After completing our 1998 experiment, which ended in a Big Orange playoff victory over Ohio State, we find ourselves in 1999. Entering the bowl season we have two undefeated teams – Florida State and Virginia Tech. However, we have only one 1-loss conference champion with several other 2-loss teams to compare and contrast. Certainly some interesting debates to come!
The Decision – Records indicate records entering bowl season.
#1 Florida State 11-0 (Eventual BCS Champion, ACC Champion)
This was the heyday of Florida State’s football dominance under coach Bobby Bowden. From 1987 to 2000, Florida State finished in the top-five in the Coaches and AP polls every year. In that time, period the Seminoles won (only) two national championships (1993, 1999) while playing for three others (1996, 1998, 2000). This was one of those peak years when everything came together for the Seminoles.
1999’s Florida State Seminoles defeated Louisiana Tech, #19 Miami, and #4 Florida in their non-conference while maintaining a perfect ACC record, which included wins over #10 Georgia Tech and #20 North Carolina State. The Seminoles ranked #3 nationally in scoring offense led by quarterback Chris Weinke and talented wide receiver Peter Warrick. The Noles were a staple in the top-five, and Bobby Bowden had one of his best teams in this one. Noles are in at #1.
#2 Virginia Tech 11-0 (Lost to Florida State in BCS title game, Big East Champion)
Michael Vick. Vick (who was only a redshirt freshman) lit the world on fire with his talented scrambles, incredible acceleration, arm strength, and speed to lead the Hokies to their finest ever season. While their schedule might appear light, the Hokies buried teams winning by an average of 31 points on their way to an 11-0 record. Virginia Tech defeated four ranked opponents (at #24 Virginia, #19 Miami, #22 Boston College, and #16 Syracuse), while also playing Clemson, UAB, and (D-1AA, now called FCS) James Madison in their non-conference (Virginia was an out-of-conference opponent). They didn’t make any missteps getting to 11-0 and smashed everyone before them. Why not #1? Florida State had more wins of top-ten teams, so I’ll give that nod to the Noles.
#3 Nebraska 11-1 (Won the Fiesta Bowl vs Tennessee, Big XII Champion)
In a similar vein to Virginia Tech and Michael Vick, this was Nebraska’s Eric Crouch’s coming out party. Crouch would go on to win the Heisman Trophy in 2001 for the Huskers and lead them to a BCS title game that same year. In 1999, however, Crouch (a quarterback), rushed for 800 yards and 16 touchdowns as the Huskers avenged their only loss (at #18 Texas) by beating #12 Texas in the Big XII championship game. Nebraska also had wins over #21 Texas A&M, #5 Kansas State while playing at Iowa, California, and Southern Mississippi in the out-of-conference schedule. Nebraska, a conference champion, beating a top-five team like Kansas state by multiple touchdowns (a 41-11 win), and avenging their only loss to Texas is enough to get them in at #3 here in our ranking for 1999.
#4 Alabama 10-2 (Lost Orange Bowl vs Michigan, SEC Champion)
The Crimson Tide were led by senior running back Shaun Alexander who rushed for over 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns powering the Tide to six wins vs ranked opponents (#14 Arkansas, at #3 Florida, at #22 Ole Miss, #20 Southern Mississippi, #8 Mississippi State, #5 Florida (SEC Championship Game)), the most by any team on our list. Those ranked wins in addition to their SEC crown cements them as the fourth and final team for the playoff for 1999. Alabama’s blemishes (losses) were both home losses – one to a Tim Rattay-led Louisiana Tech team 29-28, and another to #5 Tennessee 21-7.
Outside Looking In:
#5 Tennessee 9-2 (Lost Fiesta Bowl to Nebraska)
Fans of the Volunteers would have fumed at near riot levels if Alabama (a team they beat 21-7 on the road) surpassed them in the rankings as in our projection. The Vols did have a great season with ranked wins over #10 Georgia, #24 Notre Dame and #10 Alabama are sterling, however an early loss at #4 Florida and a back-breaking 28-24 loss at Arkansas sink the Vols.
#6 Wisconsin 9-2 (Won Rose Bowl vs Stanford, Big Ten Champion)
Unlike in 1998, this Wisconsin team was an undisputed Big Ten Champion. Ron Dayne would win the Heisman this year, rushing for over 2,000 yards on the ground and adding 20 touchdowns. The Badgers had four ranked wins (at #12 Ohio State, at #25 Minnesota, at #17 Purdue, and vs #11 Michigan State) but had losses to #4 Michigan 21-16, and loss to a bad Cincinnati team 17-12 on the road. Wisconsin could not be saved by its out-of-conference schedule as it included (D1-AA) Murray State, Ball State and as mentioned, at Cincinnati.
#7 Michigan 9-2 (Won Orange bowl vs Alabama)
I really thought there was a good chance for Michigan to make the top four, but as stated above, Alabama’s resume is first-rate. Michigan had a non-conference schedule that was solid, at Syracuse, Rice, and #16 Notre Dame (all wins). Michigan also had wins over four ranked opponents: #16 Notre Dame, #11 Purdue, at #4 Penn State, and Big Ten Champion #20 Wisconsin. But their losses at #11 Michigan State and to Illinois at home doom them. Not getting a share of the Big Ten makes it hard to put Michigan any higher than here.
#8 Michigan State 9-2 (Won Citrus Bowl vs Florida)
In his prior four seasons at Michigan State, head coach Nick Saban had steered the Spartans to an 25-22-1 record, and this season was what he was building up for. Saban, and star wide out Plaxico Burress would lead the Spartans to a 9-2 record before Saban would accept the head coaching job at LSU, where he’d win his first of now six national championships. Like their rival in Ann Arbor, MSU had four ranked wins (at #24 Notre Dame, #3 Michigan, #20 Ohio State, and #13 Penn State), the Spartans also had an impressive non-conference schedule with wins over Oregon, Notre Dame, and Eastern Michigan. But Michigan State’s losses weren’t just losses, they were three-touchdown-plus loses (at #20 Purdue 52-28, at #16 Wisconsin 40-10). For those losses being what they were, I put MSU at #8.
#9 Kansas State 10-1 (Won Holiday Bowl vs Washington)
Oh, poor Kansas State. They have another near perfect season go awry with a single loss and have a resume that just doesn’t lend a helping hand. Kansas State had one win over a ranked opponent at #15 Texas and played only one more the rest of the season – a Big XII north division title-defining game at Lincoln against #7 Nebraska. The Wildcats would lose 40-11, clearing the path for the Huskers to win the division (and the conference crown). Just like in 1998, the Wildcats had no room for error – only two ranked opponents on the schedule and their non-conference schedule composing of UTEP, Utah State, and Temple (then in the Big East). Maybe one day K-State will get to our playoff, maybe one day…
#1 vs #4 – Florida State vs Alabama would have been a fantastic game with mouthwatering style differences, from Florida State’s pro-style vs Alabama’s heavy run focus. I do believe that this Noles team was not going to be denied this year, so I’ll take the Noles.
#2 vs #3 – Virginia Tech vs Nebraska would have been fantastic, Vick vs Crouch would certainly have made the marquee of this clash. This was a once-in-a-lifetime team for Virginia Tech, and I do believe that Vick-Magic would have prevailed over the old-reliable Huskers.
Florida State vs Virginia Tech – well, we know what happened in real life, so I’d think the same would happen here again. Florida State’s aerial assault giving them a big lead, before Vick electrified, the crowd and the game to bring them close enough to get excited only for the Seminoles to put them away. Florida State is the Champion of our 1999 playoff.