Friday, May 30, 2008

Ten Years of BCS: 1998

The Guru's Note: Beginning in June, the Guru will publish a review of each of the 10 seasons since the Bowl Championship Series came into existence in 1998. In this series -- Ten Years of BCS -- the Guru will examine the results from these seasons -- who got lucky and who got robbed, what could've been, what should've been and other controversies of the day. The series will appear weekly leading up to the 2008 season.


On the precipice of a disaster in its infancy, the BCS was magically rescued by the hurricanes -- one named Georges, the other named Edgerrin James.

Three teams headed into the final Saturday of the season with undefeated records: Tennessee, Kansas State and UCLA. The Vols and Wildcats were scheduled to play in their respective conference title games; while the Bruins, riding a nation-best 20-game winning streak, were to play Miami at the Orange Bowl in a makeup game.

Originally, the game was to be played on Sept. 26. But because of the imminent threat of Hurricane Georges, it was temporarily postponed. UCLA had the option of canceling the game outright and standing on its performance in 10 games, but it took the risky move of rescheduling the game for the final day of the season.

The Miami team that beat UCLA, 49-45, that day was a vast improvement over the one the Bruins would've faced on Sept. 26. Behind James' 299 rushing yards (on 39 carries), the 'Canes shredded a shaky UCLA defense and benefited from an erroneous fumble call. Besides ending UCLA's quest to appear in the first BCS title game, Miami's upset victory sent the Bruins on a long descent into national irrelevance.

After UCLA's loss, it was up to Tennessee and Kansas State to hold up their end of the bargain. The Volunteers did but the Wildcats didn't -- losing to double-digit underdog Texas A&M in double overtime, 36-33. As a parting gift, K-State was handed an Alamo Bowl berth after being shut out of the BCS bowls.

While the Tennessee-Florida State title game -- played in the Fiesta Bowl -- was generally acknowledged as a fair outcome, there were a few minor controversies in the year of BCS's birth. Besides the snubbing of K-State, an 11-0 Tulane team was also shut out of the BCS. But thanks to the hurricanes, a catastrophe was averted.

Final BCS Standings
1. Tennessee, 2. Florida State, 3. Kansas State, 4. Ohio State.

Alternative methods:

  • Using present day BCS formula: 1. Tennessee, 2. Florida State. 

  • Using human polls only: 1. Tennessee (1-AP, 1-Coaches), 2. Florida State (2-AP, 2-Coaches).

  • Plus-One: Tennessee vs. Ohio State; Florida State vs. Kansas State.


  • Kansas State snub: Despite finishing third in the final BCS standings, the Wildcats found themselves in the non-BCS Alamo Bowl. The Sugar Bowl opted for Big Ten co-champion Ohio State, who was the top-ranked team for most of the season until a 28-24 upset loss to Michigan State. The Orange Bowl took Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators, who finished eighth in the BCS standings. A dispirited and disinterested K-State team lost to Purdue, 37-34.

  • Tulane snub: An 11-0 record and Conference USA title weren't enough to get the Green Wave to a BCS bowl game, let alone a spot in the title game. Tulane, ranked No. 10, today would've received an automatic berth by being in the top 12. Nevertheless, playing without a head coach after Tommy Bowden took the Clemson job, the Green Wave romped to a 41-27 Liberty Bowl victory over BYU under some guy named Rich Rodriguez.

BCS Formula Review: The initial BCS standings, the brainchild of then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, was an unwieldy clunker divided in three -- human polls, computer rankings and strength of schedule. And each loss is tacked on as additional penalty. Only three computers were used -- Anderson & Hester, Jeff Sagarin and New York Times. Margin of victory was accounted for by all three computers and a 50% adjusted maximum deviation factor was applied.

Analysis: UCLA's loss, which occurred earlier in the day on Dec. 5, gave the BCS poobahs a huge sigh of relief. Tennessee's 23-16 victory over Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl, though underwhelming, was controversy-free. The BCS seemingly passed its first test ... only if they knew.

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