One day in, and an upset already. Gotta love it.
Regarding today's games, it's not too surprising to see some of the names that had success today, given what they have done in their NFL careers: Travis Henry, Jamal Lewis, Aaron Brooks, Thomas Jones, and so on. And is it really a shock that Donovan McNabb failed to produce on the biggest stage of his career, to that point?
When seeding this field, it was amazing to me how many excellent teams there were in 1998. Obviously Tennessee and Tulane were undefeated, but one-loss Florida State, Kansas State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and UCLA all had spectacular seasons. Arizona's only loss was to UCLA. Florida's only losses were to Florida State and Tennessee. Ridiculous. Clearly, parity had not really set in yet. The last five years or so, we've been lucky to have even four or five teams in the country that were that good. Sometimes, not even that many (last year, anyone?).
Anyhow, enjoy. It was fun to walk down memory lane a little. (I had completely forgotten about Trung Canidate until I started this little project.) I look forward to doing these for a while - it's fun to dream about what December Madness could look like. Damn the powers that be for holding it up.
Oh, and if you're curious, those are the actual weather conditions at those stadiums at the time I simulated the games. I am nothing if not anal to a fault.
Game 1: No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers (12-0) VS. No. 16 Idaho Vandals (8-3)
Neyland Stadium - Knoxville, Tenn.
Friday, Dec. 11, 1998 - 11 AM EST
Wind: E 3 MPH
Final Score: Tennessee 35, Idaho 13
Player of the Game
Tennessee RB Jamal Lewis
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee rumbled its way to a 1st round victory in the inaugural FBS Playoff with its powerful running game, defeating the Idaho Vandals 35-13.
The Volunteers (13-0) out-rushed Idaho 398-44. Star RB Travis Henry did most of the damage, amassing 179 yards on 22 carries, but an injury to Travis Stephens opened the door for reserve Jamal Lewis to rush for a career-high 168 yards on 23 carries with 1 TD. Lewis was named Player of the Game for his efforts.
Tennessee's rushing game was so dominant that QB Tee Martin spent most of his day handing off. He was just 5-13 passing, for 83 yards and 1 TD, but it didn't really matter. Idaho (8-4) never stood a chance in this one.
Idaho, which stormed its way to a Big West Championship after being picked last in the conference in the preseason, found its potent passing attack was not enough against the mighty Vols. QB John Welsh completed 22 of 46 passes for 275 yards and 1 TD, but his team's inability to move the ball on the ground doomed most of their drives.
The Vandals' highlight of the game came on a 41-yard TD pass from Welsh to Rossi Martin, which gave Idaho an early 7-0 lead and had them thinking upset. However, Tennessee soon answered with a methodical 67-yard drive, tying the game on Stephens' first TD of the game.
They then outscored the Vandals 21-3 in the 2nd quarter, putting the game pretty much out of reach by halftime.
Tennessee advances to the 2nd round of the playoff, where they will meet the winner of the Wisconsin-Florida game later today.
Idaho's dream season is not quite over, either. After the game, they accepted a bid to the Humanitarian Bowl in nearby Boise, where they will play Conference USA runner-up Southern Miss. It is a nice consolation prize for a team few expected to make it this far.
Game 2: No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1) VS. No. 13 Syracuse Orangemen (8-3)
Ohio Stadium - Columbus, Ohio
Friday, Dec. 11, 1998 - 1 PM EST
Wind: N 4 MPH
Final Score: Ohio State 44, Syracuse 3
Player of the Game
Ohio State RB Michael Wiley
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - It was a bitterly cold day in "The Horseshoe." Is it any surprise that Ohio State looked spectacular and Syracuse looked like it would rather be in the warm confines of the Carrier Dome?
The Buckeyes (11-1) crushed the Orangemen (8-4) 44-3 in the 1st round playoff game played in their home stadium Friday afternoon.
This one was over early. Ohio State held a 17-3 lead after the 1st period, and although no one knew it yet, Syracuse was already done scoring for the day. A 27-3 halftime lead gave the Buckeyes plenty of incentive to back off in the 2nd half, but instead they poured it on, scoring an additional 2 TDs in the 4th quarter in addition to a FG in the third for the final margin of 44-3.
The Buckeyes more than tripled Syracuse's 1st downs, 35-11. They out-rushed the Orangemen 291-135 and out-passed them 239-92.
QB Joe Germaine was a solid 15-33, but RB Michael Wiley deservedly won Player of the Game honors with his 29 rushes for 183 yards. However, he was partially out-shined by his backups, Joe Montgomery and Jonathan Wells, who each rushed for 2 TDs.
David Boston was the Buckeyes' leading receiver, with four catches for 85 yards. Ken-Yon Rambo had the game's only receiving TD. K Dan Stultz was up and down; he made 3 FGs but missed another two that would have made the final margin even worse.
On the Syracuse side, star QB Donovan McNabb suffered a dismal day. He was 8-23 for a woeful 92 yards and 1 INT, and his running ability only produced 26 yards on 22 attempts, barely more than 1 YPC.
Ohio State will take on the Virginia Cavaliers, who upset UCLA today, next Saturday in the 2nd round. Syracuse will limp home disappointed. Although a minor bowl game awaits them, the Big East Champion had higher aspirations for McNabb's senior season than a 1st round exit.
