As God as my witness, I simulated the Cotton Bowl one time. That is the first result that came up. Sweet, sweet justice. Revenge is a dish best served cold ... and heartlessly.
The Florida win is not all that surprising either, really. That was a good Florida team: Stoops' last year as DC, only losses came to #1 Tennessee in OT on the road and to #2 Florida State. It's tough to beat a team twice, especially with so much on the line. Plus, Spurrier always owned Fulmer when it counted anyway. Still, I just started this and already we have a different national champion coming, so that's interesting. I think we always suspected Tennessee wasn't the best team in the country that year - just the luckiest.
Here's how I theorized the bowl selection process. First, I needed seven neutral sites for the last three rounds. Realistically, we are never going to be entirely free of the bowl system, so I chose to incorporate it by using the four existing BCS bowls and three additional prestigious bowl games. The other bowls are allowed to continue to exist, selecting from a pool of candidates consisting of all non-playoff teams and all 1st round losers. (Wetzel's idea, not mine.)
Why Citrus, Cotton, and Holiday? Well, the Citrus (now called Capital One) actually bid a few years back to join the rotation of BCS games, but was rejected because the Citrus Bowl stadium was in need of serious renovation. The Cotton was nearly included in the original slate of BCS games, but the death of the Southwest Conference caused it to lose some prestige, and again, the aging nature of the stadium meant it was left out in favor of the newer Fiesta Bowl. As for the Holiday, it's one of the older and consistently most exciting bowl games, in a great location - seemed like a good fit.
The deciding factor, though, was that all seven of these games have hosted at least one national champion in their history*. It only seemed right that they should be involved in the process of determining champions in this system.
Still, the Cotton, Citrus, and Holiday are considered "Tier 2" games, so they will always host 2nd round games. The four BCS games rotate through in this order: 2nd round, Final 4, Final 4, National Championship, back to 2nd round, etc.
So, in 1998 the Fiesta Bowl kicked off the process by hosting the National Championship. The Rose Bowl, which would have hosted the title game the year before had it existed, thus picks first among 2nd round games, while the Orange and Sugar Bowls get Final 4 games in 1998.
So, as I wrote in the Ohio State-Virginia recap, the Rose Bowl chose that bracket quadrant expecting an Ohio State-UCLA match-up. It stands to reason that they would have to do this before the two teams are known for sure, in order to allow more than a week for ticket sales and marketing, since these are only 2nd round games. And, it is in these bowls' best interest to pick at least one "local" team to ensure maximized ticket sales.
I had the Cotton pick next, since it's the only Tier 2 bowl to have hosted multiple national champions. Obviously, it selected the regional with two "local" high seeds, Kansas State and Texas A&M.
Then I went to the Citrus, since it's the only other New Year's Day bowl, and Florida and Tennessee were both still on the table, so that was a no-brainer. That left the Holiday with Arizona (not too far away) and Florida State (nice national draw), so everyone ended up pretty happy, I'd say.
*Rose = multiple national champions, Sugar = multiple, Orange = multiple, Cotton = multiple, Holiday = BYU (1984), Fiesta = multiple, Citrus = Georgia Tech (1991). See this link for more information.
Game 1: No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers (13-0) VS. No. 8 Florida Gators (10-2)
CompUSA Florida Citrus Bowl
Florida Citrus Bowl - Orlando, Fla.
Saturday, Dec. 19, 1998 - 11 AM EST
Wind: SE 12 MPH
Final Score: Florida 27, Tennessee 17
Player of the Game
Florida RB Terry Jackson
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - December Madness is in full swing, and the only question is why college football didn't move to this system years ago.
The Florida Gators (11-2) avenged their Sept. 19 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers (13-1) on the biggest stage possible, winning the Citrus Bowl 27-17 with a dramatic 4th quarter come-from-behind effort.
