BCS Era 1998-2001
The Bowl Alliance thing didn’t work, mainly because the Big Ten and Pac-10 weren’t a part of it and the Rose Bowl was it’s own world. College football needed a true national championship system, but instead of creating a playoff format – the bowls wanted to keep their power, influence, and money train rolling – the world was introduced to the Bowl Championship Series.
It was a combination of computer formulas and the human polls which ended up with a twisted system that no one ever could quite figure out on the fly. But it was an improvement when it came to finally creating a way to ensure that two top teams would play each other for the national title.
1998 (tie) Texas A&M 36, Kansas State 33 OT Big 12 Championship & Miami 49, UCLA 45
BCS Championship: Tennessee 23, Florida State 16 Fiesta Bowl
The BCS Championship era started out with one of the wildest finishing kicks on one of the craziest days in the history of college football.
Ohio State was the BCS No. 1 team in early November, but it suffered a stunning 28-24 loss to Nick Saban’s Michigan State squad. The Buckeyes had several chances to win, but got picked off deep in Spartan territory. Had OSU won – considering it blew away Iowa and Michigan to follow – it would’ve played Tennessee for the national title. After the loss, though, it was a wide-open race.
Florida State was an afterthought. It lost early in the season to NC State, lost star QB Chris Weinke to a neck injury, and was fourth in the BCS rankings after beating Florida on Thanksgiving weekend. There were three unbeaten teams ahead of the Seminoles.
Welcome to December 5th, 1998.
Thanks to Hurricane Georges, an early season game between Miami and UCLA was moved to the last weekend of the regular season. The Bruins were 10-0 with one of the nation’s best offenses, and the 7-3 Hurricanes were no big whoop, but Edgerrin James ran wild in a thrilling 49-45 Miami win … and BCS No. 2 UCLA was knocked out.
That opened the door for BCS No. 3 Kansas State to play for the national title. It had to face a decent Texas A&M team in the Big 12 Championship, and all was going just fine. The Wildcats were rolling easily – celebrating after UCLA loss was announced – and then they lost their mojo. A&M roared back and won in overtime 36-33 … and Kansas State was knocked out.
Suddenly, BCS No. 4 Florida State and No. 5 Ohio State were in the mix, but they needed No. 1 Tennessee to lose the SEC Championship. The Vols – who needed several heart-stopping wins to get to 12-0 – beat Mississippi State 24-14, and they went off to face Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl, winning the first ever BCS Championship 23-16.
1999 Texas 24, Nebraska 20
BCS Championship: Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29 Orange Bowl
After the way the previous few seasons played out, the 1999 run for the BCS Championship was a relative breeze.
Florida State had a few dogfights to get by, but it managed to go 11-0 as the wire-to-wire BCS No. 1 team. Thanks to the sensational Michael Vick to go along with an amazing defense, Virginia Tech blew out everyone but West Virginia – winning 22-20 in a thriller – to get up to the BCS No. 2 spot. It was a matchup of the only two unbeaten major conference teams, with the Noles winning the national title 46-29.
This wouldn’t have been so easy if Nebraska could’ve held on to the ball against Texas.
The 6-0 Huskers had several chances to beat the Longhorns, but they fumbled the ball away in two key moments deep in in Texas territory – highlighted by one in a big spot up 20-17 – and couldn’t come up with a late stop. Major Applewhite rolled down the field on a touchdown march for a 24-20 Texas lead, Nebraska stalled, and that was it.
A few weeks later, Nebraska destroyed unbeaten Kansas State 41-15 – giving the Wildcats their only loss of the season – on the way to a 12-1 season. Had the Huskers been able to hold on against Texas and finish the season like they did, they’d have played Florida State for the national title.
2000 Washington 34, Miami 29
BCS Championship: Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2 Orange Bowl
This was the year college football really, really, really needed a four-team playoff.
Nebraska started out No. 1 in the BCS standings – released in the middle of the season – but was whacked by BCS No. 2 Oklahoma 31-14. The Sooners were in the top spot the rest of the way, including a shocking 13-2 victory over Heisman-winner Chris Weinke and Florida State in the BCS Championship.
And here’s where this gets really, really funky.
On a 17-game winning streak, the Seminoles lost to Miami 27-24 on the game forever known as Wide Right III. However, the Hurricanes lost the second game of the season to Washington 34-29. The Huskies lost to Oregon a few weeks later, but went on to go 11-1 with a Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl win over Drew Brees and Purdue.
Considering Miami beat Florida State, and Washington beat Miami, how would they get ranked by the BCS? Florida State was BCS No. 3 after its loss, Miami BCS No. 5, and Washington No. 8. However, after the Hurricanes handed Virginia Tech its only loss of the season in a 41-21 whacking, they moved up to No. 3, and then got flip-flopped with No. 2 Florida State a week later.
After beating BCS No. 4 Florida, FSU moved past Miami into the No. 2 spot and didn’t budge the rest of the way. The debate kicked in from there. Miami finished No. 3 in the BCS standings, even though it beat BCS No. 2 Florida State and No. 5 Virginia Tech.
2001 LSU 31, Tennessee 20 SEC Championship
BCS Championship: Miami 37, Nebraska 14 Rose Bowl
Everything was RIGHT THERE for the taking for Tennessee.
Nebraska was rolling to the BCS Championship after being cemented in the No. 1 spot, but it was steamrolled over by Colorado 62-36 in the regular season finale. Texas managed to move up to the No. 3 spot behind Miami and Florida, but that didn’t last long, losing to Colorado 39-37 in the Big 12 Championship.
As it turned out, the Longhorns would’ve been in the national championship had they won.
Tennessee was sitting at BCS No. 7 late in November – thanks to a loss to Georgia 26-24 early in the season – coming on a touchdown pass with six seconds to play, The Vols kept on winning from there, and despite being a massive underdog to BCS No. 2 Florida, pulled off a 34-32 stunner on the road to take over the second spot in the standings. All they had to do was beat Nick Saban’s LSU team in the SEC Championship to play for the national championship, but …
The Tigers outscored the Vols 15-3 in the fourth quarter, putting it away for good on a Domanick Davis touchdown run in the final few minutes to ruin the UT dream with a 31-20 win.
That allowed Nebraska to slide back on up to the No. 2 spot in the final BCS Standings, even though it didn’t win its own division, didn’t win its conference title, and got its doors blown off by 10-2 Colorado, who finished third in the BCS before the bowl season.
And then 2001 Miami went 2001 Miami and destroyed the Huskers 37-14 in the Rose Bowl for the national title, finishing 12-0. Tennessee finished 11-2, closing out with a 45-17 win over Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.