1997 NCAA Division I-A football season

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The 1997 NCAA Division I-A football season, play of college football in the United States organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association at the Division I-A level, began in late summer 1997 and culminated with the major bowl games in early January 1998. The national championship was split for the third time in the 1990s. The Michigan Wolverines finished the season atop the AP Poll after completing a 12–0 campaign with a Big Ten Conference championship and a victory in the Rose Bowl over Washington State. The Nebraska Cornhuskers garnered the top ranking in the Coaches' Poll with a 13–0 record, a Big 12 Conference championship, and a win over Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. Michigan's Charles Woodson, who played primarily at cornerback, but also saw time on offense as a wide receiver and on special teams as a punt returner, won the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first primarily defensive player to win the award. The 1997 season was the third and final season in which the major bowl games were organized under the Bowl Alliance system. The Bowl Championship Series was instituted the following year.

In Tom Osborne's last season as head coach, Nebraska took over the #1 ranking in the nation after defeating Texas Tech midway through the season. Three weeks later, despite winning at Missouri in an overtime game, Nebraska slipped to a #2 ranking in the polls, as voters weren't impressed by the way the Cornhuskers won the game (a controversial kicked ball that was caught for the game-tying TD as time expired in regulation); Michigan moved ahead of Nebraska after its 34-8 victory over #3 ranked Penn State.

The consensus #1 team going into the bowl season was undefeated Michigan, led by coach of the year Lloyd Carr and Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson. Michigan went into the 1998 Rose Bowl against #8 Washington State ranked #1 in both the AP and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Michigan defeated Washington State 21–16.

Undefeated #2 Nebraska squared off in the 1998 Orange Bowl versus the #3 ranked Tennessee Volunteers. Unusually for the low-key Osborne and his straight-ahead team, the Cornhuskers made a point of smacking down Tennessee as they defeated the Volunteers 42-17, and after the game campaigned openly for Nebraska to be named the consensus national champion (Grant Wistrom stated that if "they wanted to give it to Michigan because they haven't won one in 50 years, we don't want it anyway.").

After the bowl games, the AP poll awarded the national championship to Michigan, and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll awarded the national championship to Nebraska, giving Tom Osborne his third national title in four seasons to cap his career. This also marked the last time that a Big 10 (or Pac-10) team would be bound to play in the Rose Bowl instead of heading to a #1-#2 title game, due to the 1998 BCS realignment.

The national title picture could have been even murkier as Florida State went into their final regular season game ranked #1. However, Fred Taylor of Florida would run for 162 yards and four touchdowns on the nation's top-ranked run defense, one of those touchdowns being the winning score with less than two minutes to play. This game is commonly referred to as "The Greatest Game Ever Played in the Swamp".

The Humanitarian Bowl, now known as the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, began play in Boise, Idaho to help publicise the dwindling Big West Conference and Boise State. The Broncos with their wacky blue turf had just made the jump to Division I-A a year earlier. The Big West champion had formerly gone to the Las Vegas Bowl, but the now only 6 team conference wasn't much of a seat filler.

The Motor City Bowl, now the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, began play in Detroit hosted by a MAC team.

The Copper Bowl gained corporate sponsorship and was now known as the Insight.com Bowl; it is now known as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

The MAC also grew to a 12-team, two-division conference with a championship game after the return of two former MAC members—Northern Illinois, returning from the independent ranks, and Marshall, moving up from Division I-AA. Marshall's addition increased the number of teams in Division I-A to 112. In a scenario similar to the Big West in 1992, this up-and-comer from I-AA was able to win its division and the inaugural conference championship game in its first year. To be fair, the Thundering Herd had gone unbeaten and won the I-AA national title the previous season, and had future NFL stars Randy Moss and Chad Pennington.

East Carolina joined a conference for the first time since Division I split in 1978, becoming a member of Conference USA.

Rule Changes[edit]

  • Starting with the third overtime period, teams must go for a two-point conversion after a touchdown.[1]
  • Strengthened the enforcement of chop blocks.
  • Charged teams with a time-out if a player is not wearing their mouth guard. If a team is out of time-outs when the infraction occurs, a five-yard penalty is assessed.
  • Changed the penalty for roughing the punt receiver to 15 yards if he is contacted by a defender within six feet after catching the ball.
  • Requiring the game clock be started once the ball is kicked on kickoffs and free kicks after safeties except in the final 2:00 of each half.

