Rose Bowl: The obvious region for the Rose Bowl to select was the one which would be expected to produce an Iowa-Washington State match-up.
Citrus Bowl: The best host team left available to the Citrus Bowl was Miami, so they took the northernmost region.
I was as shocked as you probably were to see Cincinnati beat Miami on the first try. I wrestled with whether or not to keep that result for a while. A No. 16 has never beaten a No. 1 in basketball. It seems like it shouldn't be any easier in football, especially when the No. 1 is the Miami Hurricanes, who absolutely dominated college football around the turn of the century.
However, Cincinnati isn't your average 16 seed. Had it been North Texas or some scrub team like that, I probably would have given in and re-simulated the game. But Cincinnati, although a member of Conference USA at the time, is a BCS school with the kind of resources necessary to field a decent program. It's not completely out of the question that they could surprise a Miami team that might have been overlooking them, especially with Dorsey throwing four picks. Let's not forget that Larry Coker was the coach, after all.
So I decided to keep it. This is December Madness, after all, and what could be madder than this? (Plus, it doesn't hurt that the Cats' road to the Final Four just got a hell of a lot easier...)
In other news, I told you Boise State would finally pull an upset, and I wasn't at all surprised that they did. That was a solid team that finished just outside the BCS standings, and although Iowa was sound, I am never too impressed with the Big Ten in general. Plus, it's not like Boise is any warmer than Iowa City, so the weather advantage was nonexistent for the Hawkeyes.
Washington State's win is not too surprising. Poor Colorado State just can't catch a break, though. And then there was the best game of the day, in my opinion: K-State blanking the overrated Irish in the snow on Wagner Field, while Willie climbed the press box again for another resounding K-S-U cheer. A thing of beauty...
Game 1: No. 1 Miami Hurricanes (12-0) VS. No. 16 Cincinnati Bearcats (7-6)
Miami Orange Bowl - Miami, Fla.
Friday, Dec. 13, 2002 - 11 AM EST
Wind: E 10 MPH
Final Score: Cincinnati 29, Miami 17
Player of the Game
Cincinnati RB DeMarco McCleskey
MIAMI (AP) - Cincinnati has redefined the meaning of the word "upset."
The 2002 FBS Playoff started off with a bang, as the Bearcats (8-6) shocked the nation by knocking off the heavily-favored Hurricanes of Miami (12-1) in their historic Orange Bowl stadium.
It is the first time a No. 16 seed has defeated a No. 1 seed, in either football or men's basketball. The very concept seemed unthinkable, until Friday's game, that is.
It was a perfect storm for Cincinnati, as Miami got off to a poor start offensively and, thanks to QB Ken Dorsey throwing four interceptions, finished even worse, while Cincinnati was able to establish a strong running game (they out-rushed the Hurricanes 245-118) behind RB DeMarco McCleskey's 32 carries for 193 yards and 3 TDs.
That helped the Bearcats compensate for subpar play from QB Gino Guidugli (9-24, 137 yards, 1 INT), who was slightly better than Dorsey (23-47, 286 yards, 2 TDs) only because he did not turn it over nearly as often. RB Willis McGahee was Miami's star in defeat, carrying the ball 24 times for 102 yards and catching it four times for 71 yards.
After a first-half kicking exhibition which saw Cincinnati K Jonathan Ruffin make all three of his FG attempts and Miami K Todd Sievers make one from 24 yards out and miss one from 34, the halftime score was 9-3 Cincinnati.
Miami came out of the locker room strong, as Dorsey threw TD passes to TE Kellen Winslow and WR Andre Johnson, and the Hurricanes led 17-9 with 5:15 left in the 3rd quarter. They probably thought they had done enough to make up for their sluggish start and put the pesky Bearcats away, but McCleskey had other ideas.
Over the course of the last 20 minutes, he rushed for TDs of 30, 5, and 3 yards to deliver a 1-2-3 punch that stunned the Miami crowd. He simply could not be stopped, not even by a Miami defense that entered the game as one of the nation's best against the run. It seemed as though he broke at least three tackles on every rush, and his sheer determination and willpower took over the game and delivered the upset victory.
