Again, I only simulated the K-State game once. That was such a potent team. The result isn't totally surprising - Florida State was winning close defensive battles in this thing, and we were just blowing people out. Florida State had a good defense, but to hold K-State to that bad of an offensive performance would have taken a superhuman effort.
Still, it's encouraging to know that a Top 5 defense probably would have kept us in such a game. Defense wins championships, and ours was stout. (Reminds me of Oklahoma's game against them in 2000. Weinke really sucks in big-time Orange Bowl games. How did he win the Heisman, again?)
I suspected from the start that Ohio State would end up being our opponent, given the way they were just destroying people. (The 30-3 shellacking of Virginia was especially impressive. Aaron Brooks and Thomas Jones were no pushovers.) Let's just hope Michael Bishop isn't falsely accused of rape... Luckily, John Cooper is not Jim Tressel. I like our chances tomorrow.
I should clarify that in this bowl selection process, conference tie-ins still play a factor. The Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and Pac-10 have the most tie-ins with the seven bowls I selected, which works out pretty nicely since the ACC and the Big East rarely send more than two teams in any of the fields I have seeded.
So when I said the Cotton Bowl was leveraging to get K-State and Texas A&M, it wasn't just because they were "local" (although any Texas team would be a financial windfall for them, obviously). It was because they were contractually obligated to try and get at least one Big 12 team and one SEC team, and the choice was between two Big 12 teams and two SEC teams, so I theorized that the bowl's location in the city where the Big 12 headquarters is located would make selecting the Big 12 teams the priority.
Likewise, the Citrus tie-ins are SEC and Big Ten, and only SEC teams were left on the table. The Holiday will pretty much get screwed every year, I guess - they were lucky to even get Arizona. Oh, well - that's what happens when you're low man on the totem pole. They would probably be happy just to be in the BCS, I think.
Which brings us to today. In 1998, the BCS priority order was Fiesta, Orange, Sugar, Rose. So the Orange Bowl's choices were the Tennessee-Florida-Virginia-Ohio State bracket and the K-State-A&M-Arizona-FSU bracket. The Orange's ties are ACC and Big East (unofficially), but it has traditionally also hosted a lot of Big 12 teams. I have them hedging their bets for a Florida State vs. K-State/A&M match-up, and Arizona obliged them by losing in San Diego. That left the Sugar Bowl with a guarantee of either Florida or Tennessee, which was fine with that entity since its only official tie is to the SEC.
Game 1: No. 2 Florida State Seminoles (13-1) VS. No. 3 Kansas State Wildcats (13-1)
FedEx Orange Bowl
Pro Player Stadium - Miami Gardens, Fla.
Saturday, Dec. 26, 1998 - 4:30 PM EST
Wind: E 20 MPH
Final Score: Kansas State 6, Florida State 0
Player of the Game
Florida State DT Todd Frier
MIAMI (AP) - Through two playoff games, Kansas State had scored 71 points, second only in the field to Ohio State's 74. Meanwhile, Florida State won two games and scored less then 20 in both. Something had to give.
Well, the Seminoles (13-2) got the stats, but the Wildcats (14-1) got the win. As it turns out, K-State has a pretty salty defense too, blanking Florida State in their home state for a 6-0 win and a berth in the inaugural FBS National Championship Game.
In a match of two of the Top 5 defenses in the nation, and the two top kickers as well, it should come as no surprise that the two teams combined for 15 first downs and each had less than 250 total yards, with the only points coming from field goals.
What was surprising was that 1997 Groza winner Martin Gramatica only made two of his four attempts (he has now missed four in the postseason, more than he missed all season to this point), and that 1998 Groza winner Sebastian Janikowski didn't even attempt a kick in the game.
Gramatica's first kick, a 26-yarder, came just four seconds into the first half. His second connection came with slightly less than six minutes left in the game, and despite missing from 42 yards out earlier, he booted this 50-yarder just inside the upright. (He would later see a 31-yard kick bounce off the same upright.) Even then, K-State's 6-0 lead could have been surmounted by just one Florida State TD drive, but the Seminoles never found an answer for the swarming, athletic K-State defense.
Chris Weinke was held to 9-20 passing for only 99 yards, and was intercepted by Jeff Kelly on one of the few drives in which the Seminoles threatened to score. Weinke had driven his team to the Kansas State 23 in the 3rd quarter, and looked to at least get a field goal out of the equation, but he didn't see Kelly drop back into a zone. The senior linebacker coolly snatched the pass out of the air, and FSU would not threaten the red zone again the rest of the game.
