|1998 NCAA Division I-A season|
|Number of teams||112|
|Preseason AP No. 1||Ohio State|
|Duration||December 19, 1998 – |
January 4, 1999
|Heisman Trophy||Ricky Williams (running back, Texas)|
|Bowl Championship Series|
|1999 Fiesta Bowl|
|Site||Sun Devil Stadium,|
|Division I-A football seasons|
The 1998 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 1998 and culminated with the major bowl games in early January 1999. It was the first season of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), which saw the Tennessee Volunteers win the national championship, one year after star quarterback Peyton Manning left for the National Football League (NFL). Tennessee defeated the Florida State Seminoles, 23–16, in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona, to secure the inaugural BCS National Championship.
The BCS combined elements of the old Bowl Coalition and the Bowl Alliance it replaced. The agreement existed between the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, and Orange bowl games, with the Cotton Bowl Classic diminishing in status since the breakup of the Southwest Conference. Like the Bowl Alliance, a national championship game would rotate between the four bowls, with the top two teams facing each other. These teams were chosen based upon a BCS poll, combining the AP Poll, the Coaches Poll, and a computer component. The computer factored in things such as strength of schedule, margin of victory, and quality wins without taking into account time (in other words, a loss early in the season and a loss late in the season were on equal footing). Like the Bowl Coalition, the BCS bowls not hosting the national championship game would retain their traditional conference tie-ins.
The first run of the Bowl Championship Series was not without controversy as Kansas State finished third in the final BCS standings, but was not invited to a BCS bowl game. Ohio State (ranked 4th) and two-loss Florida (8th) received the at-large bids instead. Also, Tulane went undefeated, but finished 10th in the BCS standings and was not invited to a BCS bowl because of their low strength of schedule.
The following rule changes were adopted by the NCAA Rules Committee during their 1998 meeting:
- Defensive players are allowed to recover and advance backward passes. Previously the defense was only allowed to recover but not advance backward passes.
- Illegal touching of a forward pass by an ineligible receiver is a five-yard penalty from the previous spot but no loss-of-down.
- Defensive players may not rough an offensive player in position to receive a backward pass (i.e. trail man on option play).
- Standardized uniform recognition regarding memorializing of deceased or severely ill teammates/coaches.
- Eyeshields must be clear.
- The titles of side judge and field judge were swapped, with the field judge now working on the same side of the field as the line judge (and ruling on placements with the back judge), and the side judge on the same side as the head linesman. Coincidentally, the NFL swapped the titles of back judge and field judge to match the NCAA prior to its 1998 season.
Conference and program changes
With no teams upgrading from Division I-AA, the number of Division I-A schools was fixed at 112.
- Army broke away from almost one hundred years of tradition as an independent, joining Conference USA.
|School||1997 Conference||1998 Conference|
|Army Cadets||I-A Independent||Conference USA|
The AP voters selected Ohio State as the top-ranked team to begin the season, followed by No. 2 Florida State and No. 3 Florida. Last year’s co-champions, Nebraska and Michigan, were ranked No. 4 and No. 5 respectively.
August 29–31: No. 2 Florida State beat No. 14 Texas A&M 23-14 in the Kickoff Classic while No. 4 Nebraska defeated Louisiana Tech 56-27 in the Eddie Robinson Classic. Most other teams had not begun their schedules, so no new poll was taken until the following week.
September 5: No. 1 Ohio State won 34-17 at No. 11 West Virginia. No. 2 Florida State was idle. No. 3 Florida opened their schedule with a 49-10 victory over The Citadel, while No. 4 Nebraska beat Alabama-Birmingham 38-7. No. 5 Michigan was upset 36-20 at No. 22 Notre Dame. No. 6 Kansas State blanked Indiana State 66-0 and moved up in the next poll: No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Nebraska, and No. 5 Kansas State.
September 12: No. 1 Ohio State shut out Toledo 49-0. No. 2 Florida State fell 24-7 at North Carolina State, just their second loss in ACC play since joining the conference in 1992. No. 3 Florida beat Northeast Louisiana 42-10, No. 4 Nebraska won 24-3 at California, No. 5 Kansas State blew out Northern Illinois 73-7, and No. 6 UCLA defeated No. 23 Texas 49-31. The next poll featured No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Nebraska, No. 4 UCLA, and No. 5 Kansas State.
September 19: No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 21 Missouri 35-14. The biggest game of the weekend took place in Knoxville between No. 2 Florida and No. 6 Tennessee. The Volunteers had lost to the Gators each of the past five years, despite having Hall of Famer Peyton Manning under center in four of those games. This time they finally came away with the victory, as Florida missed a 32-yard field goal in overtime to seal a 20-17 Tennessee triumph. No. 3 Nebraska was idle, No. 4 UCLA won 42-24 at Houston, and No. 5 Kansas State defeated Texas 48-7. The next poll featured No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 Tennessee, and No. 5 Kansas State.
