probably the wrong guy was awarded the Heisman Trophy.

Miami, meanwhile, would go on to play Florida in the Sugar Bowl. They won 37-20.

It probably wasn’t any sort of consolation for them, though.

They were deprived of an opportunity to play for the National Championship game in their home stadium. Remember, the National Championship game was the Orange Bowl that year. Oklahoma was a great team that year, but it would’ve been a tall order to beat Miami in Miami in the National Championship game.

The BCS computers deprived the Miami Hurricanes of a chance to go back-to-back-to-back. That’s the takeaway here.

What a mess the BCS was. This whole case study goes to show you how badly college football has needed a legitimate playoff for a long, long time. I mean, my gosh, this shouldn’t even be a discussion. The FCS has had a legitimate playoff since 1978.

I can’t even imagine how many times the wrong team was crowned National Champion in college football due to the fact that for decades and decades, there wasn’t a playoff.

Maybe one day I’ll try to figure it out.

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