The BCS has spoken, and despite one coach voting for TCU instead of Auburn in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll, Auburn can claim the crystal ball. Oddly, this championship has a different feel to it. Could it be that an undefeated TCU got left out? Or is it the NCAA's convoluted messages, uneven disciplinary actions and arbitrary rulings? Lisa Horne looks at the 10 most intriguing story lines from an eventful and, at times, controversial bowl season.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Les Miles keeps himself in the headlines
Leave it to The Hat to steal everyone's thunder and keep his name in the center tent of the BCS' three-ring circus. In 2007, there was a "Les Miles Watch" in Baton Rouge, La., and Ann Arbor, Mich., when the Wolverines' head coaching position opened up and the newly crowned BCS champions' head coach Miles was rumored to be a serious candidate. The Hat stayed in Baton Rouge, and Rich Rodriguez was hired away from West Virginia. After Rodriguez was fired by Michigan at the end of this season, back came the Hat, who met with Michigan officials but opted to remain at LSU. No one plays the press and dominates the headlines better than Les Miles.
Army gets into a bowl ... and wins
Army has been in exactly five bowl games in the modern era. Before this season, the last was the 1996 Independence Bowl. So, after 14 long years since reaching the postseason, the Black Knights got their berth and beat Southern Methodist, 16-14, in the Armed Forces Bowl. Only 2010 C-USA champion Central Florida had held the prolific offense of SMU to fewer than the 14 points Army allowed in its bowl victory.
Pittsburgh wins bowl, loses booster support
Pittsburgh's boosters and alum have sharpened their pitchforks and have them pointed directly at Athletic Director Steve Pederson because of what they perceive as his poor decision-making. Pederson, who was Pitt's AD from 1996 to 2002, attracts controversy like flames attract moths. He had a short-lived stint at Nebraska — firing head coach Frank Solich and hiring Bill Callahan didn’t help — before returning to Pitt and eventually accepting Dave Wannstedt's "resignation" and hiring Mike Haywood. Haywood was arrested on felony domestic battery charges shortly after he was hired by Pederson, and became the second coaching casualty within a 30-day span. At least two consistent and prominent Pitt donors have threatened to withdraw monetary support to the school if Pederson is retained, according to Pittnews.com.
Notre Dame finishes strong
The Fighting Irish are back. After a huge November performance (beating Utah, Army and USC), the Fighting Irish walloped Miami, 33-17, in the Sun Bowl. Granted, Randy Shannon was not there to coach Miami (he was fired after the team's Nov. 27 loss to South Florida), but this shellacking by the Irish was still monumental in terms of the bigger picture. They've won their past two bowl games after an 0-9 run of bowl futility. And they have an impressive recruiting class to date. The Irish are ranked No. 11 on Scout.com's team recruiting rankings, a decided upswing from last year's final No. 23 ranking. Look for them to be ranked in the top 15 preseason rankings for 2011.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
ACC Coach of the Year Friedgen wins bowl, loses job
After reported retirement talks between Ralph Friedgen and Maryland disintegrated, Friedgen agreed to a buyout on the one year remaining on his contract. Interesting. Isn't that another way of being forced out? No matter where you stand on the issue, there are some facts that cannot be denied: Friedgen was a two-time ACC Coach of the year (2001, '10), one of Maryland's most successful head coaches, and won the 2010 Military Bowl by beating East Carolina despite this "buyout" looming over his head. Meanwhile, Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson continues his quest in "moving our program from good to great." Friedgen went out with class, dignity and a win.
Getty ImagesJoel Auerbach
Bob Stoops ends BCS futility streak
The monkey is officially off of Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops' back. Or is it? Las Vegas ostensibly took a hit on the double-digit favorite Sooners, who beat UConn 48-20 in the Fiesta Bowl, and so did Stoops' critics. Stoops' 0-5 BCS futility streak is officially over, but it took a Big East opponent to make that happen — a Big East team that had lost to Michigan, Rutgers, Louisville and Temple in the regular season. Nevertheless, this Sooners team looked strong with huge upsides, and with the BCS Bowl pressure gone, Sooners fans can salivate looking ahead to next season.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Rich Rodriguez coaches his last game for Michigan
Did anyone actually think Michigan had a chance against Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl? And that rhetorical question is just what is so wrong with one of the country's most legendary and elite college football programs. The Wolverines lost the game, 52-14, and lost their head coach shortly thereafter. The Gator Bowl was probably the last straw for Rich Rodriguez, a catalyst for all the disappointment and frustration building in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Gator Bowl was a train wreck unfolding before our very eyes.
Little Sisters of the Poor beats Wisconsin in Rose Bowl
We all heard or read Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee's controversial opinion of highly ranked, non-AQ (non-BCS schools) football programs. "I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like murderers row every week for these schools," Gee said. "We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor." Big Ten representative Wisconsin then promptly got dominated on Jan. 1 by some scruffy-dressed, pigtailed pixies with empty tin cups in their outstretched hands, losing the Rose Bowl to TCU, 21-19. OK, so the Badgers played them and lost, and Gee has egg on his face. Can we now get rid of the bowl tie-ins? And the constant disrespect?
The Big Ten's nasty New Year's Day hangover
A miserable 0-5. That was the bowl record of the five Big Ten teams playing on Jan. 1. Michigan and Michigan State lost by a collective 101-21 to Mississippi State and Alabama, respectively. Penn State lost to Florida, and Northwestern lost to Texas Tech. Then there was TCU beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, a game usually associated with both a Pac-10 and Big Ten champion playing. The Big Ten finished with a humbling 3-5 bowl record.
Getty ImagesMike Ehrmann
Ohio State allows 'suspended' players to play in Sugar Bowl
Big Ten football followers have been known to rip the SEC for not being tougher on its athletes who have violated team rules. Actually, most of college football nation has taken a shot at the SEC for the practice of appearing to take a soft or delayed disciplinary stance on these types of matters. But when Ohio State had its opportunity for the Sugar Bowl to sit out five players who had received improper benefits, the school opted to play them in the bowl and sit them out for the first five games of the 2011 season. The Buckeyes beat Arkansas on the field, 31-26, and beat the SEC at its own so-called game.