September 26: No. 1 Ohio State was idle. No. 2 Nebraska overwhelmed No. 9 Washington 55-7. No. 3 UCLA’s game against Miami was postponed due to a hurricane, a situation which would have repercussions later in the season. No. 4 Tennessee defeated Houston 42-7, and No. 5 Kansas State blew out Northeast Louisiana 62-7. The next poll featured No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 4 UCLA, and No. 5 Kansas State.
October 3: No. 1 Ohio State opened conference play with a 28-9 victory over No. 7 Penn State. No. 2 Nebraska needed a fourth-quarter punt return for a touchdown and a game-ending goal line stand to get past Oklahoma State 24-17. No. 3 Tennessee won 17-9 at Auburn, No. 4 UCLA beat Washington State 49-17, and No. 5 Kansas State was idle. The next poll featured No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 Tennessee, and No. 5 Kansas State.
October 10: No. 1 Ohio State shut out Illinois 41-0. No. 2 Nebraska suffered their first regular-season loss to a conference opponent since 1992, falling 28-21 to No. 18 Texas A&M. No. 3 UCLA visited No. 10 Arizona for a 52-28 victory. No. 4 Tennessee also had an easy time against a highly-ranked foe, beating No. 7 Georgia by a 22-3 score. After outscoring their first four opponents 249-21, No. 5 Kansas State was forced into a defensive battle against No. 14 Colorado, but the Wildcats still prevailed 16-9. No. 6 Florida beat No. 11 LSU 22-10 to move back into the top five: No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 4 Kansas State, and No. 5 Florida.
October 17: No. 1 Ohio State defeated Minnesota 45-15. No. 2 UCLA ran out to a 17-point lead against No. 11 Oregon but allowed the Ducks to come all the way back; the lead changed hands several times before the Bruins finally won 41-38 on a field goal in overtime. No. 3 Tennessee was idle, No. 4 Kansas State beat Oklahoma State 52-20, and No. 5 Florida breezed past Auburn 24-3. The top five remained the same in the next poll.
October 24: No. 1 Ohio State won 36-10 at Northwestern, No. 2 UCLA visited California for a 28-16 victory, No. 3 Tennessee beat Alabama 35-18, and No. 4 Kansas State crushed Iowa State 52-7. No. 5 Florida was idle, and No. 6 Florida State’s 34-7 win at No. 20 Georgia Tech was impressive enough to move the Seminoles ahead of their in-state rivals in the next AP Poll: No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 4 Kansas State, and No. 5 Florida State. The first-ever BCS standings were released on October 26 and featured UCLA in the top spot, followed by Ohio State in second and the next three teams in the same order as the AP Poll.
October 31: AP No. 1 Ohio State posted another dominant win, 38-7 at Indiana. BCS No. 1 UCLA trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter against a Stanford team with a 1-6 record, but the Bruins scored two late touchdowns for a 28-24 victory. UCLA’s close shave against inferior competition caused them to drop in both the BCS and the human polls. No. 3 Tennessee won 49-14 at South Carolina and No. 4 Kansas State visited Kansas for a 54-6 triumph. No. 5 Florida State beat North Carolina 39-13, but No. 6 Florida’s 38-7 blowout of No. 11 Georgia led the voters to switch the two teams again. The AP and BCS had the same top five: No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Tennessee, No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 Kansas State, and No. 5 Florida.
November 7: No. 1 Ohio State, having won all of their previous games by at least 17 points, was heavily favored to beat Michigan State at home. The Buckeyes held a 24-9 lead in the third quarter, but the Spartans (under the direction of up-and-coming head coach Nick Saban) responded with 19 unanswered points and sealed their 28-24 victory with an interception in the end zone on Ohio State’s last drive. No. 2 Tennessee defeated Alabama-Birmingham 37-13. No. 3 UCLA had another close call, needing a last-minute touchdown to beat Oregon State 41-34. No. 4 Kansas State won 49-6 at Baylor, No. 5 Florida visited Vanderbilt for a 45-13 win, and No. 6 Florida State handled No. 12 Virginia 45-14. The AP’s top five were No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Kansas State, No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 Florida, and No. 5 Florida State. The BCS also had Tennessee at No. 1, but placed UCLA over KSU and Florida State above Florida. The Coaches Poll further muddied the waters by placing Tennessee and Kansas State in a tie for first.
November 14: No. 1 Tennessee trailed No. 10 Arkansas by double digits at the half, and the Razorbacks still led by four points with three minutes left. But a snap went over their punter’s head for a safety, and a fumble on Arkansas’ next possession enabled a Volunteers touchdown drive for a 28-24 win (the third time in three weeks that a No. 1 team played a game with that score). No. 2 Kansas State beat No. 11 Nebraska 40-30 to clinch the Big 12 North title and end the Cornhuskers’ 29-game winning streak over the Wildcats, one of the longest in NCAA history. No. 3 UCLA won 36-24 at Washington, No. 4 Florida defeated South Carolina 33-14, and No. 5 Florida State visited Wake Forest for a 24-7 victory. The AP and BCS top five remained the same, but Kansas State now stood alone at No. 1 in the Coaches Poll.