Florida was the No. 2 team in the country (and picked to win the SEC East Division in the preseason) when they visited Neyland Stadium in September. They were riding a five-game winning streak over the hated Vols, but Al Wilson forced three fumbles and helped Tennessee put the game in overtime despite a poor offensive showing. In the extra period, Tennessee K Jeff Hall made his field goal, and Florida K Collins Cooper did not. (He has since been replaced by Jeff Chandler.)
"The Tennessee loss stuck with us all season," said Florida DE Jevon Kearse, who had one sack in today's game. "Watching those goalposts come down, watching them roll through the season undefeated when we had them on the ropes in their house... Well, we weren't going to waste a second chance against those guys."
Early on, it looked as if Florida might waste that chance, though. After they took an early lead in the 2nd quarter on a 47-yard Chandler FG, the momentum shifted to Tennessee with a 10-play, 76-yard drive capped by a 1-yard Travis Henry TD run. Chandler kicked another FG to make it a 7-6 Tennessee lead at halftime.
Hall's 40-yarder was the only score of the 3rd quarter, but the Vols opened the 4th quarter with another long drive and 1-yard Henry TD. Florida trailed 6-17 and things looked grim. What happened next will live forever in Florida legend and Tennessee infamy.
Florida QB Doug Johnson and RB Terry Jackson drove Florida down the field 72 yards in 8 plays, capped by a 13-yard TD pass from Johnson to Alex Willis. The drive lasted just 3:15. After a failed 2-point conversion, the score read 17-12 Tennessee.
Tennessee's subsequent drive burned about 2:30 off the clock. After returning the punt to their 30, Florida faced a 3rd and 2 situation. Coach Steve Spurrier called a halfback draw. Jackson burst through an open seam and got the first down, and a whole lot more. His 62-yard TD sent the blue half of the stadium into jubilation; their frenzy only increased after Johnson's 2-point pass to Travis Taylor made it a 20-17 Florida lead with 3:42 remaining.
Tennessee was trailing in the 2nd half for the first time since Arkansas led them 21-10 in November. They did not respond well, as a 38-yard kickoff return put them in decent position, but Florida defensive coordinator Bob Stoops' aggressive blitzing forced Tennessee QB Tee Martin into several overthrows, resulted in a 4-and-out for the Vols.
Florida took over at the Tennessee 37, looking to put the game away. Two more completions to Willis, of 17 and 14 yards respectively, moved them to the Tennessee 5. On 3rd and goal, Johnson pitched right to Jackson, who tumbled in for his second TD in as many drives. With 1:23 left, the score read Florida 27-17 and Tennessee's national championship hopes were on life support.
Stoops confounded Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe for the second straight 4-and-out, and all that remained was for backup QB Jesse Palmer to take three kneel-downs and run out as much of the clock as possible. Martin had one last shot to at least close the margin, but his desperation heave was broken up and the Gators celebrated their wild 4th quarter comeback. They closed the game with 21 unanswered points in the final 7:42.
Tennessee lost despite 273 rushing yards, including 123 from Jamal Lewis and 92 from Henry, which was more than their total offensive output in regulation against Florida in their earlier September victory. However, Martin's awful 5-13 day for 91 yards and one INT wasn't nearly enough to counter Johnson's prolific output (25-37, 268 yards, 1 TD).
Jackson finished with 17 rushes for 109 yards and two TDs, en route to Player of the Game honors.
Florida will advance to the Final Four, where they await the Rose Bowl Champion (Ohio State plays Virginia later tonight). Tennessee will return home, the last remaining unbeaten team in the country falling to their hated rivals and left to reflect on a perfect season with a perfectly awful ending. Spurrier once said, "You can't spell Citrus without 'UT,'" but his noted disdain for the bowl's former status most likely dissipated after today's historic and memorable victory.
Game 2: No. 3 Kansas State Wildcats (12-1) VS. No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies (12-2)
Southwestern Bell Cotton Bowl Classic
Cotton Bowl - Dallas, Texas
Saturday, Dec. 19, 1998 - 12 PM CST
Wind: NW 9 MPH
Final Score: Kansas State 41, Texas A&M 3
Player of the Game
Kansas State RB Eric Hickson
DALLAS (AP) - The Cotton Bowl has hosted some bitterly contested games between Oklahoma and Texas, the crowd evenly split into burnt orange and crimson sections.
