1996 NCAA Division I-A football season

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The 1996 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with the Florida Gators crowned National Champions, but not as unanimously as the Bowl Alliance would have hoped.

Florida defeated Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, which was the designated National Championship that year. Florida had faced Florida State earlier in the year, when they were ranked #1 and #2, and lost. Were it not for Texas beating Nebraska, then #3, in the first ever Big 12 Championship Game, Florida wouldn't have even been in the title game.

And even once they were there, it wasn't certain a victory would mean a national championship. The Rose Bowl game featured #2 Arizona State and #4 Ohio State. Florida St. and Arizona St. were the only unbeatens going into bowl season, so a Rose Bowl victory would give the Sun Devils a legitimate chance on winning the title. This scenario looked plausible as Arizona State's Jake Plummer scored with 1:40 left to play in the game, making the score 17-14. But Ohio State's backup quarterback Joe Germaine marched down the field to pull out a heart stopping 20-17 win.

On the one hand, this meant the national title game the following night would produce an incontrovertible champion. On the other hand, it left doubt to whether or not Ohio State deserved a stake in the national title, as evidenced by the team's 1½ first place votes in the final AP poll. The Pac-10 and Big Ten could no longer afford to hold onto tradition while the rest of the country wanted a clear national champion. Reading the writing on the wall, they would soon join the national championship series with the other major conferences.

The Big 12 (Big 8 + 4 SWC members in Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor) would begin play as a two division conference, with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State joining the South Division, breaking up the classic Nebraska–Oklahoma rivalry, but renewing the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry, known as the Red River Shootout. The first football game in conference play was between Texas Tech and Kansas State, Kansas State won by a score of 21–14.[3]

A new conference, Conference USA, formed from a combination of the Metro Conference and the Great Midwest Conference, neither of which had sponsored football. The conference champion has a tie in with the Liberty Bowl. The conference included SWC refugee Houston, as well as Louisville and Southern Miss, two solid independents.

The Western Athletic Conference gained three members from the defunct Southwest Conference in TCU, SMU, and Rice, as well as UNLV, San Jose State, and Tulsa. The now 15-team conference split into a Pacific and Mountain division and played a championship game. There was a large controversy when #5 BYU was robbed of a spot in a Bowl Alliance game, as they were snubbed in favor of lower ranked teams from Bowl Alliance conferences. This would spur Congress into action, and would eventually be a reason the BCS polls were created.

The Big West Conference lost several schools. Pacific stopped sponsoring football (as of 2013, they remain the last Division I-A school to do so). Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Northern Illinois, and Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette), all which collectively joined the Big West in 1993, left to become independents. UNLV and San Jose State left to join the Western Athletic Conference.

Although Pacific University dropped football this year, four new schools moved up to Division 1-A football: University of Alabama at Birmingham, Boise State University, University of Central Florida, and University of Idaho.

The 1996 season was also notable as it marked the end of ties in college football, as an overtime system was put into place across all of Division I-A. The 1995 season had overtime rules, but only for postseason games.

Rule Changes[edit]

  • The overtime system adopted in the 1995 season for bowl games was expanded for all Division I-A games.
  • On punts and field goal attempts, the defense cannot touch the center/long snapper for one second after the snap. Violators are penalized 15 yards and an automatic first down.
  • Officials were instructed to more strictly enforce intentional grounding rules.

Conference standings[edit]

