OK, the throwback helmets are a bit of a stretch, but I thought it was a clever solution to an otherwise intractable problem. When I seeded the field, I matched eight teams with reversible helmets against eight teams with non-reversible helmets and thought I would be fine. What I didn't foresee was that all the Elite Eight teams on the north side of the bracket would be non-reversible and all the Elite Eight teams on the south side of the bracket would be reversible. D'oh.
So it was either manipulate the images, which is time-consuming and frankly a violation of the terms of fair use I operate under, or concoct this explanation. I went with Option 2, of course. There is some precedent for this, however. Oklahoma actually wore those throwback helmets against North Texas in 2003. I figured it made more sense for them to do so on an actual anniversary.
As for Virginia Tech, they wore throwbacks against Furman this year. They actually had a white helmet with a maroon and orange outline of the state of Virginia with the word "Tech" on top of it in black, but that was obviously still non-reversible, so I used the version that came after it. Again, fudging with facts a little, but still enough truth there to be believable.
As to whether teams would actually break out alternates in a postseason playoff game, the idea is that they had them in their regular rotation throughout the season for a game or two, kind of like K-State's lavender basketball jerseys. Hey, if you plan on playing 2-3 bowl games anyway, why not have fun in one of them?
This would have been a crazy day in playoff history. K-State finally goes down and Sooner Magic implodes at the hands of Frank Solich, who went from 0-2 in playoff games to 2-2 in the span of eight days. Stoops will certainly be back before long, but we K-State fans will have to wait until a week from next Monday to see our team in action again. Hopefully everyone is enough of a college football fan in general to keep reading these in the meantime, however. Also, I have something extra planned to sort of bridge the gap next week.
Virginia Tech's and Florida State's quests for redemption stayed on track. Miami is two games into what should be a pretty dominant playoff streak - frankly, the Hurricanes might break K-State's record of nine straight before it's all said and done.
The Big East (.750) jumped the Big 12 (.722) in winning percentage today, as a result. I don't think that will last long, but this was the Big East's glory period. Miami and Virginia Tech were probably two of the four best teams in the country for a while, and West Virginia was moving upward quickly. Also, three future ACC teams are in the Final Four. Crazy.
Game 1: No. 3 Miami Hurricanes (11-1) VS. No. 11 Louisville Cardinals (10-2)
Ourhouse.com Florida Citrus Bowl
Florida Citrus Bowl - Orlando, Fla.
Saturday, Dec. 23, 2000 - 11 AM EST
Wind: W 22 MPH
Final Score: Miami 14, Louisville 9
Player of the Game
Miami RB James Jackson
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Miami fans had cause for complaint. Despite beating Florida State 27-24 on Oct. 7, the Hurricanes watched on Selection Sunday as the BCS rankings were unveiled and they learned it was the Seminoles who claimed the coveted No. 2 seed, instead of the only team to beat them.
Well, now they'll get a chance to prove once and for all who is the better team, as Florida State awaits them in a Rose Bowl tussle that will decide who gets to play for a national championship. The Rose Bowl berth was earned after Miami (12-1) came from behind in the 4th quarter to defeat Louisville (10-3) in the Ourhouse.com Florida Citrus Bowl Saturday, 14-9.
Louisville K Nate Smith's (3-4 FG) kicks of 34, 33, and 29 yards had given the Cardinals a 9-0 lead with 8:46 left in the 4th quarter. The Hurricane defense was yielding yards (but not TDs) in droves to the Louisville trio of QB Dave Ragone (22-41, 249 yards, 2 INTs), RB Tony Stallings (26 carries, 62 yards), and WR Deion Branch (8 catches, 78 yards). Miami QB Ken Dorsey had been sacked five times already. Yet Miami coach Butch Davis said after the game that he never doubted his team would respond with a comeback victory.
With 4:40 left in the game, Dorsey unloaded a 30-yard TD pass to Ivan Mercer (his only catch of the game) to draw to within 7-9. One defensive stand later, a good punt return set Miami up at the Louisville 39-yard line, and after a 5-yard loss, Player of the Game James Jackson (22 carries, 114 yards) scored the game-winning TD run from 44 yards out with 1:34 left.
It's a good thing for Miami that the game didn't come down to a kick. Hurricane K Todd Sievers was atrocious, missing all five FG attempts from 48, 47, 43, 37, and 50 yards.
He'll have to better next week in order to up-end the Seminoles, who today knocked off the defending champs, became the first team ever to make three consecutive Final Four appearances, and found they still have history on their side - through three playoffs, no team has yet won a rematch with a team they beat previously in the regular season, after Oklahoma lost to Nebraska today to keep that pattern intact.
