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.
In a league with elite offensive systems and big-time pocket passers, the wide receivers from the Pac-12 have remarkable statistics, records and accomplishments. National titles and Biletnikoff Awards dot the list of the best of the BCS Era, but a guy who tried to challenge the NFL tops the list.
Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.
1. Mike Williams, USC (2002-03)
Stats: 176 rec., 2,579 yds, 30 TDs
Fans in Los Angeles may always wonder what could have been had Williams not pressed NFL Draft eligibility rules. In his two underclass seasons for USC, Williams was extraordinary. As a true freshman, the massive 6-foot-5, 240-pounder caught 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 14 TDs. He returned to top those numbers as a sophomore with 95 receptions (third in league history at the time), 1,314 yards and 16 scores in 2003 (still third in league history). He was a consensus All-American and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. Williams declared for the draft following his sophomore season, but was ultimately ruled ineligible and couldn't return to USC either. Although he was taken 10th overall in the 2005 draft, he ended up being of the biggest draft busts in recent history, especially given the talent and potential he showed in college.
2. Marqise Lee, USC (2011- 13)
Stats: 248 rec., 3,655 yds, 29 TDs, 146 rush, 1,351 ret. yds, 2 TDs
As just a sophomore, Lee won the Biletnikoff Award, was a consensus All-American, was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and broke multiple USC and Pac-12 receiving records. He is one of just two wideouts in BCS history to finish in the top four of the Heisman voting. Lee owns the single-game Pac-12 record with 345 yards against Arizona in 2012 and is third all-time with 16 catches in that game. His 118 catches and 1,721 yards were both Pac-12 records that stood for one year until Brandin Cooks showed up in 2013. He is fourth all-time in career receptions and yards in league history and ninth in TD catches.
3. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State (2011-13)
Stats: 226 rec., 3,272 yds, 24 TDs, 340 rush, 2 TDs
Cooks set the Pac-12 single-season records for receptions and yards when he caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and finished third all-time with 16 touchdown receptions in 2013. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver before leaving early for the NFL Draft. Cooks is arguably the best of a long list of elite do-everything Beaver wide receivers, finishing 10th in league history in receptions and eighth all-time in yards.
4. Dwayne Jarrett, USC (2004-06)
Stats: 216 rec., 3,138 yds, 41 TDs
A two-time consensus All-American, Jarrett was a touchdown machine. He scored 13, 16 and 12 receiving touchdowns respectively while helping USC earn trips to back-to-back BCS National Championship Games. His 2005 campaign was his best — 91 rec., 1,274 yds, 16 TDs — and he finished ninth in the Heisman voting as a junior in 2006 before turning pro. In the red zone, few players have ever been as dominant as his 41 career touchdown receptions are nine more than any other Pac-12 player. He’s 15th in league history in receptions and 14th all-time in yards.
5. Troy Walters, Stanford (1996-99)
Stats: 245 rec., 3,995 yds, 26 TDs
Walters had as complete a final season as any player on this list. He won Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year honors, was a consensus All-American and won the Biletnikoff Award in 1999, the same year that Stanford won the league championship and played in the Rose Bowl. He is still the Pac-12's all-time leading receiver, as he is the only player to top 4,000 yards in league history. He’s tied with Lee for No. 4 all-time in receptions and he is 13th in league history with 26 touchdowns.
6. Reggie Williams, Washington (2001-03)
Stats: 238 rec., 3,536 yds, 22 TDs
Williams is sixth all-time in league history in receptions and fifth all-time in yards — all in just three years. He never had fewer than 973 yards in a season and never had fewer than 55 catches. He was excellent as a freshman before exploding as a sophomore for a school-record 94 catches and 1,454 yards in 2002. The massive 6-foot-4, 220-pound consensus All-American was the ninth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft and likely would have been the league’s all-time leading receiver had he played his fourth year.
7. Mike Hass, Oregon State (2003-05)
Stats: 220 rec., 3,924 yds, 20 TDs
He may not be the most talented wideout to play during this era but Hass is one of the best. He was the first Pac-10 receiver in history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and left school with the best single game in league history with 293 yards against Boise State in 2004. He won the Biletnikoff Award in 2005 as the nation’s best wide receiver. He is No. 3 all-time in yards and top 15 in receptions while only playing three seasons in college.
8. Robert Woods, USC (2010-12)
Stats: 251 rec., 2,924 yds, 32 TDs, 142 rush, 1,547 ret. yds, TDs
Before Lee set school and league records in 2012, Woods put his name atop the Pac-12 record books with a 111-catch season in '11. Woods finished third all-time in league history with 251 receptions — more than Lee posted in the same number of years (three). Woods was a consensus All-American and finished tied for second all-time with 32 touchdown receptions. Woods was the complete package as a wideout, return man and worked hard as a blocker as well. He was a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
9. Derek Hagan, Arizona State (2002-05)
Stats: 258 rec., 3,939 yds, 27 TDs
The all-time leading receiver in school history, Hagan tied Hass as the first player in league history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He is still No. 2 in the league all-time in receptions and yards while ranking 12th all-time with 27 touchdown catches. Each of his four ASU teams were ranked and three of them went to bowl games. He was as consistent as it gets in a 50-game career.