1996 ACC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
#3 Florida State   8 0         11 1  
#10 North Carolina   6 2         10 2  
Clemson   6 2         7 5  
Virginia   5 3         7 5  
Georgia Tech   4 4         5 6  
Maryland   3 5         5 6  
NC State   3 5         3 8  
Wake Forest   1 7         3 8  
Duke   0 8         0 11  
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Big 12 football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
North
#6 Nebraska x   8 0         11 2  
#8 Colorado   7 1         11 2  
#17 Kansas State   6 2         9 3  
Missouri   3 5         5 6  
Kansas   2 6         4 7  
Iowa State   1 7         2 9  
South
#23 Texas x   6 2         8 5  
Texas Tech   5 3         6 5  
Texas A&M   4 4         6 6  
Oklahoma   3 5         3 8  
Oklahoma State   2 6         5 6  
Baylor   1 7         4 7  
Championship: Texas 37, Nebraska 27
*† – Bowl Alliance representative as champion
‡ – Bowl Alliance at-large representative
x – Division champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Big East football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
#13 Virginia Tech §   6 1         10 2  
#14 Miami (FL) §   6 1         9 3  
#21 Syracuse §   6 1         9 3  
West Virginia   4 3         8 4  
Pittsburgh   3 4         4 7  
Boston College   2 5         5 7  
Rutgers   1 6         2 9  
Temple   0 7         1 10  
§ – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Big Ten football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
#2/2 Ohio State §   7 1         11 1  
#15/16 Northwestern §   7 1         9 3  
#7/7 Penn State   6 2         11 2  
#18/18 Iowa   6 2         9 3  
#20/20 Michigan   5 3         8 4  
Michigan State   5 3         6 6  
Wisconsin   3 5         8 5  
Purdue   2 6         3 8  
Minnesota   1 7         4 7  
Indiana   1 7         3 8  
Illinois   1 7         2 9  
§ – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll / Coaches' Poll
1996 Big West Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Nevada §   4 1         9 3  
Utah State §   4 1         6 5  
Idaho   3 2         6 5  
North Texas   3 2         5 6  
Boise State   1 4         2 10  
New Mexico State   0 5         1 10  
§ – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Conference USA football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Southern Miss §   4 1         8 3  
Houston §   4 1         7 5  
Cincinnati   2 3         6 5  
Louisville   2 3         5 6  
Memphis   2 3         4 7  
Tulane   1 4         2 9  
§ – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Mid-American Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Ball State   7 1         8 4  
Toledo   6 2         7 4  
Miami   6 2         6 5  
Ohio   5 3         6 6  
Central Michigan   4 4         5 6  
Akron   3 5         4 7  
Bowling Green   3 5         4 7  
Eastern Michigan   3 5         3 8  
Western Michigan   2 6         2 9  
Kent State   1 7         2 9  
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Pacific-10 football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
#4 Arizona State   8 0         11 1  
#16 Washington   7 1         9 3  
Stanford   5 3         7 5  
UCLA   4 4         5 6  
Oregon   3 5         6 5  
California   3 5         6 6  
USC   3 5         6 6  
Arizona   3 5         5 6  
Washington State   3 5         5 6  
Oregon State   1 7         2 9  
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 SEC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Eastern Division
#1 Florida x   8 0         12 1  
#9 Tennessee   7 1         10 2  
South Carolina   4 4         6 5  
Kentucky   3 5         4 7  
Georgia   3 5         5 6  
Vanderbilt   0 8         2 9  
Western Division
#11 Alabama xy   6 2         10 3  
#12 LSU x   6 2         10 2  
#24 Auburn   4 4         8 4  
Mississippi State   3 5         5 6  
Ole Miss   2 6         5 6  
Arkansas   2 6         4 7  
Championship: Florida 45, Alabama 30
† – Conference champion
x – Division champion/co-champions
y – Championship game participant
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 WAC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Mountain
#5 BYU x   8 0         14 1  
Utah   6 2         8 4  
Rice   6 2         7 4  
SMU   4 4         5 6  
New Mexico   3 5         6 5  
TCU   3 5         4 7  
Tulsa   2 6         4 7  
UTEP   0 8         2 9  
Pacific
#22 Wyoming x   7 1         10 2  
San Diego State   6 2         8 3  
Colorado State   6 2         7 5  
Air Force   5 3         6 5  
Fresno State   3 5         4 7  
San Jose State   3 5         3 9  
Hawaii   1 7         2 10  
UNLV   1 8         1 11  
Championship: BYU 28, Wyoming 25 (OT)
† – Conference champion
x – Division champion/co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Division I-A independents football records
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
#25 Army           10 2  
Navy           9 3  
#19 Notre Dame           9 3  
East Carolina           8 3  
Louisiana Tech           6 5  
UAB           5 6  
UCF           5 6  
Southwestern Louisiana           5 6  
Northeast Louisiana           5 6  
Arkansas State           4 7  
Northern Illinois           1 10  
Rankings from AP Poll

