1994 NCAA Division I-A football season
|1994 NCAA Division I-A season|
|Number of teams||107|
|Preseason AP #1||Florida Gators|
|Heisman Trophy||Rashaan Salaam,
|Championship bowl game|
|1995 Orange Bowl|
|Site||Miami Orange Bowl,
|Division I-A football seasons|
The 1994 NCAA Division I-A football season was the main college football season sanctioned by the NCAA. The season began in August 1994 and ended on January 2, 1995. Nebraska, who finished the season undefeated, ended the year ranked #1 in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls. This was the first national championship of coach Tom Osborne's career at Nebraska, despite coming close in two prior attempts; in 1983, his team lost to Miami after Osborne, with his team trailing 31-30 late in the game, elected to try for the lead instead of the tie and failed. In the previous season, Osborne's team lost to eventual national champion Florida State on a missed field goal as time expired.
Although Osborne's team finished the season unbeaten, the national championship picture once again was shrouded in controversy. For much of the second half of the season, Nebraska and Penn State were regarded as the top two teams in the country. This raised the possibility of a split national championship for the third time since 1990, due in large part to the system in place that had been concocted to avoid a split title.
Following the 1991 season, where Miami and Washington split the national championship in the AP and Coaches' polls, the Bowl Coalition was founded. The Coalition consisted of six bowls, with the Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, and Sugar bowls were all considered potential hosts for a national championship game. Since three of these bowls already had specific tie-ins with conferences, an agreement was struck where the conferences would agree to release those teams from their contractual obligations in order to achieve a #1 vs #2 matchup. For the first two years of the Coalition, this did occur without incident as the Sugar and Orange Bowls in 1993 and 1994 featured #1 vs. #2 matchups in their respective games.
The problem with this as far as 1994 was concerned was that the Rose Bowl, which featured the Pac-10 and Big Ten champions playing each other, was not included in the Coalition and thus a team that finished #1 or #2 in the polls from those two conferences could not be considered by the Coalition to be its national champion. Nebraska, as a member of the Big Eight Conference, was part of the coalition while Penn State was not. As Nebraska went on to win the conference title, it earned an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl to face off against #3 Miami, who won the Big East title and was #2 in the Coalition pool. Thus Miami, who as recently as two years earlier was in the Coalition championship game, had a chance to stake a claim as the national champion with a win (as they would have been awarded the Coaches' Trophy) and all but ensure a split title with Penn State provided they defeated #13 Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
On January 1, 1995, Nebraska defeated Miami in the Orange Bowl 24-17 and clinched the championship. The next day Penn State defeated Oregon in the Rose Bowl by a count of 38-20 and secured the #2 spot in the polls.
In the offseason that followed, the Bowl Coalition was disbanded and in its place came the Bowl Alliance, which attempted to serve the same purpose by rotating a national championship game between the Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange Bowls. Like the Bowl Coalition before it, the Bowl Alliance did not include the Rose Bowl and two of the three national championship games did not feature a #1 vs. #2 matchup, with the 1997 season seeing another split national championship.
- Jay Barker, quarterback, Alabama
- Ki-Jana Carter, running back, Penn State
- Kerry Collins, quarterback, Penn State
- Steve McNair, quarterback, Alcorn State
- Rashaan Salaam, running back, Colorado
The Heisman voters awarded the trophy to Salaam, who also won the Walter Camp Award and the Doak Walker Award. Salaam received 400 first place votes and 1743 total points, 842 more than second-place Carter. McNair finished third, sixteen points ahead of Collins, and Barker finished a distant fifth.
Other players receiving votes were Miami defensive tackle Warren Sapp Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier, Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips and offensive tackle Zach Wiegert, and Washington running back Napoleon Kaufman.