Game 2: No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (13-0) VS. No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2)
SBC Communications Cotton Bowl Classic
Cotton Bowl - Dallas, Texas
Saturday, Dec. 23, 2000 - 12 PM CST
Wind: W 8 MPH
Final Score: Nebraska 17, Oklahoma 13
Player of the Game
Nebraska RB Dan Alexander
DALLAS (AP) - Two years ago, Tennessee was the only major conference team to make it through its regular season and its conference championship game unscathed. None of that mattered to the Florida Gators, who avenged an earlier loss to the Volunteers by ejecting them from the 1998 FBS Playoff in an 8-over-1 upset.
Apparently Oklahoma failed to learn from history, and thus the Sooners were doomed to repeat it, despite the fact that they were honoring a different sort of history on Saturday.
Like Tennessee, Oklahoma ran the table, winning 13 games in a row, and like Florida, Nebraska (11-2) avenged their 14-31 loss to the Sooners (13-1) on Oct. 28 in Norman with another 8-over-1 special, upsetting the No. 1 seed and playoff favorite 17-13 in the Cotton Bowl to advance to the Final Four.
Maybe the Sooners disrupted their momentum with a uniform change - they played the game in special throwback jerseys and helmets to honor the 50th anniversary of the 1950 national championship team coached by Bud Wilkinson, Oklahoma's first. They were hoping to duplicate that feat, but although they may have looked like that storied team, they didn't play like it.
The strange thing is that Oklahoma led 6-0 at halftime, thanks to two 2nd quarter FGs by K Tim Duncan (2-4 FG) of 26 and 38 yards. The 2nd half belonged to the Cornhuskers, however, as their triple option attack (which outpaced the Sooners 254-112 on the ground) sprang to life and controlled time of possession, thanks largely to RB Dan Alexander (19 carries, 105 yards, 1 TD), who was named Player of the Game.
Nebraska's rushing offense was so good that QB Eric Crouch only attempted seven passes in the entire game, completing one to WR Matt Davison and two to TE Tracey Wistrom. Oklahoma QB Josh Heupel's stat line could not have been more dissimilar - he was 30-57 for 285 yards and 1 INT. WR Josh Norman (6 catches, 68 yards) was his favorite target, but WR Curtis Fagan was also effective with four catches for 64 yards.
Alexander seized the lead for the Huskers with 6:13 left in the 3rd quarter, as he rumbled 47 yards for a TD to make it 7-6 Nebraska. K Josh Brown (1-4 FG) made his only successful kick from 26 yards out four minutes later to make it 10-6 Nebraska.
Oklahoma soon answered in the early 4th quarter with a 12-play, 71-yard drive, and RB Quentin Griffin (21 carries, 59 yards) plunged in for a 1-yard TD to put the Sooners back on top, 13-10, but Nebraska immediately answered with its own 7-play, 78-yard drive and Crouch ran a TD in from 15 yards out to put the Huskers in the lead for good.
Nebraska's defense forced 4th-down stops three times down the stretch to protect the lead, and Oklahoma suffered its first loss of the season, the surprising impact of its finality weighing down on a team that seemed to be fueled by equal parts skill and good fortune all season. Meanwhile, Nebraska coach Frank Solich has earned back some good will in Lincoln, as he now has a 2-game winning streak in postseason play after losing in the 1st round the last two seasons.
Now Nebraska will attempt to add a third win to that streak, as they advance to the Fiesta Bowl to play either TCU or Virginia Tech, while Oklahoma, the surprise team of this season, can only return to Norman and prepare to try and win another Big 12 Championship next season.
Game 3: No. 5 Virginia Tech Hokies (11-1) VS. No. 13 TCU Horned Frogs (11-1)
Culligan Holiday Bowl
Qualcomm Stadium - San Diego, Calif.
Saturday, Dec. 23, 2000 - 1:30 PM PST
Wind: NW 14 MPH
Final Score: Virginia Tech 29, TCU 17
Player of the Game
Virginia Tech RB Lee Suggs
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Maybe Virginia Tech should play on the West Coast more. Not even today's "throwback curse" could slow them down.
The Hokies (12-1) won their second consecutive Holiday Bowl Saturday night, defeating TCU (11-2) 29-17 in a game that pitted two of college football's best rushers, Virginia Tech QB Michael Vick and TCU RB LaDainian Tomlinson, against each other.
And they won while wearing throwback jerseys and helmets to honor the 25th anniversary of the 1975 team that went 8-3 and won eight of its last nine games. Oklahoma lost earlier today wearing throwbacks of their own, but the 2000 Hokies appear to be on the same kind of hot streak as the team they honored today, having won 13 of their last 14 games.
Tomlinson (45 carries, 167 yards, 2 TDs) won the rushing battle, but Vick (1-4 passing, 7 yards, 10 carries, -17 yards) somehow won the game. It was mostly thanks to Hokie RB Lee Suggs (25 carries, 307 yards, 2 TDs), who outperformed Tomlinson, carried the Hokies, and earned Player of the Game honors.