Game 3: No. 12 Virginia Cavaliers (9-2) VS. No. 5 UCLA Bruins (10-1)
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, Calif.
Friday, Dec. 11, 1998 - 1:30 PM PST
Precipitation: Light Rain
Wind: W 6 MPH
Final Score: Virginia 24, UCLA 15
Player of the Game
Virginia RB Thomas Jones
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - The 12-over-5 upset has become almost a cliche in college basketball, but the numbers don't lie: 12 seeds have actually won slightly more than 50 percent of games in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament.
In its first year of playoff action, college football now gets to partake in some of the fun.
The Virginia Cavaliers (10-2) delivered a shocking upset Friday, knocking off the favored UCLA Bruins (10-2) in their own stadium, the hallowed Rose Bowl, by a score of 24-15. This one was exciting throughout.
The Bruins struck first, kicking a FG to open the scoring at 3-0. Virginia took most of the 1st quarter to answer, punting three times before finally driving 49 yards for a TD just before the end of the period. UCLA kicked two more FGs in the 2nd quarter to take a 9-7 lead into halftime.
However, 10 unanswered points left the Cavaliers in command of a 17-9 lead and the Bruins reeling just 35 seconds into the 4th quarter. UCLA did not give up, though. QB Cade McNown completed a stunning 54-yard TD pass to Freddie Mitchell, making it 17-15 and giving the Bruins a chance to tie the game with 7:14 left on the clock.
Jermaine Lewis' 2-point conversion attempt was stopped just short of the end zone, though, and Virginia bled more than five minutes off the clock before Thomas Jones plunged in from 12 yards out for his first TD of the day, driving a dagger into the UCLA fans' hearts.
Jones was the Player of the Game, leading a Cavaliers rushing attack that out-gained UCLA 212-120. He himself had 163 yards on 30 carries, with a long of 20. Backup Antoine Womack contributed an additional 73 yards on just 11 carries, with one TD.
Virginia QB Aaron Brooks was steady and solid, completing 12-28 passes for 115 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.
UCLA's two-headed RB combo, Lewis and DeShaun Foster, was held to a pedestrian 68 and 54 yards, respectively.
McNown wasn't much better; he did complete 11-21 passes for 211 yards, but he was intercepted twice in the red zone by Cavaliers DB Adrian Burnim and only threw for 1 TD.
UCLA K Chris Sailer was perfect on all 3 FG attempts, though.
For UCLA, it was the second consecutive crushing upset by an opponent. The Bruins lost in a rescheduled game at Miami last week, which cost them at least the No. 2 seed and maybe a chance at No. 1. Either would have brought in a much easier opponent than the upstart Cavaliers. Now all UCLA can do is make plans for a minor bowl game and wonder how a perfect season went so awry in December.
Meanwhile, Virginia looks to continue its surprising run into the 2nd round of the playoff, but powerful Ohio State awaits them next in the Rose Bowl.
Game 4: No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers (10-1) VS. No. 8 Florida Gators (9-2)
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium - Gainesville, Fla.
Friday, Dec. 11, 1998 - 8 PM EST
Wind: E 5 MPH
Final Score: Florida 22, Wisconsin 3
Player of the Game
Florida DT Eugene McCaslin
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - It was supposed to be a game of opposites. Through three quarters almost nothing was decided, but in the fourth, the Florida Gators proved that sometimes the pass is mightier than the run.
Florida (10-2) defeated the Wisconsin Badgers (10-2) 22-3 on its home field Friday evening, advancing to a 2nd round rematch with rival Tennessee in the process.
The Gators led just 10-3 entering the final period, but their potent passing attack then produced 12 points to salt the game away. All told, Florida QB Doug Johnson amassed 334 yards through the air, on 21-38 passing, but his two INTs kept Wisconsin in the game at opportune times.
His counterpart, Badgers QB Mike Samuel, was not nearly so prolific, completing only 4-16 passes for a meager 52 yards and 1 INT, but Wisconsin's strength is its running game, yet even that was largely held in check by the scrappy Gators defense.
Bruising RB Ron Dayne averaged just under 2.2 YPC, gaining 63 yards on 29 carries with a long run of only 12 yards.
Wisconsin's star today was probably DB Jamar Fletcher, whose 2 INTs of Johnson kept Wisconsin in the game when nothing was working offensively.
Meanwhile, the Gators had plenty of performances to celebrate in the friendly confines of "The Swamp." Eugene McCaslin's four sacks earned him Player of the Game honors, and WR Travis Taylor pulled in an amazing 61-yard catch for a TD, part of an overall 96-yard effort.
Teammate Travis McGriff was also effective, catching seven balls for 93 yards. K Jeff Chandler was 3-3 on FGs, with a long of 43 that opened the game's scoring in the 1st quarter.
Wisconsin had a dream season, tying for the Big Ten Championship with Ohio State, but they didn't expect to be ejected from the playoff this quickly. However, they are expected to receive and accept a bid to the Alamo Bowl later today, which gives them one last opportunity to end the season on a winning note.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
#15 Marshall @ #2 Florida State
Doak Campbell Stadium
#14 Air Force @ #3 Kansas State
#11 Tulane @ #6 Texas A&M
College Station, Texas
#10 Nebraska @ #7 Arizona
BracketCat's Protest Playoff Archives
1998: Selection Sunday