The strangest college football season in years will end with No. 1 Ohio State playing No. 2 LSU in the BCS national championship game Monday night.
So many things had to fall into place for the Buckeyes and Tigers to earn their trips to the Superdome it would be difficult to recount.
Here, however, are six plays that altered the season:
Stanford's shocker
Saturday, Oct. 6 at Los Angeles
No. 2 Southern California was clinging to a 23-17 lead with 49 seconds left and the Cardinal, with a quarterback making his first career start, had a fourth-and-goal at the 10.
Stanford's Tavita Pritchard lofted a pass toward the corner of the end zone for receiver Mark Bradford. USC cornerback Mozique McCurtis, a reserve forced into action because of injuries, couldn't keep Bradford from coming down with the winning touchdown.
Stanford won 24-23, a loss even USC coach Pete Carroll would later say probably cost the Trojans a chance to play for the national title.
Cal runs out of time
Saturday, Oct. 13 at Berkeley, Calif.
Second-ranked California was in position to be No. 1 for the first time in more than a half century. Starting quarterback Nate Longshore couldn't play against Oregon State because of a sprained ankle so it was up to Kevin Riley in his first career start to deliver.
The Beavers led most of the way, but the Bears cut it to 31-28 late in the fourth quarter. Riley drove the Bears to the Oregon State 12 with 14 seconds left and no timeouts. At the very least Cal was in position to try to tie the game with a short field goal.
Riley never gave the Bears a chance to kick. He inexplicably tried to scramble with time winding down, was tackled after a 2-yard gain and time ran out.
Cal went into a tailspin from there, losing five of the next six, but who knows what would have become of the Bears had they pulled out this game.
LSU's Gamble
Saturday, Oct. 20 at Baton Rouge, La.
LSU trailed Auburn 24-23 with less than a minute left. LSU had reached the Auburn 22 to get in position for a potential game-winning field goal, but coach Les Miles decided to take another shot at the end zone with 18 seconds left. He cut it ever-so close.
By the time Matt Flynn took the snap 11 seconds remained and by the time he sailed a high pass toward Demetrius Byrd in the corner of the end zone, LSU had put itself in a complete-the-pass-or-lose situation.
Byrd cradled in the touchdown with a second left, the ball barely sneaking under the outstretched arm of Auburn defensive back Jerraud Powers. If the ball was tipped away, the game probably would have ended with Auburn on top. Instead, LSU celebrated.
Hail Ryan
Thursday, Oct. 25 at Blacksburg, Va.
At this point Matt Ryan and Boston College were the national title contenders and Virginia Tech was still trying to dig out from the wreckage of an early season blowout loss at LSU.
Ryan and the Eagles were held in check for 55 minutes by the Hokies, who led 10-0 and were on their way to wriggling back into the national championship race.
Ryan had already cut the lead to 10-7, when on third-and-20 at the 24 the BC quarterback conjured up memories of Doug Flutie. Ryan scrambled away from Virginia Tech's rush, then spotted Andre Callender drifting into the end zone, all the way across the field. Off balance and off one leg, Ryan let loose a high-arching pass that landed in Callender's arms for the winning score with 11 seconds left.
Virginia Tech would finish third in the final BCS standings.
Lame Duck
Thursday, Nov. 15 at Tucson, Ariz.
Oregon was No. 2 in the nation and its offense looked unstoppable with Heisman Trophy hopeful Dennis Dixon at the controls.
But in the first quarter against Arizona, Dixon's left knee buckled as he tried to make a cut. He wasn't even hit. His season was over and so was any chance the Ducks had of winning a national championship.
Oregon lost 34-24 to unranked Arizona that night and followed it up with two more losses.
Sooner goes boomSaturday, Nov. 17 at Lubbock, Texas
Allen Patrick's fumble cost No. 3 Oklahoma much more than a turnover in the first quarter against Texas Tech.
Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a concussion while trying to make a tackle after Patrick's fumble and was lost for the game. Without Bradford, the Sooners were lost offensively. By the time QB Joey Halzle figured out how to get Oklahoma moving, the Red Raiders were up 34-10.
The Sooners' comeback fell short, Texas Tech won 34-27 and even winning the Big 12 title couldn't get Oklahoma a shot at the national championship.

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