Asked after the game how a team that lost six games could pull this off, McCleskey said, "None of that mattered, man. In our minds, this was a new season. We were 0-0 coming into this game. We just wanted it more than they did. They weren't ready for us and we punched 'em in the mouth."
Scrappy Cincinnati will advance to the Citrus Bowl, which was counting on a Miami win to ensure high ticket sales. Now it will get a match-up of two Midwestern teams, as the Bearcats will face the winner of Kansas State-Notre Dame. Miami will surely get a decent bowl invitation, but for a team that thought it would coast to the Final Four again, that is small consolation.
Game 2: No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes (11-1) VS. No. 13 Boise State Broncos (11-1)
Kinnick Stadium - Iowa City, Iowa
Friday, Dec. 13, 2002 - 12 PM CST
Wind: N 3 MPH
Final Score: Boise State 23, Iowa 10
Player of the Game
Boise State RB Brock Forsey
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Upset Friday continued as Boise State seized a chance to make a statement after receiving its highest playoff seed yet.
The Broncos (12-1), who were dispatched easily by Florida State as a No. 16 seed in 1999 and a No. 15 seed in 2000, were far more intractable for the Iowa Hawkeyes (11-2), beating them 23-10 on their own field and validating their national ranking in the process.
It was a fairly defensive ballgame and both teams were evenly matched in most statistics, so that made the two fumbles Iowa lost even more important in the outcome of the game. Even the painfully cold weather failed to work in the Hawkeyes' advantage, as the Broncos are used to equally harsh winters back home in Idaho. It helped that Boise State got off to a fast start, though.
Nick Calaycay (3-3 FG) kicked FGs of 35 and 29 yards and Brock Forsey (29 carries, 101 yards) ran for a 1-yard TD to give the Broncos a 13-0 halftime lead, as Iowa self-destructed with turnovers.
Iowa K Nate Kaeding responded after the break with a 41-yard FG, but Bronco QB Ryan Dinwiddie (7-16, 198 yards) came up big with a 62-yard TD pass to Trent Lundin to stretch the lead to its biggest margin, 20-3.
Iowa QB Brad Banks (14-25, 176 yards) tried to get something going all game, but did not find the end zone until he threw a 6-yard TD pass to Ed Hinkel with 4:38 left in the game to make it 23-10. By then, it was too late.
The Bronco defense, which held star RB Fred Russell to just 95 yards on 31 carries, was not about to let victory slip through their fingers, and they stifled any further attempts by the Iowa offense to make a game of it. In the process, they dealt Banks' Heisman candidacy a likely fatal blow, although he was obviously more angry about the loss than anything.
Boise State will advance to the Rose Bowl, a prestigious game that, until the formation of the FBS Playoff, would never have considered inviting a team that was part of Division II just 10 years ago. It has been a stratospheric climb for the Broncos, indeed.
Iowa's bowl destination was unknown as of press time.
Game 3: No. 12 Colorado State Rams (10-3) VS. No. 5 Washington State Cougars (10-2)
Martin Stadium - Pullman, Wash.
Friday, Dec. 13, 2002 - 1:30 PM PST
Precipitation: Light Snow
Wind: W 3 MPH
Final Score: Washington State 31, Colorado State 19
Player of the Game
Washington State QB Jason Gesser
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) - The Pac-10 finally got that monkey off its collective back.
Pac-10 Champion Washington State (11-2) snapped the conference's 8-game losing streak and gave the league its second playoff win ever by beating Colorado State (10-4) 31-19 Friday.
That is still fewer wins than the MAC and the WAC (three), and the same amount as Conference USA, but Pac-10 Commissioner Thomas Hansen will take any win he can get. His conference has been the laughingstock of the FBS Playoff through the first four years, its teams losing several games in which they were prohibitive favorites playing at home.
Not Washington State, though. Of course, it helps that the Mountain West has yet to win a single playoff game, a streak of futility that even Hansen might pity.
