Ranking the best BCS bowl games from 2003: A title game for the ages

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

In 2002, still reeling from the terrorist attacks of 9/11, George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security. All the while, two snipers terrorized the D.C. corridor, killing 10 people along highways. Across the pond, the Euro became official currency for 12 EU countries.

Michael Jackson entered full-on Wacko Jacko mode by dangling his infant child over a balcony. R. Kelly was popped for making a sex tape with an underage girl—and apparently peeing on the young lady. Kelly Clarkson won the first American Idol. Fan boys dominated the box office with films from the following franchises: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Men in Black, and Spiderman.

The BCS presented three mediocre games, but it’s championship game more than made up for the clunkers.

4) Rose Bowl: #7 Oklahoma 34, #6 Washington State 14

Putting it mildly, this game was offensive. Nevermind Wazzu getting shutout until the fourth quarter. Look at the contestants: Big 12 versus Pac 10. Meanwhile, the Orange Bowl showcased a traditional Rose Bowl pairing. This was the first Rose Bowl under capacity since 1947. This game highlights so much of what is/was wrong with the BCS. You can’t mess with tradition.

Notable Players: Jammal Brown, Mark Clayton, Quentin Griffin, Marcus Trufant, Jason White, Roy Williams

3) Orange Bowl: #4 USC 38, #5 Iowa 17

The game that should’ve been played in Pasadena. USC’s Carson Palmer showed why he won the Heisman over Iowa’s Brad Banks. Iowa returned the opening kickoff for a TD and then didn’t score another TD until the fourth quarter. This game officially announced USC’s return to prominence and laid the groundwork for its upcoming dominance—much like Miami’s Orange Bowl win in 2000. Total domination by the Trojans.

Notable Players: Jonathan Babineaux, Matt Cassel, Dallas Clark, Shaun Cody, Robert Gallery, Chad Greenway, Winston Justice, Nate Kaeding, Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Lofa Tatupu, Mike Williams

2) Sugar Bowl: #3 Georgia 26, #14 FSU 13

This game wasn’t much of a barn burner, but gets bumped up for a few reasons. There was a pretty cool end-around WR pass for TD in the third quarter that made the game closer. Mark Richt beat his mentor, and former employer, Bobby Bowden. For the first time in its storied history, Georgia won 13 games. Though it was in a BCS bowl, FSU’s season was a disappointment and a far cry from its three championship games at the turn of the century.

Notable Players: Anquan Boldin, Lorenzo Booker, Michael Boulware, Chris Clemons, Darnell Dockett, David Greene, David Pollack,

1 ) Fiesta Bowl: #2 Ohio State 31, #1 Miami 24 (2OT)

Game of the Century. I can’t do this game justice by trying to describe it, so here are some fun facts. Miami had a 34-game win streak—832 calendar days. Stadium officials prematurely set off fireworks on a game-winning play that was called back due to pass interference. Of the 100 players who played in the game, 58 of them played at least one NFL game. The game featured 18 first-round draft picks. This is one of those contests that reminds us why we watch sports. Truly a remarkable game and the best BCS game ever.

Notable Players: Will Allen, Rashad Butler, Bobby Carpenter, Michael Doss, Frank Gore, A.J. Hawk, Devin Hester, Santonio Holmes, Michael Jenkins, Andre Johnson, Willis McGahee, Brandon Meriweather, Mike Nugent, Antrel Rolle, Sean Taylor, Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Vince Wilfork, Kellen Winslow, Eric Winston