The Hurricanes began the 2002 season as the nation’s top-ranked team, despite losing 11 players to the draft. Miami finished the regular season as the wire-to-wire top-ranked team. Miami had only one true scare in a 12-0 regular season.
They had to rally from a 27-14 deficit and then withstand another missed field goal by Florida State on the last play of the game to earn a 28-27 victory. Ohio State also went through the regular season undefeated, finishing 13-0. As the regular season ended it was clear Miami and Ohio State would play for the National Championship.
If there had been a playoff who would have joined them? The 2002 season seemed pretty straightforward. Iowa and Mark Richt’s second Georgia team were the only two teams with one loss. The teams with two losses didn’t have very impressive resumes.
The playoff likely would have been Miami against Iowa and Ohio State against Georgia. The Buckeyes and Hawkeyes did not play in 2002. Iowa’s only loss was to unranked Iowa State. They wound up tying for the Big Ten Championship. The Hawkeyes got pummeled 38-17 by USC in the Rose Bowl.
Georgia won the Sugar Bowl 26-14 over Florida State who finished 9-4. The Hurricanes would be a prohibitive favorite in the Fiesta Bowl. Miami scored first, but Ohio State scored the next 17 points. The Hurricanes lost Willis McGahee to a knee injury down 17-14 in the fourth quarter.
UM rallied and sent the game to overtime on a Todd Sievers‘ field goal at the end of regulation. Miami appeared to have the game won in the first overtime. Almost all Hurricanes fans know what happened next…On fourth down an in-completion by Ohio State Quarterback Craig Krenzel was flagged for Pass Interference on Miami.
It was one of the most controversial calls in college football history, maybe in sports history. It cost Miami the National Championship and the Buckeyes won in double overtime.