Bowl selection was pretty straightforward for today. The Orange Bowl, next year's championship host, had the first pick and chose the top half of the bracket in order to get the undefeated ACC Champion. That left the Rose Bowl with a very nontraditional pairing, but that's the price you pay for the right to host a semifinal game. Besides, I'm sure both K-State and Tech fans would have traveled very well to see Beasley and Vick face off.
What a Final Four: Bowden, Saban, Snyder, Beamer. All we're missing is Paterno. All I know is I really thought history would hold with a Florida State-Virginia Tech Sugar Bowl and I was 100 percent wrong. Surprise.
I can't decide if Nick Saban is this much of a hoss or Bowden is just a playoff choke artist. But I have to say, I like our Rose Bowl a heck of a lot more than the one I watched on TV Jan. 1.
I'm starting to wonder if the simulator is reading my mind and trying too hard to make me happy, though. I figured the 1998 team would win it all, but not the 1999 team, and that now looks totally possible. 1999 was a great defense, but the lack of a reliable running game probably would have kept them from getting this far. Still, you gotta love Joe Hall stepping it up in the Rose Bowl. Awesome. Can't wait until tomorrow to see if the Cats repeat.
Game 1: No. 6 Kansas State Wildcats (12-1) VS. No. 2 Virginia Tech Hokies (13-0)
The Rose Bowl Game presented by AT&T
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, Calif.
Saturday, Dec. 25, 1999 - 1:30 PM PST
Wind: WSW 4 MPH
Final Score: Kansas State 13, Virginia Tech 6
Player of the Game
Virginia Tech RB Shyrone Stith
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Bill Snyder and the Kansas State Wildcats are one game away from winning their second consecutive national championship.
Kansas State (13-1) defeated favored Virginia Tech (13-1) 13-6 in a defensive Rose Bowl that was eerily similar in score and tone to the Orange Bowl later today. And like the Orange Bowl, the Rose Bowl produced an upset winner, resulting in a very unlikely Sugar Bowl pairing: Kansas State and Michigan State. Florida State and Virginia Tech were prohibitive favorites in Vegas to play each other in New Orleans, having both posted undefeated seasons, but today all they did was play Goliath.
Virginia Tech even out-rushed K-State 261-78, mostly thanks to Player of the Game Shyrone Stith, who had his third straight excellent playoff performance in rushing 27 times for 186 yards. QB Michael Vick was unable to complement Stith with a passing game, however, completing 8-11 for only 48 yards. He was sacked twice, by Mark Simoneau and Travis Litton.
Meanwhile, despite being sacked eight times for 67 total yards lost, QB Jonathan Beasley provided most of K-State's offense with a 13-20 passing effort for 156 yards, distributing the ball to six different receivers, but Kansas State's only TD came from a different, and far less likely, source.
After Shayne Graham kicked FGs of 27 and 24 yards (he would later miss from 48) to give the Hokies a 6-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter, K-State took the lead with 1:28 left in the half when big Joe Hall (15 carries, 86 yards) found pay-dirt on a 55-yard TD run, rumbling down the field, knocking over Virginia Tech DBs, and even hurdling over Corey Moore.
The Kansas State defense stiffened up and shut out the Hokies in the 2nd half, while Jamie Rheem made his only two FG attempts of the game, from 39 and 28 yards out, to put it out of reach.
Snyder has a chance to add to his already impressive legend next week, when he can move to 8-0 in playoff games and lead what was once one of the worst programs in the NCAA to its second consecutive national championship, but first he has to find a way to get through Michigan State. Nick Saban hasn't lost a playoff game yet, either.
Game 2: No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (13-0) VS. No. 13 Michigan State Spartans (11-2)
FedEx Orange Bowl
Pro Player Stadium - Miami Gardens, Fla.
Saturday, Dec. 25, 1999 - 8 PM EST
Wind: E 15 MPH
Final Score: Michigan State 13, Florida State 7
Player of the Game
Florida State WR Peter Warrick
MIAMI (AP) - Cinderella wears a glass Spartan helmet, and she's going to a Sugar-sweet ball in New Orleans to ring in the New Year.
No. 13 seed Michigan State (12-2) upset heavy favorite No. 1 seed Florida State (13-1) in its home state, completing its improbable run to the national championship game with a stifling 13-7 win in the Orange Bowl.
The Spartans have faced three de facto road games - Alabama in its home stadium, TCU in Dallas, and now Florida State in Miami - and overcome the odds to survive in all three environments by relying on a strong running game and a dominating defense.
Actually, "dominating" might be an understatement. The Michigan State defense held Florida State to a stunning -42 rushing yards, attained largely by sacking Chris Weinke an eye-popping 10 times for -67 yards. Additionally, they held Travis Minor to 26 yards on 12 rushes. As a team, FSU ran for an unreal -1.4 YPC.
If there was one thing Weinke did do well, it was throwing the ball whenever he managed to evade pressure. He was 27-48 for 331 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs, while his counterpart Bill Burke completed just 12-26 passes for 158 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.
Even normally reliable two-time Lou Groza Award winner Sebastian Janikowski was unproductive, missing his only FG attempt from just 29 yards out. It would not have given the Seminoles a win by itself, but had he made it, Florida State would only have needed to produce another FG on one of its final drives to force a second straight week of overtime, instead of having to try for the TD to win as they were forced to do at the end.
Peter Warrick was the one bright spot for Florida State, earning Player of the Week honors for the second consecutive playoff game with his nine catches for 135 yards and Florida State's only TD of the game. Michigan State's best player was probably steady RB Lloyd Clemons, who rushed 22 times for 108 yards.
Most of the game's scoring occurred in the 1st quarter, as Paul Edinger put the Spartans on the board first with his 24-yard FG. Warrick answered less than two minutes later when he scored from 40 yards out, and Florida State took its only lead of the game at 7-3.
That lead only lasted until 1:35 remained in the initial period, when Plaxico Burress (5 catches, 50 yards) caught a 9-yard TD pass from Burke to put the Spartans back in front 10-7. Edinger added another 22-yard kick in the 3rd quarter, but given the way the Spartan defense was punishing Florida State's offense, it was hardly necessary.
So, the swan song continues for Michigan State coach Nick Saban (who has agreed to become the LSU coach as soon as the playoff is over), and his legend as a defensive mastermind grows. Meanwhile, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will face even more criticism. The Seminoles, despite comfortable wins over 13 previous opponents, laid an egg in this one, and their second straight Final Four and Orange Bowl loss will weigh heavily on his legacy.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
All bowl logos are courtesy of sportslogos.net.
FBS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Nokia Sugar Bowl
#6 Kansas State vs. #13 Michigan State
New Orleans, La.