Conference standings[edit]

1997 ACC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
#3 Florida State   8 0         11 1  
#6 North Carolina   7 1         11 1  
Virginia   5 3         7 4  
#25 Georgia Tech   5 3         7 5  
Clemson   4 4         7 5  
NC State   3 5         6 5  
Wake Forest   3 5         5 6  
Maryland   1 7         2 9  
Duke   0 8         2 9  
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Big 12 football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
North
#2 Nebraska xy   8 0         13 0  
#8 Kansas State x   7 1         11 1  
#23 Missouri   5 3         7 5  
Colorado   3 5         5 6  
Kansas   3 5         6 5  
Iowa State   1 7         1 10  
South
#20 Texas A&M xy   6 2         9 4  
#24 Oklahoma State   5 3         8 4  
Texas Tech   5 3         6 5  
Texas   2 6         4 7  
Oklahoma   2 6         4 8  
Baylor   1 7         2 9  
Championship: Nebraska 54, Texas A&M 15
*† – Bowl Alliance representative as champion
‡ – Bowl Alliance at-large representative
x – Division champion/co-champions
y – Championship game participant
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Big East football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
#21 Syracuse   6 1         9 4  
#23 Virginia Tech   5 2         7 5  
West Virginia   4 3         7 5  
Pittsburgh   4 3         6 6  
Miami (FL)   3 4         5 6  
Boston College   3 4         4 7  
Temple   3 4         4 8  
Rutgers   0 7         0 11  
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Big Ten football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
#1/2 Michigan   8 0         12 0  
#12/12 Ohio State   6 2         10 3  
#16/17 Penn State   6 2         9 3  
#15/15 Purdue   6 2         9 3  
Wisconsin   5 3         8 5  
Iowa   4 4         7 5  
Michigan State   4 4         7 5  
Northwestern   3 5         5 7  
Minnesota   1 7         3 9  
Indiana   1 7         2 9  
Illinois   0 8         0 11  
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll / Coaches' Poll
1997 Big West Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Utah State §   4 1         6 6  
Nevada §   4 1         5 6  
Boise State   3 2         4 7  
Idaho   2 3         5 6  
North Texas   2 3         4 7  
New Mexico State   0 5         2 9  
§ – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Conference USA football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
#19 Southern Miss   6 0         9 3  
Tulane   5 1         7 4  
East Carolina   4 2         5 6  
Cincinnati   2 4         8 4  
Memphis   2 4         4 7  
Houston   2 4         3 8  
Louisville   0 6         1 10  
† – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Division I-A independents football records
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Louisiana Tech           9 2  
Navy           7 4  
Notre Dame           7 6  
UAB           5 6  
UCF           5 6  
Northeast Louisiana           5 7  
Army           4 7  
Arkansas State           2 9  
Southwestern Louisiana           1 10  
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Mid-American Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
East
Marshall x   7 1         10 3  
Miami   6 2         8 3  
Ohio   6 2         8 3  
Bowling Green   3 5         3 8  
Kent State   3 5         3 8  
Akron   2 7         2 9  
West
Toledo x   7 1         9 3  
Western Michigan   6 2         8 3  
Ball State   4 4         5 6  
Eastern Michigan   4 5         4 7  
Central Michigan   1 7         2 9  
Northern Illinois   0 8         0 11  
Championship: Marshall 34, Toledo 14
† – Conference champion
x – Division champion/co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Pacific-10 football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
#9 Washington State §   7 1         10 2  
#5 UCLA §   7 1         10 2  
#14 Arizona State   6 2         9 3  
#18 Washington   5 3         8 4  
Arizona   4 4         7 5  
USC   4 4         6 5  
Oregon   3 5         7 5  
Stanford   3 5         5 6  
California   1 7         3 8  
Oregon State   0 8         3 8  
§ – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 SEC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Eastern Division
#7 Tennessee x   7 1         11 2  
#10 Georgia   6 2         10 2  
#4 Florida   6 2         10 2  
South Carolina   3 5         5 6  
Kentucky   2 6         5 6  
Vanderbilt   0 8         3 8  
Western Division
#11 Auburn xy   6 2         10 3  
#13 LSU x   6 2         9 3  
#22 Ole Miss   4 4         8 4  
Mississippi State   4 4         7 4  
Alabama   2 6         4 7  
Arkansas   2 6         4 7  
Championship: Tennessee 30, Auburn 29
† – Conference champion
x – Division champion/co-champions
y – Championship game participant
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 WAC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Mountain
New Mexico x   6 2         9 4  
Rice   5 3         7 4  
SMU   5 3         6 5  
Utah   5 3         6 5  
BYU   4 4         6 5  
UTEP   3 5         4 7  
Tulsa   2 6         2 9  
TCU   1 7         1 10  
Pacific
#17 Colorado State x   7 1         11 2  
Air Force   6 2         10 3  
Fresno State   5 3         6 6  
Wyoming   4 4         7 6  
San Diego State   4 4         5 7  
San Jose State   4 4         4 7  
UNLV   2 6         3 8  
Hawaii   1 7         3 9  
Championship: Colorado State 41, New Mexico 13
† – Conference champion
x – Division champion/co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll

AP Poll progress[edit]

WEEK #1 #2 #3 Event
PRE-1 Penn State+ Florida Florida State
2 Penn State+ Florida Tennessee
3 Penn State+ Florida Washington+
4 Penn State+ Washington+ Florida
5-7 Florida Penn State+ Nebraska
8 Penn State+ Nebraska Florida State
9-11 Nebraska Penn State+ Florida State
12-13 Michigan+ Florida State Nebraska
14-16 Michigan+ Nebraska Tennessee

+Penn State and Michigan were Big Ten teams, and Washington was a Pac-10 team. The Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences played in the Rose Bowl rather than the Bowl Alliance championship game.

