Sugar Bowl: With the first selection, the Sugar Bowl chose the Auburn-Cal region in order to get the best - and the most local - SEC team in the playoff field.
Cotton Bowl: Presented with a nice choice between Oklahoma or Texas, the Cotton Bowl chose Oklahoma on the grounds that the Sooners have a much easier opponent. As far as distance and fan bases are concerned, though? Six of one, half a dozen of the other, really.
Game 1: No. 15 Pittsburgh Panthers (8-3) VS. No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (12-0)
Oklahoma Memorial Stadium - Norman, Okla.
Saturday, Dec. 11, 2004 - 10 AM CST
Wind: N 20 MPH
Final Score: Oklahoma 31, Pittsburgh 0
Player of the Game
Oklahoma RB Kejuan Jones
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Bob Stoops won his 10th playoff game in just four appearances, as Oklahoma steamrolled Pittsburgh 31-0.
Adrian Peterson rushed 34 times for 158 yards, with a long of 53, but it was Kejuan Jones who finished off the drives Peterson started, with 11 carries for 60 yards and 3 TDs. Defending Heisman winner Jason White was 13 of 22 for 197 yards, while Pitt's Tyler Palko was 17 of 35 for 205 yards.
Oklahoma (13-0) advances to the Cotton Bowl to face the winner of Michigan-Virginia Tech, while Pittsburgh (8-4) will garner some kind of minor bowl bid, despite finishing in a four-way tie for the Big East championship and looking thoroughly unimpressive in its first playoff game ever.
Game 2: No. 3 Auburn Tigers (12-0) VS. No. 14 Toledo Rockets (9-3)
Jordan-Hare Stadium - Auburn, Ala.
Saturday, Dec. 11, 2004 - 1 PM EST
Wind: SE 6 MPH
Final Score: Auburn 44, Toledo 14
Player of the Game
Auburn RB Carnell Williams
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Auburn won its first playoff game ever in a laugher, defeating Toledo 44-14.
The Tigers (13-0) led the Rockets (9-4) 14-0 after the 1st quarter, 27-7 at halftime and 37-7 after three periods. It was that kind of a day.
Leading the way was Auburn RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who had 28 carries for 121 yards and 2 TDs. His quarterback, Jason Campbell, was 11 of 14 for 161 yards and a TD. John Vaughn was 3 for 3 on FGs.
Toledo was pretty much a one-man show; Bruce Gradkowski (13-23, 190 yards, 2 TDs) did his best to keep the Rockets in it, but his best wasn't enough. Toledo's normally potent backfield was held to less than 100 yards rushing.
Auburn advances to the Sugar Bowl to play the Cal-Louisville winner, while Toledo will play in the Motor City Bowl as the MAC champion.
Game 3: No. 11 Louisville Cardinals (10-1) VS. No. 6 Cal Golden Bears (10-1)
California Memorial Stadium - Berkeley, Calif.
Saturday, Dec. 11, 2004 - 1:30 PM PST
Wind: WNW 9 MPH
Final Score: Louisville 27, Cal 24
Player of the Game
Cal RB J.J. Arrington
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - Louisville probably wishes it could play on the West Coast more often.
In 2001, the Cardinals flew west to take on Oregon State in the 1st round and proceeded to upset the Beavers 17-10 to advance to the Elite Eight.
Fast-forward three years and replace Corvallis, Ore., with Berkeley, Calif. Different state, same result.
Louisville (11-1) upset favored Cal (10-2) 27-24 to advance to its second Elite Eight in three tries. This was the Cardinals' first playoff win under head coach Bobby Petrino.
Eric Shelton rushed 15 times for 106 yards for the Cardinals, while J.J. Arrington carried the ball 34 times for 178 yards and a TD for the Golden Bears. Louisville's Stefan LeFors (8-13, 100 yards) slightly outperformed Cal's Aaron Rodgers (9-20, 92 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) in a close game in which every play counted. To that end, the decisive factor was probably the Cardinals' kicker, Art Carmody, who finished a perfect 4 for 4 on FGs.
Louisville built an early 13-3 lead in the 1st half, but Cal trimmed that to 13-10 with a 5-yard Marcus O'Keith TD run with 1:45 left before halftime. The Golden Bears then took a 17-13 lead in the 3rd quarter after Arrington's 12-yard TD run.
The Cardinals were not overly discouraged, though, having been in this position three years ago. They calmly controlled the final period with 13 consecutive points in the first 12 minutes of the 4th quarter.
Cal's last desperate drive resulted in a 7-yard Rodgers-to-Jonathan Makonnen TD pass with 22 seconds remaining, but the Golden Bears had dug too deep of a hole to climb out of with so little time remaining time on the clock. It was a moot point, anyway, as they failed to recover the onside kick, and LeFors then took a quick knee to end the game and claim the upset.
Louisville advances to the Sugar Bowl to face Auburn; Cal had not yet accepted a bowl bid as of press time.
Game 4: No. 10 Michigan Wolverines (9-2) VS. No. 7 Virginia Tech Hokies (10-2)
Lane Stadium - Blacksburg, Va.
Saturday, Dec. 11, 2004 - 8 PM EST
Final Score: Virginia Tech 28, Michigan 17
Player of the Game
Michigan RB Mike Hart
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - After a three-year hiatus from the playoffs, one of the more successful programs in playoff history is back for more.
Virginia Tech (11-2), which has advanced to at least the Final Four in each of its previous two appearances, took the first step toward a Final Four threepeat today, beating Michigan (9-3) 28-17 to advance to the Elite Eight.
The Hokies' running attack was simply devastating - Mike Imoh rushed 23 times for 164 yards and a TD and Cedric Humes added 111 yards on 13 carries. Against that, the Wolverines had no answers, although Mike Hart did his best - he posted 25 carries for 111 yards and caught a 69-yard TD pass to score the first points of the game for either team in the 1st quarter.
Michigan QB Chad Henne was 12 of 25 for 165 yards and a TD, while Bryan Randall was a woeful 5 of 11 for 56 yards and an INT - but with backs like Imoh and Humes to lean on, he didn't need to be good for his team to win.
The Hokies answered the Hart catch with a 40-yard John Candelas TD run to make it a 7-7 tie, but the Wolverines claimed the lead going into halftime after Garrett Rivas made a 37-yard FG with 1:28 left in the 1st half.
In fact, Michigan actually led 17-7 six minutes into the 3rd quarter after a Henne 1-yard TD run, but the Virginia Tech defense shut them out for the rest of the game. Meanwhile, Imoh, Randall and Candelas each added a TD over the last 20 minutes to first take back the lead and then salt the game away.
Virginia Tech advances to the Cotton Bowl to play Oklahoma, while Michigan's bowl destination was not yet known as of Saturday night.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
Capital One Bowl
#1 USC vs. #9 Iowa
Florida Citrus Bowl
SBC Communications Cotton Bowl Classic
#2 Oklahoma vs. #7 Virginia Tech
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
#4 Texas vs. #5 Utah
San Diego, Calif.
Nokia Sugar Bowl
#3 Auburn vs. #11 Louisville
New Orleans, La.