Southwest Conference announces dissolving
In February 1994, before the season began, an announcement was made regarding the future of the Southwest Conference. In 1991, the SWC became an all-Texas conference as Arkansas left the SWC to join the Southeastern Conference. As 1994 began Texas was rumored to be considering joining the Pac-10 with Big Eight member Colorado (rumors that would resurface over a decade later, which eventually resulted in Colorado joining the Pac-10 with Utah to form the Pac-12), while Texas A&M was reported to be looking at joining the SEC (which they would eventually do in 2009). On February 25, 1994, it was announced that Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Baylor would be joining with all eight of the teams in the Big Eight to form the Big 12 Conference, in 1996. Following this decision, another decision was made regarding the future of remaining SWC members SMU, Houston, TCU, and Rice; SMU, TCU, and Rice would join the Western Athletic Conference while Houston joined Conference USA. (Of the schools that joined the Big 12, as noted, the only one that did not stay in the conference was Texas A&M. TCU, SMU, and Rice all eventually became part of Conference USA as well, with TCU being the first to join while the other three schools joined as part of the 2005 conference realignment. TCU left for the Mountain West Conference in 2005 and eventually joined their former SWC brethren in the Big 12, while SMU and Houston became part of the American Athletic Conference in 2013 with the former Big East football schools that were still in the conference. Rice still plays in C-USA.)
- The Miracle at Michigan: in a September 24 matchup between #4 Michigan and #7 Colorado, the visiting Buffaloes trailed the host Wolverines 26-14 with 2:16 remaining in the game. Colorado scored two touchdowns in the final minutes, the last being a 64-yard pass from Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook on the last play of the game.
- Choke at Doak: In the annual matchup between Florida and Florida State, the visiting Gators led the defending national champion Seminoles 31-3 entering the fourth quarter. Florida State rallied to score four touchdowns in the final period, but ran out of time to potentially score the winning points on their last possession and the game ended in a 31-31 tie.
- Penn State-Indiana: Despite beating #21 Ohio State 63-14 in Happy Valley on October 29th, Penn State surprisingly dropped to #2 in the subsequent AP poll after #3 Nebraska defeated #2 Colorado 24-7. The Nittany Lions remained #1 in the CNN/USA Today Coaches poll by a small margin. Penn State traveled to Indiana for their next game and took a comfortable 35-14 lead in the fourth quarter. Penn State coach Joe Paterno elected to pull his starters with the lead, which allowed Indiana to score two touchdowns late in the game including a deflected Hail Mary and two-point conversion with no time on the clock. Penn State won 35-29, but fell further behind Nebraska in the AP poll and dropped to #2 in the CNN/USA Today coaches poll as well. The Indiana game is often cited erroneously as the single point at which Nebraska passed Penn State, but the reality is that the Nittany Lions fell to #2 in the AP poll a week prior to that game. 
After being played for the first two years at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, the SEC Championship Game moved to its now-permanent home in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, the demolition and reconstruction of Gator Bowl Stadium that coincided with the Jacksonville Jaguars' entry into the NFL for 1995 forced the Gator Bowl to moved to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville for its 1994 playing. The game would return to Jacksonville in the newly built Jacksonville Municipal Stadium the following year. Also, John Hancock Insurance's deal for naming rights to the Sun Bowl expired and the game reverted to its former name.
Although Nebraska, Penn State and Alabama were still ranked in the Top 10, many of college football's legendary teams finished the regular season with their lowest rankings in years. Ohio State finished the season ranked #14 in the AP poll while Michigan was #20 and USC #21. Notre Dame, which started the season ranked fourth, finished the season unranked as did preseason #16 Oklahoma.
Due to several fighting incidents that occurred during the 1993 season (including one between the Miami Hurricanes and the Colorado Buffaloes that resulted in 12 ejections), the following changes were made:
- Players involved in fighting on the field will draw a 15-yard penalty and an automatic ejection. If the ejection occurs in the first half, the player(s) will be disqualified for the remainder of the game. If the ejection occurs in the second half (or in overtime as of the 1996 season), the player(s) will be disqualified for the remainder of that game plus the first half of his team's next regularly scheduled game.
- Players leaving the bench to participate in fights will be ejected for the remainder of the game plus his team's entire next regularly scheduled game.
- Repeat offenders will be ejected and suspended for the remainder of the season.
- The officials' jurisdiction over games will begin 60 minutes before kickoff. Any pre-game fights or taunting will be penalized the same as if the fight/taunting occurred during the game, with any yardage penalties enforced on the opening kickoff.