Behind the arm of QB Jason Gesser (18-34, 251 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs), the Cougars struck early and often. Gesser completed a 3-yard TD pass to Jerome Riley and John Tippins ran in for two scores to give Washington State a 21-0 lead as the 1st quarter ended.
Colorado State fought back, though. RB Cecil Sapp (38 carries, 123 yards) scored first for the Rams on a 7-yard run. Then QB Bradlee Van Pelt (6-12, 81 yards) connected with Chris Pittman from six yards out to cut the halftime deficit to just eight points (K Jeff Babcock missed the PAT).
As the snow piled up in the 3rd quarter, Gesser put some more distance between the two teams when he found Mike Bush from seven yards out to give the Cougars a 28-13 lead, which lasted just into the 4th quarter. Babcock kicked FGs of 38 and 48 yards in the first five minutes of the final period to cut the Cougar lead to 28-19, though.
That was as close as it got, however. When Washington State K Drew Dunning made his only FG attempt of the day from 32 yards out, it proved to be the decisive score. Colorado State was forced to abandon its productive running game at that point, and rely on a passing attack that netted less than 100 yards all day. There would be no road upset in this game.
Now Washington State heads to the Rose Bowl, the normal destination for the Pac-10 champ, but the opponent awaiting them is anything but normal. Boise State upset Big Ten Co-Champion Iowa today to ruin the Rose Bowl committee's plans for a traditional match-up.
After the game, Colorado State accepted a bid to the Liberty Bowl to play C-USA Co-Champion TCU.
Game 4: No. 8 Kansas State Wildcats (10-2) VS. No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2)
KSU Stadium - Manhattan, Kan.
Friday, Dec. 13, 2002 - 7 PM CST
Precipitation: Light Snow
Wind: NE 12 MPH
Final Score: Kansas State 27, Notre Dame 0
Player of the Game
Kansas State QB Ell Roberson
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Although this was Notre Dame's first playoff appearance, their coach suffered from some painful deja vu.
Ty Willingham lost in Manhattan in the 1st round when he was coaching at Stanford. As disappointing as that game must have been for him, at least his team scored points that day.
Kansas State (11-2) shut out the Irish (10-3) Friday, beating them 27-0 as large snowflakes pelted the FieldTurf at KSU Stadium. Add to that the fact that No. 1 seed Miami was ejected earlier today, and it's been a pretty good day for the Wildcats.
They had more first downs (20-8) and more rushing yards (234-50) than Notre Dame. The "Lynch Mob" intercepted Irish QB Pat Dillingham (6-23, 81 yards) three times (two by Bobby Walker, one by Randy Jordan) and sacked him twice (once each by Thomas Houchin and Tank Reese). About the only thing that went wrong for K-State was K Joe Rheem missing three of his five FG attempts.
Wildcat QB Ell Roberson (6-12, 88 yards, 1 TD) was not asked to do much, but he did it well. RB Darren Sproles was the straw that stirred the drink, rushing 31 times for 150 yards, although he did not score.
Kansas State basically won the game in the 2nd quarter. After finding little success on the ground early, the Wildcats broke through when FB Ayo Saba broke through the Notre Dame defense for a 3-yard TD run with 10:24 left in the 1st half. That was followed by a 2-yard Roberson TD run. Roberson capped the 21-point quarter with a 37-yard TD pass to TE Thomas Hill as time expired.
The only points in the 2nd half came from 36- and 26-yard Rheem FGs, but that was enough. Bill Snyder rarely relinquishes halftime leads, especially at home. With this win, he became the first college football coach to win 10 playoff games, a nice bounce-back for him after the Wildcats failed to qualify for the playoff last season.
Notre Dame will end its season in the Gator Bowl, while Kansas State advances to the Citrus Bowl to face Cincinnati as a surprise favorite, after fans were expecting to face the Miami juggernaut in its home state. Could the Wildcats reach their third Final Four in five years?
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
#15 North Texas @ #2 Ohio State
#14 Marshall @ #3 Georgia
#11 Texas @ #6 USC
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles, Calif.
#10 Florida State @ #7 Oklahoma
Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
BracketCat's Protest Playoff Archives
2002: Selection Sunday