Bowl Coalition First and Seconds[edit]

The Bowl Coalition did not include the Pacific-10 and Big 10 conferences, whose champions played in the Rose Bowl. Thus, Arizona State and Ohio State (who met in the Rose Bowl) were excluded from the Bowl Coalition championship.

WEEKS First Conf. Second Conf. Event Date
PRE-4 Nebraska Big 12 Tennessee SEC Arizona St. 19, Nebraska 0 September 21
5-6 Florida SEC Florida State ACC Ohio State 38, Penn State 7 October 5
7-14 Florida SEC #3 Florida State ACC Florida St. 24, Florida 21 November 30
15 Florida State ACC #3 Nebraska Big 12 Texas 37, Nebraska 27 December 7
16 Florida State ACC #3 Florida SEC Florida 52, Florida State 20 January 1

Bowl Games[edit]

Sugar Bowl #3 Florida 52 #1 Florida St. 20
Rose Bowl: #4 Ohio St. 20 #2 Arizona St. 17
Cotton Bowl Classic: #5 Brigham Young 19 #14 Kansas St. 15
Orange Bowl: #6 Nebraska 41 #10 Virginia Tech 21
Fiesta Bowl: #7 Penn State 38 #20 Texas 15
Holiday Bowl: #8 Colorado 33 #13 Washington 21
Florida Citrus Bowl: #9 Tennessee 48 #11 Northwestern 28
Gator Bowl: #12 North Carolina 20 #25 West Virginia 13
Outback Bowl: #16 Alabama 17 #15 Michigan 14
Peach Bowl #17 LSU 10 Clemson 7
Carquest Bowl #19 Miami (FL) 31 Virginia 21
Alamo Bowl: #21 Iowa 27 Texas Tech 0
Liberty Bowl #23 Syracuse 30 Houston 17
Sun Bowl: Stanford 38 Michigan State 0
Copper Bowl: Wisconsin 38 Utah 10
Aloha Bowl Navy 42, California 38
Independence Bowl Auburn 32 Army 29
Las Vegas Bowl Nevada 18 Ball State 15

Final AP Poll[edit]

  1. Florida
  2. Ohio St.
  3. Florida St.
  4. Arizona St.
  5. BYU
  6. Nebraska
  7. Penn St.
  8. Colorado
  9. Tennessee
  10. North Carolina
  11. Alabama
  12. LSU
  13. Virginia Tech
  14. Miami (FL)
  15. Northwestern
  16. Washington
  17. Kansas St.
  18. Iowa
  19. Notre Dame
  20. Michigan
  21. Syracuse
  22. Wyoming
  23. Texas
  24. Auburn
  25. Army

Others receiving votes: 26. West Virginia; 27. East Carolina; 28. Southern Mississippi; 29. Stanford; 30. Wisconsin; 31. San Diego St.; 32. Virginia; 33. Clemson

Final Coaches Poll[edit]

  1. Florida
  2. Ohio St.
  3. Florida St.
  4. Arizona St.
  5. Brigham Young
  6. Nebraska
  7. Penn St.
  8. Colorado
  9. Tennessee
  10. North Carolina
  11. Alabama
  12. Virginia Tech
  13. LSU
  14. Miami (FL)
  15. Washington
  16. Northwestern
  17. Kansas St.
  18. Iowa
  19. Syracuse
  20. Michigan
  21. Notre Dame
  22. Wyoming
  23. Texas
  24. Army
  25. Auburn

Heisman Trophy Voting[edit]

The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is given to the Most Outstanding Player of the year
Winner: Danny Wuerffel, Florida, Quarterback (1363 points)

Other Major Awards[edit]

References[edit]