What transpired in Saturday's 2nd round playoff game, with its maroon and purple halves, may have been even more vicious.
Kansas State's perfect season and Big 12 Championship hopes ended Dec. 5 at the hands of Texas A&M. Two weeks later, this time with a national championship on the line, the Wildcats (13-1) took out their frustrations on those same Aggies (12-3), demolishing them 41-3.
Kansas State's "Lynch Mob" defense held the Texas A&M offense to a season-low 153 total yards, as Michael Bishop and Eric Hickson lit up the scoreboard. When the Aggies finally scored their first points of the game (a Russell Bynum 50-yard FG early in the 4th quarter), K-State seemed to take it personally, scoring 17 points in the final 9:47 to deliver an emphatic statement.
Eric Hickson was a terror, rushing for more than 150 yards for the second consecutive game, racking up 163 of K-State's 241 rushing yards on 22 carries, scrambling 52 yards for a TD to make the score 17-0 midway through the 2nd quarter, adding another 7-yard TD to make it 31-3 midway through the 4th quarter, and earning Player of the Game honors.
His A&M counterpart, Dante Hall, was coming off a 189-yard performance last week against Tulane, but K-State defensive coordinator Brent Venables' disruptive schemes held him to 24 rushing attempts for only 64 yards. Sirr Parker, who scored the game-winning run in OT two weeks ago, produced only 18 yards on 7 attempts. Overall, the Aggies rushed for just 1.9 YPC, while K-State RBs Hickson, Marlon Charles, and Frank Murphy gashed the Wrecking Crew for 4.2 YPC.
Heisman runner-up Michael Bishop had one of his most productive and efficient days of the season, passing for 159 yards on 14-18 attempts, throwing three TD passes, and rushing for an additional 35 yards on 20 carries. Aggie quarterback Randy McCown was as awful as Bishop was brilliant, completing only 5-14 passes for 46 yards and getting sacked by linebacker Mark Simoneau for an 8-yard loss.
After missing two FGs last week against Air Force, Lou Groza runner-up Martin Gramatica was perfect from 48 and 21 yards out to book-end the game's scoring.
Bishop was poised and accurate all night, slinging TD passes to Aaron Lockett (27 yards to make it 10-0), Gavin Peries (28 yards to make it 24-0), and Justin Swift (7 yards to make it 38-3, and his second straight week with a TD catch in the playoff).
K-State will play Florida State, a team that beat Texas A&M to open the season, in its first-ever Orange Bowl next Saturday, and the winner will advance to the Fiesta Bowl to play for the national championship.
Aggie fans, who packed one half of the Cotton Bowl only to see their team get crushed, will at least have the consolation of being Big 12 Champions. Still, the close margin of that game combined with the decisive nature of this one will most likely leave them doubting that they were ever the best team in the Big 12 this season.
Game 3: No. 2 Florida State Seminoles (12-1) VS. No. 7 Arizona Wildcats (12-1)
Culligan Holiday Bowl
Qualcomm Stadium - San Diego, Calif.
Saturday, Dec. 19, 1998 - 1:30 PM PST
Wind: SSE 6 MPH
Final Score: Florida State 13, Arizona 6
Player of the Game
Florida State RB Travis Minor
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Following the dramatic upset of No. 1 seed Tennessee earlier Saturday, Florida State became the favorite in the 1998 FBS Playoff, but first they had to avoid their own upset.
The Seminoles (13-1) survived a defensive battle with the Arizona Wildcats (12-2) to win the Holiday Bowl and advance to the Final Four, despite Arizona bringing slightly more fans to a stadium on the opposite side of the country from Florida.