It wasn't all bad for Florida State, however. Their tough defensive front harried the electric Michael Bishop all day, limiting him to 9 completions on 16 attempts for a paltry 87 yards. He was sacked once by Dexter Jackson and twice by Player of the Game Todd Frier, for a total loss of 19 yards.
Additionally, K-State RB Eric Hickson came into the game on fire, averaging more than 150 YPG in playoff action. The Seminoles swarmed him on every attempt, restricting him to 41 yards on 17 carries. All told, K-State rushed for just 80 yards in the game, and averaged just 1.6 YPC on the ground, both season lows.
But as they say, stats are for losers. As good as the Seminole front was, K-State's Mob defense matched them pound-for-pound. A key Jarrod Cooper sack of Weinke stands out in particular as a play that may have saved the shutout. Florida State's 148 rushing yards (2.8 YPC) wasn't much better than the Wildcats' production, either.
When it came right down to it, this was a heavyweight fight that lasted nine rounds, but K-State had just enough left at the end to pull it out. And despite his misses, Gramatica proved that he can come through in the clutch, and perhaps deserved to repeat as a Lou Groza winner.
With the No. 1 and 2 seeds now eliminated, Kansas State and coach Bill Snyder (who today defeated Bobby Bowden, one of the few coaches in the country with a better winning percentage than his) head to Tempe as the nominal favorites. How they will handle this pressure (and the identity of their opponent) remains to be seen.
One thing is certain, though: 10 years ago this was one of the worst football programs in the country. Now, in the first year of a college football playoff, they will be playing for all the marbles. Has there been a better Cinderella story in collegiate sports?
Game 2: No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1) VS. No. 8 Florida Gators (11-2)
Nokia Sugar Bowl
Louisiana Superdome - New Orleans, La.
Saturday, Dec. 26, 1998 - 8 PM EST
Precipitation: None (dome)
Temperature: 75 (dome)
Wind: None (dome)
Final Score: Ohio State 21, Florida 10
Player of the Game
Ohio State RB Michael Wiley
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Earlier today, the Kansas State Wildcats filled in half of the Fiesta Bowl ledger with their 6-0 defeat of Florida State.
They will get to take on the only team that has scored more points per game than them in this playoff.
The Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1) beat the Florida Gators (11-3) Saturday 21-10 in the Sugar Bowl, but early on, it looked as if Florida was in control.
The Gators scored first on a 31-yard Jeff Chandler FG 10 minutes into the game. The Buckeyes responded with K Dan Stultz's 35-yarder early in the 2nd quarter to make it 3-3, but the tie was soon erased when RB Terry Jackson finished a 13-play, 70-yard drive with his 4-yard TD run to give Florida a 10-3 halftime lead.
Ohio State took over the game in the second half, however. The Buckeyes put together drives of 59 and 54 yards in the 3rd quarter, resulting in short-yardage TDs by Michael Wiley and Joe Montgomery. Their only blemish was Stultz's two misses on PAT attempts, turning what should have been a 17-10 or 16-10 lead into a narrower 15-10 one.
However, Stultz redeemed himself with 28-yard and 26-yard FGs in the 4th quarter to put the game away, and as it turned out, the Ohio State defense ensured that Florida would not make Stultz pay for his miscues, holding the Gators scoreless in the 2nd half.
After their late-game heroics last week against Tennessee, Steve Spurrier's bunch appeared to be running on fumes by the time this game ended. Their normally productive passing game only netted 204 yards, and their rushing attack was worse, averaging just 2.2 YPC for 81 total yards on 37 attempts.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes flourished with near-perfect offensive balance: 176 rushing yards and 191 passing yards. They also sacked Florida QB Doug Johnson four times for a net 28-yard loss, three by DE Tim Cheatwood. Central McClellion and Percy King each had an INT, as well.
Jackson was solid (18 carries, 100 yards), but his fumble after a catch hurt his team badly. Wiley was better, rushing 23 times for 136 yards and a TD en route to Player of the Game honors. Buckeye WR David Boston had his second straight eye-opening game, with seven catches for 100 yards, three going for more than 20 yards each.
At the center of this balanced attack was QB Joe Germaine, who had one of his best days, completing 22-35 passes with 1 INT. His Florida counterpart, Johnson, struggled, going 24-39 and spreading the ball to eight different receivers, but throwing 2 INTs to just 1 TD.
So, the field is set. This will be the first meeting of John Cooper and Bill Snyder. Coming into December, Florida State, Tennessee, and UCLA were receiving most of the accolades, but all are gone now, ejected by lower seeds. In their place are two solid teams, neither with much star power, yet the results speak for themselves. It should be one great game under the desert lights in Arizona next week.
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
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
#3 Kansas State vs. #4 Ohio State
Sun Devil Stadium