One item of note: I switched K-State's offensive style from "Favor Run" to "Balanced" since our running game kinda sucked in 1999. With Favor Run I was getting career rushing performances out of Hickson and Charles last season, and McDonald was too quiet. Hopefully this brings Quincy's game to the forefront more.
Well, did this ever break perfectly for us or what? I would still expect Florida State and Virginia Tech to run the table and meet in the Sugar Bowl, as they did in real life, but you never know... The three seeds after them have all fallen out, clearing a nice path for the Cats to defend their title, should one of those two falter.
Unlike in 1998, when Tennessee backed in because UCLA and Kansas State choked on the last weekend, the Seminoles and the Hokies went pretty much wire-to-wire as the undisputed best teams in the country that year, so their solid wins do not surprise me. Michigan State may have been the lower seed, but they were frankly the better team. I would take Saban any day over DuBose, even in Tuscaloosa.
The surprises are definitely Marshall and TCU - not because those teams were bad, but because Tennessee and Nebraska were both pretty darn good in 1999. Tennessee was the defending national champion, and Nebraska beat them in the Fiesta Bowl and only lost one game all year. But I could see an undefeated Marshall squad hanging around and winning, even in Lincoln, because when push came to shove, Crouch sucked at passing. As for TCU, what can I say? It's LT in his prime.
So, thanks to those upsets, Nebraska (0-2) and Tennessee (1-2), who won or shared four mythical national championships in five years, would have to go down as the two most disappointing teams in playoff history so far. Considering where both programs are today, it could be argued that a playoff would simply have exposed their weaknesses sooner, because the BCS took 10 years to do that in real life.
I do find it amusing that 8-3 teams like Boise State, Southern Miss, Stanford, and Utah were the ones I was expecting to pull an upset, and they all lost to fall to 8-4. Meanwhile, 7-4 TCU, who beat no one all year, pulls off a 5-12 win and goes to 8-4, and now a double-digit seed is guaranteed to be in the Final Four. I love it! It's just like March - no, strike that. It would be better than March.
Game 1: No. 15 Utah Utes (8-3) VS. No. 2 Virginia Tech Hokies (11-0)
Lane Stadium - Blacksburg, Va.
Saturday, Dec. 11, 1999 - 11 AM EST
Wind: W 9 MPH
Final Score: Virginia Tech 32, Utah 0
Player of the Game
Virginia Tech RB Shyrone Stith
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - After Friday's rash of upsets, perhaps no one would have been shocked if the Utah Utes had sprung a surprise of their own in Lane Stadium.
Virginia Tech was having none of that.
Hokie RB and Player of the Game Shyrone Stith added to a string of impressive playoff rushing performances with his 32-carry, 237-yard, 1-TD day as the Hokies (12-0) steamrolled Utah (8-4) 32-0.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster's "lunch pail" defense harried Utah all day, holding Utah QB Darnell Arceneaux to 11-21 passing for only 86 yards and sacking him four times, while also holding RBs Omar Bacon and Mike Anderson to just 89 total yards on 30 carries. Even star WR Steve Smith was contained by the potent Tech defense, catching just two passes for 30 yards.
Meanwhile, "Beamerball" special teams were in full swing for Virginia Tech. At one point, Utah punted from its own 36-yard line, but Stith returned it to the Utah 37 to give the Hokies excellent field position. This happened again in the 3rd quarter, when the Utes punted from their 14 only to watch Stith run it back to the Utah 18. Both drives led to FGs from Shayne Graham, who was 4-5 on the day (although he did miss a PAT attempt in the 3rd period).
Star QB Michael Vick was efficient (5-6, 89 yards, 1 TD), but was mostly content to hand off to the red-hot Stith rather than display his own breathtaking running abilities. Stith started the rout early with his 5-yard TD run on the Hokies' opening drive, and Graham added a 28-yard FG to make the score 10-0 at the end of the 1st quarter.
Tech was quiet offensively for much of the 2nd quarter, but just before halftime Vick scrambled for a 6-yard TD with 1:16 remaining in the half, and after a quick 4-and-out by the Hokie defense gave the offense the ball in good field position, Graham kicked a 30-yarder as time expired to give Virginia Tech a 20-0 halftime lead.
The Hokies stretched that lead in the final 30 minutes with an 11-yard TD pass from Vick to Browning Wynn, and then Graham added kicks of 32 and 39 yards to complete the rout.
Utah has accepted a bid to the Las Vegas Bowl, where they will face WAC Co-Champion Fresno State, while Virginia Tech will advance to the Holiday Bowl next Saturday and face the winner of the Southern Miss-Wisconsin game.
Game 2: No. 14 Marshall Thundering Herd (12-0) VS. No. 3 Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-1)
Nebraska Memorial Stadium - Lincoln, Neb.