After holding the Wildcats 3-and-out to start the game, Florida State struck first when Peter Warrick returned the punt 70 yards for the game's first (and only, as it turned out) TD.
The rest of the game was a field position battle. Two minutes later, Arizona got close enough for K Mark McDonald to make a 23-yard FG and cut the lead to 7-3. However, Lou Groza winner Sebastian Janikowski responded with two FGs in the 2nd quarter, including a 40-yarder to end the half, to stretch the Florida State lead to 13-3.
Florida State's defense held on in the 2nd half, only allowing a 47-yard McDonald FG in the 4th quarter. That was good news for the Seminoles' offense, which was out-rushed 174-116 and, despite 179 yards passing to Arizona's measly 96, was unable to accomplish anything in the red zone all day.
Doak Walker runner-up Trung Canidate out-shined his Florida State counterpart, Travis Minor (27 carries, 69 yards), with 16 attempts for 121 yards and two runs in excess of 20 yards (one went for 61). Minor's back-up, Jeff Chaney, was actually more productive, producing 67 yards on nine fewer carries, making the Holiday Bowl's selection of Minor as Player of the Game a curious choice.
Chris Weinke (13-18) was no more accurate than Arizona's Keith Smith (7-12), and both quarterbacks threw one INT and no TDs and were sacked four times apiece. The stars of this game were on the defensive side of the ball, starting with the players that produced the interceptions: Arizona's Chris McAlister and FSU's Derrick Gibson.
Florida State will face the winner of tonight's rematch between Kansas State and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, while Arizona will reflect on a 12-2 season in which their only losses came to Top 10 teams UCLA and Florida State - the best season in Arizona football history.
Game 4: No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) VS. No. 12 Virginia Cavaliers (10-2)
The Rose Bowl Game presented by AT&T
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, Calif.
Saturday, Dec. 19, 1998 - 5 PM PST
Wind: E 2 MPH
Final Score: Ohio State 30, Virginia 3
Player of the Game
Ohio State WR David Boston
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - The Rose Bowl took one look at the playoff bracket and chose to host this regional, no doubt expecting a traditional match-up of Big Ten Co-Champion Ohio State and Pac-10 Champion (and host) UCLA.
Virginia threw a monkey wrench into those plans with its surprising upset of the Bruins last week. The Rose Bowl was left with two teams from the eastern United States, but managed to record a near sellout anyway.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes (12-1) made sure there would be no repeat performance by the Cavaliers (10-3) in this stadium, posting a solid 30-3 victory over the underdogs.
David Boston scored first for Ohio State, catching a 25-yard TD pass from QB Joe Germaine just over four minutes into the game. Michael Wiley ran in from 11 yards out six minutes before halftime to increase the Buckeye lead to 14-0. Then Dan Stultz kicked three consecutive FGs in the 3rd quarter to make it 23-0.
By the time Virginia finally got on the board (a 28-yard Todd Braverman FG with 11:57 remaining), it was all but over. Joe Montgomery's 2-yard run at the 2:22 mark was the exclamation point, for the final score of 30-3.
The star of the game was the Buckeye defense, which held Thomas Jones and the Virginia rush offense to an astonishingly low 16 yards on 37 attempts. Aaron Brooks was inconsistent all night, compounding the Wahoos' offensive woes with his 9-22 performance for 169 yards and 1 INT.
Germaine, however, was stellar, completing 17-29 passes for 256 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. Boston caught seven of those passes for 129 yards, and was named Player of the Game for his efforts.
The Buckeyes advance to the Final Four to meet Florida in the Sugar Bowl, while Virginia's season is over. Still, the Cavaliers made a little history along the way, becoming the first team in FBS Playoff history to upset a higher-ranked seed in their home stadium. The Rose Bowl will always hold strong memories for them, both good and bad.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
FedEx Orange Bowl
#2 Florida State vs. #3 Kansas State
Pro Player Stadium
Miami Gardens, Fla.
Nokia Sugar Bowl
#4 Ohio State vs. #8 Florida
New Orleans, La.