A poor pass in August, a blocked kick in October, an obscure game in December.
For Colorado, Oregon and Nebraska, their quests to reach the Rose Bowl came down to all the little things.
In the end, the Cornhuskers were picked to play top-ranked Miami in the Bowl Championship Series title game, based on a complicated formula mixing polls and computers. The choice was greeted with outrage by the teams left out.
USA Today, which compiles the coaches' poll with ESPN, ran a fans survey on the debate at the top of page 1A above a story on the war in Afghanistan.
Hardly anyone seemed satisfied with the matchup. The howls for a new format and possibly a playoff were heard throughout sports.
"You probably would want it won on the field," Seattle Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. "But you would have to play into the late part of January. These are college kids who go to school to get an education as well as football."
The possibility of a split title looms, too. The coaches will automatically crown the Rose Bowl winner, while The Associated Press poll voters are free to pick their own champion.
"If you're asking me if the perception of chaos is good, I'm not buying into that," BCS chairman John Swofford said.
A week-by-week look at how the contenders wound up where they did in the BCS shuffle:
The first BCS rankings are released and defending national champion Oklahoma is No. 1. UCLA, Miami and Virginia Tech follow in the ratings.
Oregon, coming off a fourth-quarter meltdown in which two blocked punts led to a 49-42 loss to Stanford, stands 13th.
Colorado is nowhere to be found following a 41-7 rout by Texas. Besides, the Buffaloes were upended by Fresno State 24-22 on Aug. 25 when a young quarterback threw a foolish interception near the end.
Nebraska beats Oklahoma and becomes No. 1 in the BCS standings. Oklahoma slips to second and Miami, despite being ranked No. 1 in both polls, is third. They're followed by Michigan, Texas and Stanford.
Oregon is hovering at No. 10. The Ducks are penalized in the BCS system because they only play the 36th-toughest schedule in America.
Colorado remains out of sight after a 22-19 win over Oklahoma State. As it turns out, had the Buffs won by 17 points instead of only three, they'd now be in the Rose Bowl.
Nebraska stays No. 1, and Miami trades places with Oklahoma.
Oregon moves into range at No. 6.
Colorado still is a no-show.
Nebraska (11-0) is solidly on top, having won every game by at least 10 points, and seems headed for Pasadena, Calif., possibly to play Miami.
Oklahoma and Oregon are next, while Florida is fifth and climbing. Colorado finally breaks into the BCS rankings at No. 14.
It's still Nebraska, Miami and Oklahoma. Florida beats up rival Florida State and moves ahead of Oregon for the fourth spot. Texas and Tennessee are in the mix, but will need help to go much further.
Colorado is idle and slips a slot to 15th.
Surprise! Colorado routs Nebraska 62-36, Oklahoma State stops Oklahoma 16-13 and the whole BCS is shaken up.
Miami is ranked No. 1 by every poll and computer, and Florida is No. 2. The Sunshine State rivals met last season in the Sugar Bowl, and a rematch in the Rose would be fierce.
Texas, Nebraska, Oregon and Tennessee close in. Colorado shoots up to seventh, and is in position to keep zooming.
Miami escapes when a Virginia Tech receiver drops a late, 2-point conversion pass. The top-ranked 'Canes finish undefeated and are going to the Rose Bowl, no matter what.
Tennessee upends Florida and takes over at No. 2. The Volunteers will go to Pasadena, too, if they beat LSU in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Nebraska, Colorado after beating Texas 39-37 in the Big 12 championship game and Oregon follow.
The worst-case scenario for the BCS: Tennessee blows a lead and falls to LSU 31-20. Now it's a free-for-all to decide who goes to the Rose Bowl.
Nebraska is No. 4 in both polls, but all eight BCS computers rank the Huskers higher. Plus, they're helped by a quirk: Down in Hattiesburg, Miss., in a meeting of unranked teams, Texas Christian has beaten Southern Miss 14-12.
TCU's win suddenly gives Nebraska the 14th-toughest schedule, rather than the 18th. The Huskers, having beaten the Horned Frogs back in August, get a slight benefit just enough to finish No. 2 in the BCS ratings and put them in Pasadena.
Nebraska (11-1), despite not even winning its division of the Big 12, gets a 7.23 rating in the BCS ratings. Colorado (10-2) is third at 7.28, despite jumping past the Huskers in the coaches' poll.