November 21: No. 1 Tennessee clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game by defeating Kentucky 59-21. No. 2 Kansas State completed an undefeated regular season with a 31-25 victory over No. 19 Missouri. No. 3 UCLA beat USC 34-17 and earned the outright Pac-10 title. No. 4 Florida fell 23-12 at No. 5 Florida State. After their crushing defeat two weeks earlier, No. 7 Ohio State found some solace in a 31-16 win over No. 11 Michigan, the team which had dealt them several upset losses in recent years. The next AP Poll featured No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Kansas State, No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 Florida State, and No. 5 Ohio State. The BCS standings kept their previous top four and elevated Texas A&M, champion of the Big 12 South, to fifth place.
November 28: No. 1 Tennessee put an exclamation mark on their regular season with a 41-0 shutout of Vanderbilt. No. 2 Kansas State and No. 3 UCLA were idle, and No. 4 Florida State and No. 5 Ohio State had finished their schedules. The AP and Coaches top five remained the same, but the BCS standings moved Ohio State to No. 5 when Texas A&M lost their regular season finale 26-24 at Texas.
December 5: Despite being ranked first in the Coaches Poll and second in the AP ratings, Kansas State was No. 3 in the BCS standings and needed a loss by one of the teams ahead of them in order to have a shot at the championship. The game between UCLA and Miami—a makeup of the hurricane-canceled contest from September—turned out to be just what the Wildcats needed: the Bruins blew a 17-point second-half lead as Edgerrin James ran for a Miami record 299 yards and led the Hurricanes to a 49–45 win. As time was running out on UCLA, Kansas State held a 17–3 lead over No. 10 Texas A&M in the second quarter of the Big 12 Championship Game, and the crowd roared at the announcement of Miami’s victory. However, the Aggies chipped away at the Wildcats’ lead and tied the score at 27 with one minute to play. Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop completed a 55-yard Hail Mary with time running out, but the receiver was tacked just short of the goal line and the game went into overtime. The teams traded field goals until A&M’s Branndon Stewart threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Sirr Parker that gave the Aggies a 36–33 double-overtime triumph and ended Kansas State’s dreams of an unlikely championship.
The day almost went three-for-three on upsets as No. 23 Mississippi State held a slim lead over No. 1 Tennessee in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game. However, the Volunteers scored a touchdown on a long pass by Tee Martin, forced a fumble on the next play, and immediately picked up another TD on another throw by Martin. The game ended 24-14 in favor of Tennessee, and the final AP Poll of the regular season featured No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Kansas State, and No. 5 Arizona. The final BCS standings were topped by Tennessee, Florida State, Kansas State, Ohio State, and UCLA in that order.
The Fiesta Bowl would feature a battle for the national championship between No. 1 Tennessee—the only undefeated team from the major conferences—and No. 2 Florida State, the highest-rated of several one-loss teams. (The Seminoles had previously defeated Miami and Texas A&M, the two teams which had just ended UCLA and Kansas State’s perfect seasons.) The Rose Bowl featured the traditional Pac-10 vs. Big Ten matchup between No. 6 UCLA and No. 9 Wisconsin. No. 3 Ohio State, who had tied the Badgers for the conference title, went to the Sugar Bowl against No. 8 Texas A&M. The final at-large BCS spot went to No. 7 Florida, who would face Big East champion No. 18 Syracuse in the Orange Bowl. Controversially, No. 4 Kansas State was left out of the BCS bowls despite their high ranking, instead being sent to play unranked Purdue in the Alamo Bowl. No. 10 Tulane was undefeated, but their light schedule eliminated them from championship consideration; the Green Wave would match up against Brigham Young in the Liberty Bowl.
Regular season top 10 matchups
- Week 3
- Week 4
- Week 5
- Week 6
- Week 11
- Week 12
- Week 14
Rankings are from the AP Poll.
Heisman Trophy voting
The Heisman Trophy is given to the year's most outstanding player
|Michael Bishop||Kansas State||QB||41||250||169||792|
|Torry Holt||NC State||WR||2||8||22||44|
|Joe Germaine||Ohio State||QB||2||11||15||43|
Other major awards
- Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year) - Ricky Williams, Texas
- Walter Camp Award (Back) - Ricky Williams, Texas
- Davey O'Brien Award (Quarterback) - Michael Bishop, Kansas St.
- Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (Senior Quarterback) - Cade McNown, UCLA
- Doak Walker Award (Running Back) - Ricky Williams, Texas
- Fred Biletnikoff Award (Wide Receiver) - Troy Edwards, Louisiana Tech
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Defensive Player) - Champ Bailey, Georgia
- Chuck Bednarik Award - Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M
- Dick Butkus Award (Linebacker) - Chris Claiborne, USC
- Lombardi Award (Lineman or Linebacker) - Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M
- Outland Trophy (Interior Lineman) - Kris Farris, UCLA
- Jim Thorpe Award (Defensive Back) - Antoine Winfield, Ohio St.
- Lou Groza Award (Placekicker) - Sebastian Janikowski, Florida St.
- Paul "Bear" Bryant Award - Bill Snyder, Kansas St.
- Football Writers Association of America Coach of the Year Award - Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee