Louisville threw a nice monkey wrench into what was shaping up to be a pretty chalky tournament - more games went to the high seed than in any previous tournament I have simulated.
By the way, if you're curious, the Big 12 has put two teams in the Final Four in four of seven playoff fields now, and one team has advanced in the other three years. Good to see that WhatIfSports knows which conference is the boss...
Game 1: No. 11 Louisville Cardinals (12-1) VS. No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (14-0)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Sun Devil Stadium - Tempe, Ariz.
Saturday, Dec. 25, 2004 - 2:30 PM MST
Wind: NW 7 MPH
Final Score: Oklahoma 41, Louisville 17
Player of the Game
Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Louisville's upstart run came to an end at the hands of "Big Game Bob."
Bob Stoops moved to within one win of tying his mentor, Bill Snyder, for the all-time lead among playoff coaches and Oklahoma (15-0) advanced to its third championship appearance - a playoff record - with a punishing 41-17 victory over the Cardinals (12-2) in the Fiesta Bowl.
Adrian Peterson continued his string of strong postseason performances with a 30-carry, 178-yard, 2-TD effort, while Jason White completed 18 of 29 passes for 151 yards and 2 TDs.
Michael Bush rushed 15 times for 105 yards, but Louisville was otherwise unable to establish the kind of rushing dominance that enabled the Cardinals to knock off Auburn a week prior. Also, J.R. Russell caught six passes for 93 yards, which accounted for half of the 12 passes Stefan LeFors completed (out of 23 attempts) for 158 yards.
Louisville scored first on a 62-yard Bush TD run and actually led until 10:24 remained in the 2nd quarter, but the Sooners outscored the Cardinals 17-0 over the remainder of the 1st half en route to a 20-10 halftime lead, and they never looked back as they ran away from Louisville in the 2nd half.
Game 2: No. 1 USC Trojans (14-0) VS. No. 4 Texas Longhorns (12-1)
The Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, Calif.
Saturday, Dec. 25, 2004 - 8 PM EST
Wind: WSW 3 MPH
Final Score: USC 16, Texas 10
Player of the Game
Texas RB Cedric Benson
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - "Fight On" outfought "Texas Fight" and Traveler outran Bevo.
Given a virtual home-field advantage in the storied Rose Bowl, USC (15-0) did not waste the opportunity, winning a close defensive battle against Texas (12-2) to advance to the school's first playoff championship appearance ever.
Cedric Benson rushed 32 times for 203 yards and a TD - meaning he has now rushed for over 600 yards in his last two games, a simply staggering figure - but got no help from his quarterback; Vince Young was just 1 of 2 for 34 yards passing and was sacked five times.
Meanwhile, Matt Leinart coolly directed the Trojan offense, completing 17 of 27 passes for 276 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, which proved crucial as the Texas defense was able to keep USC's running backs largely contained all night.
Ryan Killeen's 3-of-4 kicking performance proved to be huge, too, in such a low-scoring affair.
USC led 10-0 after the 1st quarter and 13-3 at halftime, but Texas put a scare into the Trojans just two minutes after the break when Benson broke loose for a 48-yard TD run.
That put the Longhorns down by just three points, but they never capitalized and were unable to score the rest of the game, as USC's defense turned up the pressure on Young and forced him to make bad decision after bad decision.
Now the two teams who ran the table this season as No. 1 and No. 2 in the polls will meet to decide it all. When the Sooners and the Trojans clash next week in the Orange Bowl, one team will walk away 16-0 and national champions, while the other will finish 15-1 - and that little "1" will wipe away all the good work represented by the "15" in the minds of whichever fan base loses.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
All bowl logos are courtesy of sportslogos.net.
FBS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
FedEx Orange Bowl
#1 USC vs. #2 Oklahoma
Pro Player Stadium
Miami Gardens, Fla.