10. James Rodgers, Oregon State (2007-11)
Stats: 222 rec., 2,578 yds, 19 TDs, 1,410 rush, 9 TDs, 2,385 ret. yds, 2 TDs
There are bigger names, both literally and figuratively, at the wideout position but few meant as much to their team and community than Rodgers to Oregon State. He finished top 15 in league history in receptions and posted big numbers receiving, but what made Rodgers a rare player was his versatility. He finished with 6,373 all-purpose yards after amassing 222 receptions, 173 rushing attempts and 107 kick and punt returns. One of two Rodgers (Jacquizz, a running back) to suit up for OSU around the same time, older sibling James could do everything for the Beavers.
Just missed the cut:
11. DeSean Jackson, Cal (2005-07)
Stats: 162 rec., 2,423 yds, 22 TDs, 199 rush, TDs, 671 ret. yds, 6 TDs
The electric playmaker could score from anywhere at anytime in any game. He was an explosive return man and huge vertical threat in the passing game. He was a consensus All-American in 2006 as a sophomore when he topped 1,000 yards receiving and returned four punts for touchdowns.
12. Michael Thomas, Arizona (2005-08)
Stats: 259 rec., 3,231 yds, 22 TDs, 395 rush, 3 TDs, 1,354 yds, 2 TDs
The Pac-12's all-time leading receiver didn’t play at USC or Oregon State. Instead he was a diminutive, but durable Wildcat. Thomas posted four straight seasons with at least 50 catches, was used in the ground game on trick plays and also was an excellent return man during his final two seasons. His junior season was his best as he caught 83 passes for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns.
13. Bobby Wade, Arizona (1999-02)
Stats: 230 rec., 3,351 yds, 23 TDs
Wade has more touchdowns and yards than fellow Wildcat Thomas but he didn’t catch as many passes or else he would be the school’s all-time top pass-catcher. Wade is seventh all-time in league history in both receptions and yards. His final season set a school record with 93 receptions and was a few yards shy of setting the single-season yards record as well with 1,389 in 2002.
14. Geoff McArthur, Cal (2000-04)
Stats: 202 rec., 3,188 yds, 20 TDs
McArthur didn’t have a consistent career in Berkley but posted one of the greatest seasons ever by anyone in league history. In 2003, McArthur set Cal records with 85 receptions and 1,504 yards and added 10 touchdown catches on a team that began a bowl run for the Bears that lasted seven seasons.
15. Markus Wheaton, Oregon State (2009-12)
Stats: 227 rec., 2,994 yds, 16 TDs, 631 rush, 5 TDs
Hailing from a program that doesn't lack for production from the position, Wheaton is Oregon State's all-time leading receiver by a grand total of one catch over the aforementioned Cooks. Wheaton is top 20 in league history in yards as well as ninth all-time in catches. Wheaton was used like James Rodgers before him as a versatile threat who made plays all over the field. He had 83 carries on the ground for a 7.6 yards per carry average during his time in Corvallis.
Best of the rest:
16. Dennis Northcutt, Arizona (1996-99): 217 rec., 3,188 yds, 24 TDs, 382 rush, 2 TDs, 1,568 ret. yds, 2 TDs
Do-everything dynamo for the Cats before all-purpose was en vogue.
17. Keenan Allen, Cal (2010-12): 205 rec., 2,570 yds, 17 TDs, 230 rush, 2 TDs, 658 ret. yds, TD
Electric five-star athlete who caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards in 2011.
18. Jason Hill, Washington State (2003-06): 148 rec., 2,704 yds, 32 TDs
Tied for second all-time in Pac-12 history with 32 TD catches in just three years.
19. Steve Smith, USC (2003-06): 190 rec., 3,019 yds, 22 TDs
Dependable go-to target for a team that won a national title and played for another.
20. Sammie Stroughter, Oregon State (2004-08): 164 rec., 2,653 yds, 14 TDs, 1,612 ret. yds, 3 TDs
Explosive, big-play threat in passing game and on special teams. Two 1,000-yard seasons.
21. Freddie Mitchell, UCLA (1998-00): 110 rec., 1,955 yds, 9 TDs
Consensus All-American with huge 2000 season and one horrific leg injury.
22. Danny Farmer, UCLA (1996-99): 159 rec., 3,020 yds, 19 TDs
Huge junior season (1,274 yards, 9 TDs) highlighted solid career as UCLA's leading receiver.
23. James Newson, Oregon State (2000-03): 213 rec., 3,572 yds, 20 TDs
Extremely productive career ranks sixth in league history in yards and top 20 in receptions.
24. Kareem Kelly, USC (1999-02): 201 rec., 3,071 yds, 15 TDs
Model of consistency as he recorded at least one catch in a then school-record 48 straight games.
25. Juron Criner, Arizona (2008-11): 209 rec., 2,859 yds, 32 TDs
Pass-happy offense led to Criner finishing No. 2 in league history in TDs.