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1997 NCAA Division I-A football season: Wikis


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The 1997 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with a split championship for the third time in the 1990s. It was the final year under the predecessor to the Bowl Championship Series, the Bowl Alliance system. (which had itself replaced the Bowl Coalition system)

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, in which a kick-ball deflection touchdown pass by Nebraska tied the game up in regulation, Nebraska slipped to a #2 ranking in the polls; the University of Michigan moved ahead of Nebraska after its 34-8 victory over #3 ranked Penn State University.

The consensus #1 team going into the bowl season was undefeated Michigan, coached by coach of the year Lloyd Carr and led by 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 football team. Nebraska defeated Tennessee 42-17.

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.

Fortunately this wouldn't be a problem again as the Pac 10 and Big 10 would join the other conferences the following year to form a Super Alliance, though that was just a working title.

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 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 began play in Detroit, Michigan hosted by a MAC team.

The Copper Bowl gained corporate sponsorship and was now known as the Bowl.

The MAC also grew to a 12 team, 2 division conference with a championship game after the addition of Northern Illinois from the Big West and newcomer to Division I-A Marshall. In a scenario similar to the Big West in 1993, this up-and-comer from Division I-AA was able to win the division 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.


AP Poll Progress

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

BOWL Location
Rose Bowl #1 Michigan 21 #8 Washington State 16 Pasadena
Orange Bowl #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 #25 Michigan St 23 Honolulu
Liberty Bowl #22 Southern Mississippi 41 Pittsburgh 7 Memphis
Carquest Bowl Georgia Tech 35 West Virginia 30 Miami 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

  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

  1. Nebraska
  2. Michigan
  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



Heisman Trophy voting

The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is given to the most outstanding player of the year
Winner: Charles Woodson, Michigan, DB/WR/PR (1,815 points)

Other major awards



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