Part 1: 1998, A New Beginning for College Football
Give yourself a big pat on the back, BCS. You deserve it. You got it right.
You matched up the only two undefeated major conference teams in the national championship game. Brilliant! Couldn't have done it without ya!
What's was left unsaid was: "Whew!"
Despite the obvious—only Florida State and Virginia Tech emerged from the regular season unbeaten—there were doubts about whether they'd face each other in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship. In the end, Virginia Tech had a barely comfortable margin to hold off one-loss No. 3 Nebraska to play in the title game.
But in the 16-year history of the BCS, 1999 was one of the most uneventful. The Seminoles went wire-to-wire as the No. 1-ranked team, their place in New Orleans never in question. Upset losses by Penn State and Tennessee in the first two weeks of November paved the way for Virginia Tech to seize the No. 2 ranking.
The Hokies, led by redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Vick, had to sweat out the final four weeks of the regular season mostly because of a soft schedule. With strength of schedule still a separate component accounting for nearly one-third of the BCS standings, Virginia Tech had a hard time gaining breathing room from the Cornhuskers, finishing just 1.30 points ahead in the final standings.
Just as in 1998, an undefeated non-BCS conference team finished the regular season unbeaten. And just like Tulane, a 12-0 Marshall team was shut out of a BCS bowl despite finishing No. 12 in the final standings. And one more thing like the Green Wave: The Thundering Herd, quarterbacked by Chad Pennington, completed a perfect season with a victory over BYU, in the Motor City Bowl.
In the Sugar Bowl, Vick rallied the Hokies to take a 29-28 lead at the end of the third quarter. But the Seminoles scored the game's final 18 points in the fourth quarter, giving Bobby Bowden his second and final national championship.
Complete Final BCS Standings
Using post-2003 BCS formula: 1. Florida State, 2. Virginia Tech.
Likely four-team playoff: Florida State vs. Alabama; Virginia Tech vs. Nebraska.
The top four teams also won their respective conferences, making the selections fairly simple.
Kansas State snub II: Well, it wasn't quite as egregious as the one in 1998, but the Wildcats once again earned the dubious honor of being the highest-ranked team not invited to a BCS bowl. K-State, ranked No. 6 with its only loss to Nebraska, was passed up by the Fiesta Bowl (No. 5 Tennessee) and Orange Bowl (No. 8 Michigan). But unlike the previous year, the Wildcats managed to hold it together and win the Holiday Bowl, 24-20, over Washington.
Marshall snub: With today's arrangement, the Herd would've earned an automatic BCS berth. But with strength of schedule a key component in the formula at the time, Marshall was doomed by its 98th-place schedule. The MAC champs, however, would become the last undefeated team not to play in a BCS bowl.
1999 BCS Bowl Matchups
|Sugar Bowl*||#1 Florida St. 46, #2 Va. Tech 29||76,503||17.5|
|Rose Bowl||#7 Wisconsin 17, Stanford 9||93.731||14.1|
|Orange Bowl||#8 Michigan 35, #4 Alabama 34 (OT)||70,461||11.4|
|Fiesta Bowl||#3 Nebraska 31, #5 Tennessee 21||71,526||9.6|
BCS formula review: Five more computer rankings were added to the formula—Billingsley, Dunkel, Massey, Matthews and Rothman—bringing the total to eight. The lowest ranking among the eight was dropped, and the remaining seven averaged to produce the computer ranking. Also, a "Kansas State clause" was added, guaranteeing any team finishing in the top four a BCS bowl spot, but the Wildcats weren't in position to benefit from it.
Final analysis: Two years in, the BCS appeared to be producing the desired results. The title games matched deserving teams, and the other BCS bowls featured interesting matchups. But this was only the calm before the storm, as raging controversies were about to envelope the BCS, forcing major changes almost annually in the coming years.