1. Oklahoma (12-0) — Big 12 champion
2. Miami (10-1) — Big East champion
3. Florida State (11-1) — ACC champion
4. Washington (10-1) — Pac-10 champion
5. Oregon State (10-1)
6. Virginia Tech (10-1)
7. Florida (10-2) — SEC champion
8. Oregon (9-2)
9. Nebraska (9-2)
10. Notre Dame (9-2)
11. Kansas State (10-3)
14. Purdue (8-3) — Big 10 champion
17. Michigan (8-3)
Nebraska and Florida State spend the first month of the season ranked #1 and #2, respectively, until FSU beats Maryland 59-7 at the end of September and the voters decide this is enough to flip-flop the Seminoles and Cornhuskers. The Seminoles’ reign at the top, however, lasts exactly one week before Miami beats FSU 27-24 in what predictably becomes known as “Wide Right III.” Miami, who lost to eventual Pac-10 champion Washington in the second week of the season, climbs up into the #2 spot by November and stays there — though as all the world knows by now, this still wasn’t enough to earn them the BCS’s blessing to play Oklahoma for the national title, an honor that still ended up going to the then third-ranked ‘Noles.
Rose: #4 Washington (10-1) vs. #14 Purdue (8-3)
Same as the actual 2000 matchup. In contrast to the previous season, this year it’s the Big 10’s turn to be mediocre, while the Pac-10 has three teams in the top 10.
Sugar: #7 Florida (10-2) vs. #2 Miami (10-1)
With the SEC champion locked in, the Sugar jumps on the #2 team in the country and takes the opportunity to restart the UF-UM rivalry.
Fiesta: #1 Oklahoma (12-0) vs. #6 Oregon State (10-1)
Would’ve liked to have gotten Notre Dame, but isn’t too upset about having to settle for the Beavers, whose fans are thrilled to be going to their first major bowl in 36 years (and only their seventh bowl in the program’s history). The Beavs get the nod over their in-state rivals, Oregon, due to a higher ranking and a head-to-head win in the Civil War.
Orange: #3 Florida State (11-1) vs. #10 Notre Dame (9-2)
Offers the Irish a bid before the Fiesta can get a chance, to set up a rematch of the 1995 game.
WHAT (I THINK) HAPPENS: The Rose and Sugar stay the same as their real-life matchups, meaning that both Washington and Miami roll over their opponents. In the Fiesta Bowl, the undefeated Sooners do away with the Beavers; the next night, even without offensive coordinator Mark Richt (represent), the Seminoles make short work of the overrated Fighting Irish.
Coming into the bowl season, Oklahoma and Miami were the consensus #1 and #2, respectively, in the nation — something that people forget due to the Miami-FSU controversy — and they both stay in those positions after winning convincingly in their bowl games. In the national-title matchup, Oklahoma probably still would’ve beaten the Hurricanes, but I think Miami would’ve given them a tougher test than FSU did, and would’ve had a reasonable chance of pulling off the upset.
ANALYSIS: The old-school-plus-one system would’ve had the advantage of engineering an Oklahoma-Miami national-title matchup, which I think the majority of fans were clamoring for since a) Miami won the regular-season head-to-head over FSU and b) was ranked above FSU in both polls. Fifth-ranked Virginia Tech would have a reasonable beef that they got left out of the proceedings, but they did lose by 20 to Miami in the regular season.
Honestly, the one issue that even the old-school-plus-one wouldn’t have addressed that year — and an issue that I don’t recall having gotten a lot of attention period in all the debating and punditing that went down in the wake of the BCS invites — is whether Washington might’ve had a legitimate claim to a national-title-game berth. After all, the Huskies came from a conference that wasn’t any weaker than the Big East that year, and of course they beat the Hurricanes early in the season; the Huskies’ only loss came in late September to an Oregon team that finished 10-2 and beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl. I mean, if we’re going to get outraged on the Hurricanes’ behalf because of a head-to-head win being disregarded, there’s some outrage due for the Huskies as well.