The teams were Southern California Trojans and Oklahoma Sooners. Both programs entered with undefeated, 12–0 records. The Trojans defeated the Sooners by a score of 55–19, led by quarterback Matt Leinart. ESPN named Leinart's performance as one of the top-10 performances in the first ten years of the BCS system.
The game featured many firsts regarding the Heisman Trophy: Leinart had won the 2004 Heisman award the month prior to the game, and Oklahoma quarterback Jason White had won the award the previous season, making it the first game to have two past-Heisman winners on the same field (and on opposite teams). The game featured four of the five Heisman finalists that year: Leinart (winner), Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson (first runner-up), White (second runner-up) and USC running back Reggie Bush (fourth runner-up); Bush would win the award the following season (although USC returned its copy of Bush's trophy and Bush forfeited the award following the institution of NCAA sanctions in 2010).
On June 10, 2010, USC was forced to vacate all games from December 2004 to the end of the 2005 season among other sanctions as the result of an NCAA investigation into the school's football and men's basketball programs. NCAA investigators released a report stating that a USC player, Reggie Bush, was ineligible beginning in December 2004. The NCAA ordered USC to vacate every win in which Bush appeared, including the 2005 Orange Bowl. The 2005 Orange Bowl is the only National Championship Game ever to be vacated by the winning team.
The game included a now-infamous moment during the halftime show when singer Ashlee Simpson was loudly jeered by the crowd after finishing her set. Simpson performed "La La" at the halftime show. After her performance, many of the 72,000+ spectators booed. Critics assert that Simpson's performance was poor and very off-key, noting that Kelly Clarkson had performed before Simpson in the show to a far more positive reaction, despite problems with a wireless microphone and sound levels causing several problems with Clarkson's song, "Since U Been Gone." For Trace Adkins, the sound levels were off as well. There had been no problem with R&B singer JoJo's performance of the "Star Spangled Banner".