Bowl games[edit]

BOWL Location
Rose Bowl #1/2 Michigan 21 #8 Washington State 16 Pasadena
Orange Bowl #1/2 Nebraska 42 #3 Tennessee 17 Miami
Sugar Bowl #4 Florida State 31 #9 Ohio State 14 New Orleans
Cotton Bowl Classic #5 UCLA 29 #20 Texas A&M 23 Dallas
Florida Citrus Bowl #6 Florida 21 #11 Penn State 6 Orlando
Gator Bowl #7 North Carolina 42 Virginia Tech 3 Jacksonville
Fiesta Bowl #10 Kansas State 35 #14 Syracuse 18 Tempe, AZ
Outback Bowl #12 Georgia 33 Wisconsin 6 Tampa
Peach Bowl #13 Auburn 21 Clemson 17 Atlanta
Independence Bowl #15 LSU 27 Notre Dame 9 Shreveport
Sun Bowl #16 Arizona State 17 Iowa 0 El Paso
Alamo Bowl #17 Purdue 33 #24 Oklahoma State 20 San Antonio
Holiday Bowl #18 Colorado State 35 #20 Missouri 24 San Diego
Aloha Bowl #21 Washington 51 Michigan St 23 Honolulu
Liberty Bowl #22 Southern Mississippi 41 Pittsburgh 7 Memphis
Carquest Bowl #25 Georgia Tech 35 West Virginia 30 Miami
Insight.com Bowl Arizona 20 New Mexico 14 Tempe, AZ
Las Vegas Bowl Oregon 41 Air Force 13 Las Vegas
Motor City Bowl Mississippi 34 Marshall 31 Detroit
Humanitarian Bowl Cincinnati 35 Utah State 19 Boise

Final AP Poll[edit]

  1. Michigan
  2. Nebraska
  3. Florida State
  4. Florida
  5. UCLA
  6. North Carolina
  7. Tennessee
  8. Kansas St.
  9. Washington St.
  10. Georgia
  11. Auburn
  12. Ohio St.
  13. LSU
  14. Arizona St.
  15. Purdue
  16. Penn St.
  17. Colorado St.
  18. Washington
  19. So. Mississippi
  20. Texas A&M
  21. Syracuse
  22. Mississippi
  23. Missouri
  24. Oklahoma St.
  25. Georgia Tech

Others receiving votes: 26. Arizona; 27. Oregon; 28. Air Force; 29. Marshall; 30. Virginia; 31. Clemson; 32. Louisiana Tech; 33. Mississippi St.; 34. Michigan St.; 35. Wisconsin; 36. New Mexico ; 37. Cincinnati; 38. Notre Dame; 39. Iowa; 40. Virginia Tech.

Final Coaches Poll[edit]

  1. Nebraska
  2. Michigan The True National Champion
  3. Florida State
  4. North Carolina
  5. UCLA
  6. Florida
  7. Kansas St.
  8. Tennessee
  9. Washington St.
  10. Georgia
  11. Auburn
  12. Ohio St.
  13. Louisiana St.
  14. Arizona St.
  15. Purdue
  16. Colorado St.
  17. Penn St.
  18. Washington
  19. Southern Mississippi
  20. Syracuse
  21. Texas A&M
  22. Mississippi
  23. Missouri
  24. Oklahoma St.
  25. Air Force

Others receiving votes: 26. Clemson (58); 27. Georgia Tech (55); 28. Iowa (32); 29. Louisiana Tech (31); 30. Oregon (25); 31. Cincinnati (24); 32. Arizona (23); 33. Mississippi St. (20); 34. Michigan St. (16); 35. New Mexico and Wisconsin (13); 37. Tulane (10); 38. Virginia (9); 39. West Virginia (7); 40. Marshall (4); 41. Notre Dame (1).

Awards[edit]

Heisman Trophy[edit]

Charles Woodson of Michigan won the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the "most outstanding player in collegiate football."

Voting[edit]

Place Name Team Class Position 1st 2nd 3rd Total
1 Charles Woodson Michigan Junior Cornerback 433 209 98 1,815
2 Peyton Manning Tennessee Senior Quarterback 281 263 174 1,543
3 Ryan Leaf Washington State Junior Quarterback 70 203 241 861
4 Randy Moss Marshall Sophomore Wide receiver 17 56 90 253
5 Ricky Williams Texas Junior Running back 3 18 20 65
6 Curtis Enis Penn State Junior Running back 3 18 20 65
7 Tim Dwight Iowa Senior Wide receiver 5 3 11 32
8 Cade McNown UCLA Junior Quarterback 0 7 12 26
9 Tim Couch Kentucky Sophomore Quarterback 0 5 12 22
10 Amos Zereoue West Virginia Sophomore Running back 3 1 10 21

Other major awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ url=http://football.refs.org/rules/NCAA97pr.html NCAA Rules Changes 1997