Saturday, Dec. 11, 1999 - 12 PM CST
Wind: NW 28 MPH
Final Score: Marshall 30, Nebraska 23
Player of the Game
Marshall RB Llow Turner
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Upset Friday spilled over into Saturday, as Marshall went into hallowed Nebraska Memorial Stadium as a 14th-seeded, 2-TD underdog and came out as a winner and an opponent for Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Thundering Herd (13-0) collected the most impressive victory of their undefeated season by beating the Big 12 Champion Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-2) 30-23 in their own stadium.
Nebraska has been here before. As a No. 10 seed last season, they lost to Arizona on the road and finished their season with a loss in the Alamo Bowl. But Husker fans didn't see this one coming, and they are quickly growing impatient with an 0-2 playoff record for a team that won a share of three of the last four national championships before the FBS Playoff began.
Led by Dahrran Diedrick's seven carries for 69 yards, Nebraska out-rushed Marshall 286-147, yet lost the time of possession battle by seven minutes. The Huskers' passing attack was largely nonexistent, as QB Eric Crouch attempted just eight passes and completed only three of them for 46 yards while throwing 2 INTs.
Meanwhile, Marshall controlled the tempo of the game with a balanced attack, led by Heisman candidate QB Chad Pennington (20-35, 214 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and running backs Doug Chapman (22 carries, 103 yards, 1 TD) and Llow Turner (12 carries, 64 yards), who scored 2 TDs on an 8-yard run and a 39-yard catch in the 4th quarter to seal the upset with 1:27 remaining. Turner was named Player of the Game for his clutch plays.
Marshall scored first on Billy Malashevich's 50-yard FG and held a 3-0 lead through most of the 1st quarter. It took Nebraska almost 20 minutes to get on the board, which should have been a sign of trouble right from the start, but the Huskers finally did so when Correll Buckhalter (10 carries, 62 yards) plunged in from 18 yards out to take a 7-3 lead.
Malashevich kicked a 31-yarder to make it 7-6 Nebraska, and on the next play Dan Alexander (13 carries, 91 yards) gained most of his yards by breaking loose for a 62-yard TD run to make it 14-6. Nebraska K Josh Brown and Malashevich both tacked on a FG after that, and the 1st half ended with Nebraska leading 17-9.
That tightened less than two minutes after halftime when Chapman scored from 17 yards out to cut the Husker lead to one point, but after Brown's 25-yarder near the end of the quarter, Marshall still trailed 16-20.
The 4th quarter will live in Marshall history for a long time. With 9:58 left, Turner scored his first TD and Marshall took its first lead since early in the 2nd quarter. After two drives and five minutes, Nebraska was only able to tie the game at 23 with Brown's third kick, from 38 yards out.
That put Marshall in a position to win the game outright, and they did so with 1:27 left when Turner caught a short pass and made several Husker defenders miss on his way to the end zone. Nebraska had one last shot, but even after four downs Crouch was unable to get a conversion, and it was as if the air had been let out of the stadium.
Kansas State was probably hoping for a rematch with Nebraska, but the Wildcats would be wise to be wary of the Thundering Herd. They played Florida State tough last season and that experience paid off in this game. Most college football experts will tell you that Pennington is playing as good as any quarterback in the country right now.
Meanwhile, Nebraska awaits a bowl bid, and maybe even a return to the Alamo Bowl, but for this proud program, the end of the last two seasons has been extremely hard to stomach. Still, Crouch is only a sophomore and many other starters return next season, so there's always a chance for redemption down the line.
Game 3: No. 6 Kansas State Wildcats (10-1) VS. No. 11 Stanford Cardinal (8-3)
KSU Stadium - Manhattan, Kan.
Saturday, Dec. 11, 1999 - 3:30 PM CST
Wind: N 17 MPH
Final Score: Kansas State 41, Stanford 26
Player of the Game
Kansas State QB Jonathan Beasley
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - 364 days after beginning a surprising run to a national championship with a 1st-round home win here in Manhattan, the Kansas State Wildcats took their first step toward defending that championship with another 1st-round home win, but Stanford gave them more of a fight than Air Force did.
The Wildcats (11-1) saw their lead dwindle to just one point late in the 3rd quarter before they finally put away the Cardinal (8-4), winning a hard-fought contest 41-26.
QB Jonathan Beasley, who played much of this season in the shadow of last year's Heisman runner-up, Michael Bishop, began to establish his own playoff legacy by completing 14 of his 26 passes for 260 yards and 3 TDs, and was named Player of the Game for his efforts. He was sacked six times, but that was the only blemish on his otherwise outstanding day.
Beasley set the tone early, throwing a 6-yard TD pass to George Williams (his only catch of the day) and an 8-yard TD pass to Aaron Lockett (who had four catches for 72 yards in the game) to give K-State a 1st-quarter lead of 14-0.
Stanford QB Todd Husak (16-36, 199 yards, 1 TD) rose to the occasion, though, executing a screen pass to Casey Moore for 49 yards and following that with another screen to DeRonnie Pitts for a 21-yard TD. Jamie Rheem later kicked a 46-yard FG to extend the Wildcat lead to 10, but Mike Biselli answered with a 50-yarder to cut K-State's lead at halftime to 17-10.