- The prohibition against "offset uprights" is deleted, reversing a 1985 rule. LSU was allowed by the NCAA to place goalposts with offset uprights in Tiger Stadium late in the 1993 season in conjunction with its football centennial, soon Florida State would follow suit and install similar "offset uprights" goal posts.
Bowl Coalition #1 and #2
The Bowl Coalition did not include the Big 10 and Pacific-10 conferences, whose champions played in the Rose Bowl. Penn State, which was ranked #1 in the Oct 18 and Oct 25 polls, and #2 for the remainder of the season, finished the regular season 11-0-0 and played in the Rose Bowl as the champion of the Big Ten.
|8-9||#2 Colorado||Big 8||#3 Nebraska||Big 8|
|10-11||Nebraska||Big 8||#3 Auburn||SEC|
|12||Nebraska||Big 8||#3 Florida||SEC|
|13-14||Nebraska||Big 8||#3 Alabama||SEC|
|15||Nebraska||Big 8||#3 Miami||Big East|
- Orange Bowl: #1 Nebraska 24, #3 Miami 17
- Rose Bowl: #2 Penn State 38, #12 Oregon 20
- Sugar Bowl: #7 Florida State 23, #5 Florida 17
- Cotton Bowl Classic: #21 USC 55, Texas Tech 14
- Fiesta Bowl: #4 Colorado 41, Notre Dame 24
- Peach Bowl: #23 NC State 28, #16 Mississippi State 24
- Florida Citrus Bowl: #6 Alabama 24, #13 Ohio State 17
- Hall of Fame Bowl: Wisconsin 34, #25 Duke 20
- Carquest Bowl: South Carolina 24, West Virginia 21
- Sun Bowl: Texas 35, #18 North Carolina 31
- Gator Bowl: Tennessee 45, #17 Virginia Tech 23
- Copper Bowl: #22 BYU 31, Oklahoma 6
- Alamo Bowl: #24 Washington State 10, Baylor 3
- Holiday Bowl: #20 Michigan 24, Colorado State 14
- Freedom Bowl: #14 Utah 16, #15 Arizona 13
- Liberty Bowl: Illinois 30, East Carolina 0
- Aloha Bowl: Boston College 12, #11 Kansas State 7
- Independence Bowl: #18 Virginia 20, TCU 10
- Las Vegas Bowl: UNLV 52, Central Michigan 24
Final AP Poll
- Penn St.
- Florida St.
- Miami (FL)
- Texas A&M
- Ohio St.
- Colorado St.
- N.C. State
- Kansas St.
- Washington State
- Boston College
- Mississippi State
Final Coaches Poll
- Penn St.
- Florida St.
- Miami (FL)
- Ohio St.
- Brigham Young
- Colorado St.
- Southern California
- Kansas St.
- North Carolina St.
- Washington St.
- North Carolina
- Boston College
- Virginia Tech
- Mississippi St.
Heisman Trophy voting
The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is given to the Most Outstanding Player of the year
- 2. Ki-Jana Carter, Penn St., Jr. RB (1080 votes)
- 3. Steve McNair, Alcorn St., Sr. QB (982 votes)
- 4. Kerry Collins, Penn St., Sr. QB (392 votes)
- 5. Jay Barker, Alabama, Sr. QB (294 votes)
Other major awards
- Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year) - Kerry Collins, Penn State
- Walter Camp Award (Back) - Rashaan Salaam, Colorado
- Davey O'Brien Award (Quarterback) - Kerry Collins, Penn State
- Doak Walker Award (Running Back) - Rashaan Salaam, Colorado
- Dick Butkus Award (Linebacker) - Dana Howard, Illinois
- Lombardi Award (Lineman or Linebacker) - Warren Sapp, Miami
- Outland Trophy (Interior Lineman) - Zach Wiegert, OT, Nebraska
- Jim Thorpe Award (Defensive Back) - Chris Hudson, Colorado
- AFCA Coach of the Year - Tom Osborne, Nebraska
- FWAA Coach of the Year - Joe Paterno, Penn State
- Paul "Bear" Bryant Award - Rich Brooks, Oregon