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PROTEST PLAYOFF '03 REVISITED: 2004 FBS National Championship


Today is a perfect example of why we need a playoff. This could never happen under the current system, because the powers that be won't let it happen. Boise State has a long history of winning championships at every level at which it has played, but on this level, politics prevent them from having a legitimate shot, even though they proved in 2006 they can play with the "big boys."

For Hawkins to take a pretty good team into the Superdome and beat LSU in basically a home environment for the Tigers would be nothing short of legendary. It would redefine Cinderella for all sports. Look how much mileage they got just out of that Fiesta Bowl win, considered by many to be one of the greatest bowl games of all time.

BoiseStateLeftSpecialFBS National Championship - 2003 SugarLSURight

No. 13 Boise State Broncos (15-1) VS. No. 2 LSU Tigers (15-1)

Nokia Sugar Bowl
Louisiana Superdome - New Orleans, La.
Saturday, Jan. 3, 2004 - 8 PM EST

Precipitation: None (dome)
Temperature: 70 (dome)
Wind: None (dome)

Final Score: Boise State 38, LSU 21

Player of the Game
Boise State RB David Mikell

Box Score


NEW ORLEANS (AP) - In what is already being called the greatest college football upset of all time, No. 13 seed Boise State completed an improbable run to the national championship by marching into the heart of Cajun country and upsetting No. 2 seed LSU, 38-21.

The Broncos (16-1) began the playoff with 375-1 odds from Vegas to win it all, but anyone lucky enough to place a bet on them four weeks ago looks like a genius now. After trading leads with the Tigers (15-2) several times in the 1st half, Boise shut them out in the 2nd half and earned a monumental win in the Sugar Bowl for its efforts.

The Broncos got on the board first with a 26-yard Tyler Jones FG, but LSU soon answered with a 53-yard TD run by playoff standout Justin Vincent (16 carries, 89 yards). Boise fired back with a 37-yard TD pass from Ryan Dinwiddie (15-23, 187 yards, 2 TDs) to Tim Gilligan (4 catches, 81 yards). LSU responded with a 31-yard TD pass from Matt Mauck (12-26, 137 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) to Eric Edwards. Then Dinwiddie connected with David Mikell (23 carries, 133 yards, 1 rushing TD, 1 receiving TD) from 25 yards out to reclaim a 17-14 lead.

And that was just the 1st quarter!

The 2nd quarter was relatively sedate by comparison; the only points came on a 14-yard Mauck-to-Michael Clayton (6 catches, 63 yards) TD pass, and LSU carried a 21-17 lead into halftime. Little did they know it would be the last lead they would ever hold in the game.

Mikell changed the game permanently with 13:35 left in the 3rd quarter when he returned a punt 57 yards for a 24-21 lead the Broncos would never again surrender. He would later add a 15-yard TD run to seal the game, after Lee Marks' 23-yard TD run had already put the Broncos ahead 31-21 with 14:24 left in the 4th quarter.

As the game wound down to its surprising and historic conclusion, the few blue fans who made the long trek from Idaho to Louisiana celebrated wildly while the predominantly LSU-oriented crowd tried to process what they had just witnessed.

In short, it was the first national championship won by a so-called "mid-major" since BYU did so in 1984. In one season, Boise State went from 1-3 in playoff games to 5-3. They also became the first team seeded lower than 7th to ever win a national championship under the playoff format. As WAC champions, they propelled their conference into the national spotlight; the WAC entered the season with a 3-5 playoff record, but its 7-5 record (.583) now trails only the ACC and the Big 12 among all conferences in playoff history.

It is nothing less than the greatest story of at least this decade, if not longer. Dan Hawkins and his 5-1 playoff record will certainly be a hot commodity this offseason, and he will have a difficult choice to make: stay at Boise and possibly build a tiny powerhouse, or entertain offers from larger suitors eager to bottle a little of his magic.

Either way, he has carved a place for himself in the history books, and college football has been fortunate to be a part of this amazing story.


All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.

All bowl logos are courtesy of


Next Week

The 2004 FBS Playoff field will be unveiled at noon on Sunday, March 29. As usual, I will post the full bracket and assorted statistics tomorrow at noon. (Weather permitting - have to allow for the possibility of the blizzard knocking out my power or something weird like that, after all...)

  • SUNDAY: 2004 field announced
  • MONDAY: First half of the 1st round games played (higher seed hosts)
  • TUESDAY: Second half of the 1st round games played (higher seed hosts)
  • WEDNESDAY: 2nd round games played (bowl sites)
  • THURSDAY: Final Four (bowl sites)
  • FRIDAY: National Championship
  • SATURDAY: Stats and analysis


BracketCat's Protest Playoff Archives

1998: Selection Sunday | Sweet 16 (1) | Sweet 16 (2) | Elite 8 | Final 4 | Fiesta | Data | Encore

1999: Selection Sunday | Sweet 16 (1) | Sweet 16 (2) | Elite 8 | Final 4 | Sugar | Data | Encore

2000: Selection Sunday | Sweet 16 (1) | Sweet 16 (2) | Elite 8 | Final 4 | Orange | Data | Encore

2001: Selection Sunday | Sweet 16 (1) | Sweet 16 (2) | Elite 8 | Final 4 | Rose | Data

2002: Selection Sunday | Sweet 16 (1) | Sweet 16 (2) | Elite 8 | Final 4 | Fiesta | Data

2003: Selection Sunday | Sweet 16 (1) | Sweet 16 (2) | Elite 8 | Final 4