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2000s: The Decade in Sports
Posted: Thursday December 17, 2009 11:31AM; Updated: Thursday December 17, 2009 11:31AM

CFB: Highlights and lowlights (cont.)

By Stewart Mandel, SI.com

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Vince Young delivered one of the most dazzling individual performances in postseason history by leading Texas over vaunted USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
Vince Young delivered one of the most dazzling individual performances in postseason history by leading Texas over vaunted USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
Robert Beck/SI

WORST COACHING HIRE: Bill Callahan, Nebraska
In 2003, then-AD Steve Pedersen fired sixth-year coach Frank Solich (despite his .750 winning percentage) and replaced him with the ex-Oakland Raiders coach. The school's first outside hire in 42 years, Callahan scrapped Nebraska's long-synonymous option offense in favor of an NFL-style passing attack, alienated fans and former players, oversaw the program's first losing season since 1961 and won one division title in four seasons. His last team (in 2007) went 5-7 and allowed a school-record 455 points.

MOST OUTSTANDING SINGLE-GAME PERFORMANCE: Vince Young vs. USC (2006 Rose Bowl)
After finishing second to Reggie Bush in that season's Heisman voting, and with the 'Horns the prohibitive underdog to the Trojans' ultra-hyped squad, the Texas quarterback led his team to a national-title upset with one of the most dazzling individual performances in postseason history. He threw for 267 yards and ran for 200, including a game-winning eight-yard touchdown scramble on fourth-and-five with just 19 seconds remaining. The Longhorns won 41-38.

Click here for a gallery of the 20 most memorable single-game performances

BEST RECRUITING CLASS: USC, 2003
This was the second in a string of five straight Pete Carroll classes that garnered a No. 1 ranking from at least one major service and produced many of the stars who keyed USC's 34-game winning streak. Among them: future Heisman winner Bush, running back LenDale White, receiver Steve Smith, tackle Sam Baker, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and defensive end Lawrence Jackson. Cornerback Will Poole, a transfer, started for the '03 champs. Eventual starting quarterback John David Booty was a late addition.

BIGGEST RECRUITING BUST: Willie Williams
The nation's consensus top linebacker prospect in the class of 2004 ignited firestorms of controversy, first with a series of juicy recruiting diaries in the Miami Herald (a $49.99 lobster tail at Florida State, "farmer girls" at Auburn), then, after signing with Miami, with the revelation that he'd been arrested 12 times as a minor. Williams spent two years at Miami, making 17 tackles in his one season on the field, before playing at a junior college, getting dismissed by Louisville and, finally, playing for an NAIA school.

BEST TEAM RIVALRY: Oklahoma-Texas
The classic Red River Shootout, played annually on the grounds of the Texas State Fair, lost much of is luster when both programs went dormant in the '90s. But the arrivals of coaches Mack Brown (Texas) and Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) in the late-'90s soon turned it back into one of the nation's most important games. Four times, the teams met as top five opponents; six times, the winner went on to claim the Big 12 title; and Texas is currently bidding to claim the third national championship won by one of the two schools this decade.

BEST COACHING RIVALRY: Utah's Kyle Whittingham vs. BYU's Bronco Mendenhall
When both schools' head coaching jobs came open in late 2004, Whittingham, a former BYU player, turned down the Cougars for a promotion at Utah. Since then, he and Mendenhall, formerly BYU's defensive coordinator, have staged a fierce rivalry, with four of their five meetings decided by a touchdown or less. (Mendenhall leads, 3-2.) Mendenhall has won slightly more games (48 to 46), but Whittingham's team has the lone BCS appearance (2008) between the two.

BEST CONFERENCE: The SEC
After weathering a scandal-plagued start to the decade and the departure of then-Florida icon Steve Spurrier, the conference rose to dominance thanks to the direction of a new commissioner (Mike Slive), an influx of talented coaches (Meyer, Nick Saban, Mark Richt, Les Miles) and a preponderance of elite recruits in the schools' geographic footprint. SEC schools won four BCS championships (with Alabama about to play for a fifth), went 10-3 in BCS bowl games and placed 21 top 10 teams in the seasons' final AP polls.

WORST (BCS) CONFERENCE: The ACC
Not even an expansion to 12 teams and the addition of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College could bolster the traditional basketball power into a relevant football conference. Hurt by the downfall of longtime titans Florida State and Miami, the league lost its first eight BCS bowl appearances prior to Virginia Tech's Orange Bowl win last season. On four occasions, its champion failed to finish in the final AP top 10. And its five-year old conference championship game has been an attendance and TV disaster.

BEST INNOVATION: The spread-option
At the start of the decade, only a handful of teams (Purdue, Clemson, Northwestern) were running the spread offense. A few others had begun employing the shotgun-run. Thanks to coaches like Rich Rodriguez, Meyer and Chip Kelly, the spread eventually became the predominant offensive scheme in the country. But unlike earlier versions that relied almost entirely on the pass, spread quarterbacks like Tebow, Young and Pat White showed how lethal it can be with a true run-pass threat at quarterback.

WORST INNOVATION: The 12-game schedule
In 2006, FBS schools pushed through NCAA legislation adding an extra regular-season game for every team. Spurred entirely as a means to generate more revenue, the 12th game has resulted in a near-universal watering down of schedules. Major-conference teams tacked on more FCS or low-rung FBS opponents simply for the benefit of an extra home game. And with the NCAA softening requirements for bowl eligibility to include 6-6 teams, an already bloated bowl lineup expanded to include 68 of 120 teams.

2000s: The Decade in College Football
ARTICLES GALLERIES
Mandel: Highlights and lowlights
Mandel: All-Decade team
Staples: 10 signature moments
POLL: Share your thoughts on the decade in college football
 

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