TCU QB Sean Stilley didn't help his star tailback much, going 6-25 for just 81 yards passing and throwing 3 INTs, two to Virginia Tech DB Eric Green. TCU did sack Vick five times, though.
Virginia Tech K Carter Warley made all three of his FG attempts, and TCU K Chris Kaylakie also made his only FG try (23 yards).
Virginia Tech scored first, on Suggs' 15-yard TD run in the 1st quarter, but Tomlinson answered four minutes later with his own 10-yard TD run.
Then Kaylakie and Warley traded FGs in the 2nd quarter, the latter going for 37 yards with 2:42 left in the half, and the two teams went to the locker rooms tied 10-10.
The Hokies took control of the game in the 3rd quarter, as little-used RB Jarrett Ferguson broke off a 20-yard TD run less than two minutes after halftime and Warley later added a 20-yard FG to put Virginia Tech up 20-10.
Tomlinson cut the deficit to 17-20 with his 7-yard TD run early in the 4th quarter, but Warley made it 23-17 with his 38-yarder two minutes later. Then the two teams traded defensive stands until Suggs broke loose for a 44-yard TD run with 2:58 left in the game. Ferguson's 2-point conversion attempt was stopped short of the goal line, but the Horned Frogs' hopes were dashed when Green made his second INT of the game to end TCU's last drive and protect the 29-17 lead.
Next week's Fiesta Bowl against Nebraska will be Virginia Tech's second straight Final Four appearance, and it gives the Big East Conference two of the Final Four teams. TCU, which reached the Elite Eight last year as well, will be watching at home for the second straight year.
Game 4: No. 2 Florida State Seminoles (12-1) VS. No. 10 Kansas State Wildcats (11-3)
Nokia Sugar Bowl
Louisiana Superdome - New Orleans, La.
Saturday, Dec. 23, 2000 - 8 PM EST
Precipitation: None (dome)
Temperature: 70 (dome)
Wind: None (dome)
Final Score: Florida State 17, Kansas State 12
Player of the Game
Florida State QB Chris Weinke
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - It finally happened. Kansas State lost a playoff game for the first time in FBS Playoff history.
Florida State (13-1), which lost to the Wildcats (11-4) in the 1998 Orange Bowl in a 6-0 defensive struggle, came out on top this time in the Sugar Bowl, 17-12. Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden is now 6-2 in playoff games, although he is only 1-1 against fellow legend Bill Snyder, who fell to 9-1 in the postseason, still the best record among active coaches by far.
The Seminole defense was simply too strong for K-State to overcome, limiting QB Jonathan Beasley to 9-20 passing and just 85 yards through the air, while holding the Wildcats to only 66 rushing yards. He was sacked by Tommy Polley twice and by three other Seminole defenders, as well.
Meanwhile, QB Chris Weinke, Heisman winner and Player of the Game, was 21-37 for 279 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT, while RB Travis Minor (26 carries, 83 yards) led a Seminole rushing attack that accumulated 131 total yards on the ground. Minor was also one of Florida State's best receivers, catching four passes for 51 yards, second only to WR Marvin Minnis' 5-catch, 89-yard output.
Weinke struck first, lobbing a 5-yard TD pass to TE Nick Franklin seven minutes into the game to take a 7-0 lead. K-State K Jamie Rheem answered with a 47-yard FG with 2:02 left in the 1st quarter.
Neither team scored again until the 4th quarter, which was a veritable flurry of action after the stagnant 30 minutes that preceded it. 30 seconds in, Florida State WR Ryan Sprague caught a 4-yard TD pass from Weinke to finally increase the lead to 14-3, and K Brett Cimorelli (1-3 FG) made his only successful kick from 40 yards out to stretch it to 17-3.
K-State valiantly tried to answer after safety Jon McGraw intercepted a Weinke pass, but could only muster a 49-yard Rheem FG. On the final drive of the game, Beasley did run in from 10 yards out to make it 17-12 Florida State, but the 2-point conversion failed and Florida State recovered the resulting onside kick to finish the game.
The Seminoles will advance to the Rose Bowl and and a rematch with Miami, who beat them earlier this season, hopeful that knocking off the two-time defending national champion is a favorable omen for them to take home their own Sears Trophy. Only two games stand between them and that goal.
K-State's accomplishments should not be minimized in the face of this defeat, however. What was once one of the worst programs in the country just completed what may be the greatest postseason stretch this playoff will ever see, winning nine games and two titles over a three-year period. And it probably won't be the last we hear of them, either.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
#5 Virginia Tech vs. #8 Nebraska
Sun Devil Stadium
The Rose Bowl Game presented by AT&T
#2 Florida State vs. #3 Miami