Despite some rough spots in implementation and explanation, the BCS had produced three undisputed champions, quickly rectifying much of what had been problematic in the sport for two decades. While there were some debates over which opponent should square off with number one, each had been rendered irrelevant by the outcome. Unlike years such as 1983, when one versus two did not happen, the system had produced three worthy champions that nobody seriously disputed was the best team that particular year. And while the outcome would be the same in 2001, it would be the rockiest road towards determining a champion in the history of NCAA football. The pre-season AP poll demonstrated that there was no clear-cut favorite for the national championship. Nine different teams received first place votes in the opening poll: 1) Florida 2) Miami 3) Oklahoma 4) Nebraska 5) Florida State 6) Texas 7) Tennessee 8) Oregon 9) Va Tech 10) Michigan Only Va Tech in the top ten did not receive a first-place vote. The season began uneventfully through two weeks, save for Washington taking down Michigan and Miami's high-powered offense scoring a total of 94 points in their first two games was impressive enough to knock the Gators from the top spot to number two. All was going casually until tragedy struck the nation. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a coordinated terrorist attack involving the hijacking of four American airliners resulted in the deaths of over 3,000 people and the total implosion of the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City. Sports, indeed every day life, were placed on the back burner. With the NFL taking the lead, all sports were cancelled through the following Sunday, including (somewhat shockingly for the time) NASCAR, major league baseball, and college football. The season resumed on September 20 when South Carolina upset Mississippi State. Despite some minimal shuffling in the rankings, the top ten remained mostly stable. The one major casualty was Florida State, recipients of a 41-9 waxing by North Carolina in their first post-9/11 game. Though it would not be clear for some time, this game marked the end of the Bobby Bowden dynasty at Florida State. The Seminoles would not make noise at the national level for another dozen years. They were completely buried by Miami on October 13, further validating the Canes claim to the top spot. Texas lost respectably to Oklahoma and remained in the top ten. And sure enough, controversy again ensued when the first BCS rankings were issued on October 22: 1) Oklahoma 2) Nebraska 3) UCLA 4) Miami 5) Virginia Tech All five were undefeated, but it pained Miami to again be in the top spot in the AP poll but as low as fourth in the BCS rankings. Fortunately, four of the top five were scheduled to play each other so presumably it would all work out in the end. It did but not quite the way anyone envisioned. Virginia Tech was the first to fall, losing by eight points to Syracuse just days after the first BCS poll. Combined with UCLA's loss to Stanford, two new contenders, Michigan and Texas, rose into the top five. After another week, the dissonance between polls was never more clear. Consider the two polls from November 5, 2001: BCS: 1) Nebraska 2) Miami 3) Oklahoma 4) Tennessee 5) Texas AP Poll: 1) Miami 2) Nebraska 3) Florida 4) Oklahoma 5) Texas Of course, the argument would be that it really didn't matter since both polls had the top two and that was all that mattered. But the Tennessee Volunteers soon learned this was a whole new animal when despite blowing out Memphis by three touchdowns, they dropped out of the top five of the BCS poll, giving way to Oregon. Those BCS polls held for two weeks - and then disaster struck the BCS. The day after Thanksgiving, Nebraska met Colorado in their annual grudge match in Boulder. The Buffaloes had two early season losses but had now risen as high as 14 in the AP poll. Colorado unloaded on the top-ranked Huskers, blowing out to a 35-3 lead en route to a 62-36 bombing of the Big Red that wasn't even as close as the final score suggested. The very next day, 3-7 Oklahoma State shocked the defending champion Oklahoma Sooners at Bedlam in Stillwater while Miami was blasting two-loss Washington, 65-7, and rising to the top of the BCS standings. Entering the December games, the BCS rankings were: 1) Miami 2) Florida 3) Texas 4) Nebraska 5) Oregon The general consensus was that Florida would beat Tennessee in the make-up game from September 15, beat the winner of the Auburn-LSU game to win the SEC, and the nation would be treated to an all-Florida championship in the Rose Bowl. If only it could have been that easy. Miami survived a scare with Virginia Tech. Indeed, had the Hokies not had five turnovers, it is likely their 26-24 loss would have thrown another monkey wrench into the BCS. The evening then saw the first stunning development when Tennessee shocked Florida, 34-32. The Florida loss meant Texas was now playing for the Rose Bowl. Naturally, they lost to Colorado, 39-37, in a rematch of a game they'd won in a rout earlier. The Vols win and Longhorns loss suddenly put Tennessee in the catbird seat at number two. Beat LSU, whom they'd already beaten 26-18, and go for your second BCS championship in four years. When the Vols went up 17-7 in the second quarter and LSU's starting quarterback, Rohan Davey, left with an injury, the Vols were halfway to Atlanta. But led by backup QB Matt Mauck, LSU climbed off the mat (pardon the pun) and manhandled the Vols the rest of the way, winning, 31-20. And now came the eruptions and objections from coast to coast. Nebraska, who had not played a game since November 23 - where they were beaten soundly - cycled through the rankings and back to the number two spot. There were two other teams objecting to this occurence, two-loss Colorado and one-loss Oregon. Oregon, in fact, was number two in both the AP and coaches polls and had the national sentiment, but they were fourth in the BCS polls, not only behind Miami and Nebraska but also behind two-loss Colorado. So why did Nebraska make the game despite not even winning their division? Well, you can thank the changes the BCS made trying to 'fix' the alleged snub in 2000 for the debacle of 2001. By removing the margin of victory component, the computers now treated Nebraska's 27-point drilling by Colorado as equal to Oklahoma's three-point loss to Okie State or Oregon's seven-point loss to ranked Stanford. This not only put Nebraska at number two, but combined with Oregon's weak strength of schedule put the Buffaloes in third. But they system was also done in by the terrorist attack. Colorado had been scheduled to play Washington State on September 15, the weekend that was cancelled due to the 9/11 hijackings. Neither had an open date to play the other. Wazzu made up for the lost game by scheduling a Thursday night contest in October with Montana State-Bozeman (and blowing them out). The game was actually made up in 2004. However, the loss of this game actually helped send Nebraska to Pasadena. If Colorado had won the game then - despite their two losses - the Buffs would have played Miami in the Rose Bowl because the additional quality win and strength of schedule (the Cougars were 10-2 that year) would have leaped them over Nebraska. Despite missing this game, CU still managed to play the second toughest schedule in the country. And if Wazzu had beaten Colorado then the additional points Oregon would have netted after beating the Cougars by seven would have likewise lifted both Oregon's SoS and quality win total. In short, Nebraska benefited from a tough SoS (14th, higher than either Miami or Oregon), only one loss, the combined losses of Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Oklahoma, and the cancelled game in Pullman. The Cornhuskers were treated to an old-fashioned blowout in the Rose Bowl while snubbed Oregon took out their frustration on Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, blowing them out in a 38-16 mauling. Once again, the BCS champion was considered deserving but the methodology was quickly coming under serious fire.