And isn’t that pretty much worth it right there? Yes? No? Maybe? Whatever — on to 1999.
THE PRE-BOWL SITUATION
1. Florida State (11-0) — ACC champion
2. Virginia Tech (11-0) — Big East champion
3. Nebraska (11-1) — Big 12 champion
4. Wisconsin (9-2) — Big 10 champion
5. Alabama (10-2) — SEC champion
6. Tennessee (9-2)
7. Kansas State (10-1)
8. Michigan (9-2)
9. Michigan State (9-2)
10. Florida (9-3)
11. Marshall (12-0) — MAC champion
22. Stanford (8-3) — Pac-10 champion
Remember when this guy wasn't an asswipe?
Florida State is the AP’s wire-to-wire #1, while Virginia Tech has to work their way up from a preseason #13 to the number-two spot going into the bowls. Because of a less-than-imposing schedule, though — the Hokies’ best opponent in terms of wins and losses is a Miami team that will finish the season 9-4 — the undefeated Hokies are still viewed with skepticism by a substantial portion (though by no means a majority) of CFB’s fans and pundits. For the most part, those doubters would rather see Nebraska pitted against FSU in the national-title game; Nebraska sustained their one loss of the year against 18th-ranked Texas in a shocker in Lincoln on October 23, but got their revenge by crushing the Longhorns 22-6 in the Big 12 title game.
Rose: #4 Wisconsin (9-2) vs. #21 Stanford (8-3)
Same as the actual 1999 game. (Kind of a down year for the Pac-10, wasn’t it?)
Fiesta: #3 Nebraska (11-1) vs. #5 Tennessee
With no ranked Pac-10 teams available, the Fiesta reaches across the country for an at-large SEC team guaranteed to sell tons of tickets and put plenty of fans in the seats.
Orange: #1 Florida State (11-0) vs. #2 Virginia Tech (11-0)
With the undefeated ACC champion already locked in, the Orange jumps on the only other 11-0 team in the country, Virginia Tech, to secure the same matchup that ended up playing in the actual ’99 title game.
Sugar: #6 Alabama (10-2) vs. #8 Michigan (9-2)
Just as the actual Orange Bowl did in ’99, the Sugar matches the SEC champion with a heritage-rich and strong-traveling Big Ten team.
WHAT (I THINK) HAPPENS: What we’ve basically ended up with here is the same four matchups we got from the BCS in the actual 1999 bowl season, only the Orange and Sugar have effectively swapped games. So it’s not hard to predict what happens: Wisconsin beats Stanford 17-9; Nebraska whacks Tennessee in Tempe, 31-21; Florida State knocks off the Hokies 46-29; and Alabama loses to Michigan on a missed PAT in overtime, 35-34.
Florida State maintains their #1 ranking, and Nebraska moves up into the spot vacated by the fallen Hokies, so the national-title game matches the Seminoles vs. the Cornhuskers in a rematch of the 1992 and ’93 national-title Orange Bowls — and for the third time, the Seminoles come out on top in a thriller.
ANALYSIS: Once again, Kansas State fans will grouse that their team didn’t get a shot at the title, or even a major bowl invite, but once again, their case is undermined by a lackluster postseason performance (a squeaker 24-20 victory over unranked, 6-5 Washington in the Holiday Bowl). The bigger issue here is that Florida State is forced to play another game even after knocking off the only other undefeated team in the country, but again, you have that sizable contingent of folks who wanted the Cornhuskers, not the Hokies, to be the Seminoles’ date for the national-title game. As someone who felt all along that Virginia Tech was worthy of their Sugar Bowl berth that year, I personally don’t think FSU had much left to prove after beating the Hokies, but would it really have been the end of the world if the ‘Noles had had to play another game? After all, if Nebraska ended up beating FSU, the Cornhuskers would’ve had a fairly airtight case for deserving the crystal football themselves. In the end, it all comes down to one rule: If you want the title, you gotta win whatever game is put in front of you.