The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.
The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.
So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.
The Pac-12 may not have the elite names along the line like Alabama, Wisconsin, Michigan or Miami have boasted during the BCS Era but the diversity in this league is remarkable. Oregon has quicker, more versatile players who were wildly successful under Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly. Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw raised road graders at Stanford and won big with them. And Pete Carroll churned out pro-style left tackles and centers nearly every year at USC. Toss in a few Jeff Tedford products at Cal and it feels like four programs have dominated this position in the Pac-12 over the last 16 years.
Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.
1. Sam Baker, USC (2004-07)
The stud left tackle charged with protecting Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush was a three-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. Baker helped lead the way on teams that played in back-to-back national championship games and won four straight Pac-10 titles. USC was 47-5 during his time and he went on to be a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft.
2. Alex Mack, Cal (2005-08)
The star center started 39 consecutive games for the Golden Bears. He won the “Academic Heisman” when was named the recipient of the Draddy Trophy in 2008 and was a two-time Rimington Finalist. Mack was the only Pac-12 player to win the Morris Trophy (Offensive) as the league’s top lineman twice during the BCS Era and was a three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. He also was a rare first-round pick as a center by the Browns in 2009 and has been sent to three Pro Bowls in his career.
3. Ryan Kalil, USC (2003-06)
The Rimington Finalist was one of the stars of the USC offensive line during its national championship run in the early 2000s. He played a big role on both the 2004 and '05 BCS title game teams and was voted the Morris Trophy winner in 2006. He also earned All-American honors and was drafted in the second round of the 2007 Draft by the Panthers. He is a three-time Pro Bowler.
4. David Yankey, Stanford (2011-13)
In three short years, Yankey is likely the school’s most decorated offensive lineman. He earned consensus All-American honors as a sophomore for the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champs while also claiming the Morris Trophy as the league’s top OL. He returned as a junior and earned unanimous All-American honors en route to a second consecutive Pac-12 championship. He led Stanford to three straight BCS bowls and a 34-7 overall record over that span. He declared early for the NFL Draft after his 2013 junior season.
5. Kris Farris, UCLA (1995-98)
The 1998 Outland Trophy winner was a consensus All-American for the Bruins in 1998. In fact, Farris was one of only two players from the Pac-12 to win the Outland (Rien Long) and was the only offensive lineman to do so during the BCS Era. He helped lead UCLA to back-to-back 10-2 seasons and a Rose Bowl berth in his final season before being selected in the third round by the Bills in 1999.
6. David DeCastro, Stanford (2009-11)
As a freshman in 2009, he started all 13 games for the 8-5 Cardinal and was a freshman All-American. He started all 13 games as a sophomore for the 12-1 Cardinal, helping to win the program’s first BCS bowl game (Orange Bowl). He capped his career with a consensus All-American season for the 11-2 Cardinal. He left school early and was the 24th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Steelers.
7. Matt Kalil, USC (2009-11)
The Trojans' left tackle protected Matt Barkley during two seasons marred by NCAA sanctions. Still, Kalil was an All-American and Morris Trophy winner as the league’s best offensive lineman and became the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Kalil, who was a Pro Bowler as a rookie, may have never gotten the acclaim he deserved as the Trojans were playing under heavy sanctions during his time in Los Angeles.
8. Max Unger, Oregon (2005-08)
The Ducks' four-year starter at center earned some sort of all-conference honor in all four seasons. He was honorable mention as a freshman, second-team as a sophomore and first-team All-Pac-10 as both a junior and senior. Unger earned All-American honors as a senior as well on a 10-win team (his second 10-win season in Eugene). He was a second-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
9. Jonathan Martin, Stanford (2009-11)
Despite his NFL notoriety of late, Martin first made his name as a two-time All-American for Stanford. He started all three seasons for the Cardinal, leading his school to a 31-8 record and back-to-back BCS bowl berths — including the school’s first-ever BCS win in 2010 (Orange Bowl). Martin was an All-Pac-12 selection all three years and blocked for the Heisman runner-up, record-setting backfield of Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart. He was a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
10. Jacob Rogers, USC (2000-03)
Rogers was a three-year starter for the Trojans as they rose from middle-of-the-pack Pac-10 team to national champion. He earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors for back-to-back conference championship teams and helped USC win a share of the national title in 2003. That year, Rogers was a consensus All-American and won the Morris Trophy as the best offensive lineman in the league. He was a second-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
Just missed the cut:
11. Ryan O’Callahgan, Cal (2002-05)
A star blocker during the Golden Bears' best years under Jeff Tedford, O’Callahgan led Cal to 33 wins in four years, including a 10-win 2004 campaign. He was the Morris Trophy winner as the league’s top blocker as a senior and earned All-Pac-10 recognition twice. Tedford has been quoted as saying O’Callahgan was the best offensive lineman he’d ever seen.
12. Adam Snyder, Oregon (2001-04)
Synder is one of the most decorated and versatile blockers in Oregon program history. He started 35 of his career 49 games and did so at three different positions. He was named a first-team all-conference performer twice during his career and won the Morris Trophy as the league’s top blocker as a senior. He was a third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
13. Winston Justice, USC (2002-05)
Had Justice played during the unblemished 2004 BCS title season, he would likely be a top-10 blocker. However, a student conduct violation made him ineligible during that historic season. Otherwise, he was a starter on the 2002 Orange Bowl champions, the 2003 national champs and returned to the national title game and blocked for the Heisman winner in 2005.
14. Chase Beeler, C, Stanford (2008-10)
Beeler was the consensus All-American pivot alongside Martin and DeCastro during Stanford’s rise to conference supremacy. He was a two-year starter and capped his career by leading the Cardinal to their first BCS bowl win over Virginia Tech in 2010.
15. Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA (2009-13)
His career was interrupted by his Mormon mission for two years but Su’a-Filo proved in short order to be one of the best in the league. He started all 13 games as a true freshman before leaving campus for two years. He returned and earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors as a sophomore and junior in 2012-13. The Bruins' blocker helped UCLA win the South Division and won the Morris Trophy in his final season.
16. Chad Ward, Washington (1997-00)
A four-years starter for the Huskies, Ward's career culminated in a 2000 Rose Bowl win as a senior. He was named the Morris Trophy winner that same year and earned All-American honors as well. He also set multiple weight-lifting records while at U of W.
17. Travis Claridge, USC (1996-99)
Playing for the Trojans before Pete Carroll’s run of greatness began, Claridge proved to be one of the most consistent players to ever suit up. He started 48 games for USC, was a second-round pick in 2000 and won the Morris Trophy as the league’s top blocker in 1999.
18. Deuce Lutui, USC (2005)
He only played one season for the Trojans but he was excellent. Lutui was a consensus All-American, blocked for a Heisman Trophy winner and played for the national title against Texas in 2005. He was a second-round pick in 2006.
19. Charles Brown, USC (2006-09)
Brown sat behind Sam Baker for two years before taking over for the star left tackle. He earned All-Pac-10 honors in both seasons that he started and helped lead USC to 43 wins and three conference titles during his time. He won the Morris Trophy as the league’s top blocker in 2009.
20. Kwame Harris, Stanford (2000-02)
A first-round pick in 2003, Harris earned two-time all-conference honors during his time at Stanford. He won the Morris Trophy as the best lineman in the league as a junior in his final season before leaving early for the NFL.
Best of the rest:
21. Tyron Smith, USC (2008-10)
22. Andy Levitre, Oregon State (2005-08)
23. Levi Jones, Arizona State (1998-01)
24. Yusuf Scott, Arizona (1996-99)
25. Eben Britton, Arizona (2006-08)