Biselli added a 27-yarder early in the 3rd quarter to make it 13-17, but Beasley hit TE Shad Meier for a 27-yard TD pass to widen the lead back to 24-13. Then things got really interesting.
On the first play of the next drive, Stanford RB Brian Allen (14 carries, 176 yards) swept left for a 63-yard TD run to cut the deficit to four, and then Biselli tacked on a 33-yard FG four minutes later to make the score 23-24.
Wildcat RB Frank Murphy (16 carries, 83 yards) answered the call by scoring from nine yards out just 40 seconds into the 4th quarter to make it 31-23, but Biselli kicked his fourth FG in as many tries four minutes later, connecting from 26 yards out to cut the Wildcat lead to 31-26.
That was as close as it would get the rest of the way, though. Rheem kicked a 35-yarder with 5:49 left to make it 34-26, and 300-pound RB Joe Hall (18 carries, 140 yards) crushed Stanford's hopes underfoot as he rumbled 30 yards for a TD with 3:27 remaining.
Although kickers, running backs, and quarterbacks were the stars of this one, a pair of wide receivers were no less notable. Stanford's Troy Walters caught six passes for 107 yards, and K-State's Quincy Morgan had three catches for 73 yards.
K-State coach Bill Snyder is now 5-0 in playoff games, by far the best record of any active coach. He will try for his sixth win next week when his team returns to the Fiesta Bowl, where one year ago they hoisted up the Sears National Championship Trophy.
Stanford's reward for winning the Pac-10 and an 8-4 record will likely be a minor bowl game, but no bid had been extended to the Cardinal as of press time.
Game 4: No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers (9-2) VS. No. 10 Southern Miss Golden Eagles (8-3)
Camp Randall Stadium - Madison, Wis.
Saturday, Dec. 11, 1999 - 7 PM CST
Wind: NE 10 MPH
Final Score: Wisconsin 20, Southern Miss 10
Player of the Game
Wisconsin RB Ron Dayne
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Brett Favre may have successfully made the transition from the warm plains of southern Mississippi to the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, but a flock of other Golden Eagles found out the hard way that it's tougher than it looks.
Wisconsin (10-2) held off Southern Miss (8-4) Saturday night for a tough 20-10 win and a berth in the much-warmer Culligan Holiday Bowl next week to play No. 2 seed Virginia Tech.
Snow is expected in the Madison area later tonight, and although it held off for the duration of the game, the freezing north wind and gloomy overcast skies seemed to keep the game in slow motion from kickoff until the final seconds.
Southern Miss kept it close in the 1st half, completing a 12-play, 65-yard opening drive with a 1-yard Derrick Nix TD run to post a 7-0 lead that the Golden Eagles would maintain through much of the 1st quarter. However, Heisman front-runner and Player of the Game RB Ron Dayne answered near the end of the opening period with his own 1-yard TD run to tie the game.
Four minutes later, Wisconsin's Vitaly Pisetsky gave his team its first lead with a 42-yard FG, but Southern Miss tied it back up six minutes later on Brant Hanna's 20-yarder. Neither team scored again before halftime and it seemed like this would be a hard-fought game.
However, Wisconsin's defense came out of the locker room on a mission, shutting Southern Miss out in the 2nd half. That was good for the Badgers, because the Wisconsin offense was not that much more effective. It took them until the 4th quarter to warm up, when Pisetsky finally broke the tie with a 35-yard FG. He had already missed from 45 and 41 yards out, or the score might have widened sooner.
Dayne put the finishing touches on a solid but unspectacular win with a 13-yard rushing TD with 8:30 left in the game. Given the way Wisconsin's defense was playing, a 10-point lead proved insurmountable for the Golden Eagles.
The Badgers held Nix to 61 yards on 19 attempts, most of that on the opening drive, and limited the Southern Miss running game to 106 total yards. QB Jeff Kelly was 21-31, but he had only 208 passing yards and threw no TD passes. Sherrod Gideon caught six of those passes for 88 yards, but no other Southern Miss players accounted for more than 40 yards in the game.
Meanwhile, Dayne cemented himself as a Heisman favorite with 34 carries for 135 yards and 2 TDs, while QB Brooks Bollinger complemented him with a steady 7-10 passing day for 110 yards. Chris Chambers caught three passes for 52 yards and Nick Mueller had the game's only sack.
After the game, Southern Miss accepted a bid to the Liberty Bowl to play Mountain West Co-Champion Colorado State. The game, played in Memphis, is much closer to Southern Miss' campus in Hattiesburg, Miss., and should present a much more favorable climate for the Southern school.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
CompUSA Florida Citrus Bowl
#1 Florida State vs. #8 Michigan
Florida Citrus Bowl
Southwestern Bell Cotton Bowl Classic
#12 TCU vs. #13 Michigan State
Culligan Holiday Bowl
#2 Virginia Tech vs. #7 Wisconsin
San Diego, Calif.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
#6 Kansas State vs. #14 Marshall
Sun Devil Stadium