1990 College Football Recap
The 1990 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with a split national championship and the ensuing controversy helped lead to the creation of the Bowl Coalition, a precursor to the Bowl Championship Series. The national title was split between the Colorado Buffaloes and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The Buffaloes (11-1-1) took the AP poll while the Yellow Jackets (11-0-1) took the UPI Coaches poll by one vote over Colorado, 847 to 846. During the season Colorado had a particularly controversial victory over Missouri in what would later be known as the “Fifth Down Game”.
Arkansas State moved up from Division 1-AA to become a Division 1-A independent bringing the total number of Division 1-A teams up to 107.
Three of the top four teams were contractually obligated to bowl games that left no chance for a #1 vs. #2 match-up. Number one Colorado was obligated to represent the Big Eight in the Orange Bowl; second-ranked Georgia Tech was forced to represent the Atlantic Coast Conference in the Florida Citrus Bowl. Although Miami and Notre Dame, ranked third and fifth respectively, were Independents and thus bound to no bowl, both had claims to make for the national title that necessitated defeating the highest-ranked foe. The Orange Bowl invitation to Notre Dame had already been extended prior to the late season loss by the Irish to Penn State, leaving Miami to face #4 Texas in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Although Miami had two losses, the Hurricanes would repeat as national champions if both Colorado and Georgia Tech lost while Miami won. The Hurricanes did their best, routing the Longhorns 46-3, but the early morning pounding of Nebraska by Georgia Tech closed the door on the Hurricanes chances and opened the question of whether Georgia Tech could possibly win a share if Colorado beat Notre Dame.
The wins by Miami and Georgia Tech ensured Notre Dame could not wind up as champion, but the Irish and Buffaloes fought to the finish with Colorado prevailing, 10-9, on a blocked extra point. With only 65 seconds left, it appeared Notre Dame had won when Rocket Ismail ran 91 yards with a punt return for touchdown that was called back on a questionable clipping penalty. Deon Figures intercepted Rick Mirer’s desperation pass to clinch the national title for Colorado.
When the final votes were counted, Colorado had won their first national champion as voted by the Associated Press. The UPI coaches poll, however, saw a shake-up that resulted in Georgia Tech moving to #1 by one point. The deciding vote was cast by Colorado Buffaloes rival Nebraska’s head coach Tom Osborne, the only coach who had played both teams during the 1990 season. Colorado beat Nebraska 27-12 while Georgia Tech had beaten them in the Florida Citrus Bowl, 45-21. Ty Detmer of BYU won the Heisman Trophy.
1991 College Football Recap
The 1991 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with a split champion for the second consecutive season. Both the Miami Hurricanes and the Washington Huskies finished the season undefeated (12-0) and with the top ranking in a nationally recognized poll. Under the conference-bowl selection alignments of the time, the Hurricanes and Huskies could not meet in a decisive title game because A) Washington was slotted into the Rose Bowl as the Pac-10 champions and B) the other spot in the Rose Bowl was automatically given to the Big 10 champions, in this case Michigan. The Rose Bowl’s selection terms also thwarted potential title matchups of undefeated teams in 1994 and 1997; since the 1998 BCS realignment, several Pac-10 and Big 10 teams have been able to play in a BCS title game instead of being forced to play a non-title contender in the Rose Bowl; examples of this include Ohio State in 2002, USC in 2004 and Oregon in 2010.
The Hurricanes closed the 1991 season with a 22-0 shutout over #11 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, but their season was defined by a dramatic November victory over then-#1 ranked and perennial rival Florida State. That game ended with the FSU place kicker missing a field goal, wide right, which would become a theme in the Miami-FSU rivalry; this game later took on the moniker “Wide Right I.” Nebraska lost to both national champions in 1991 and finished at 9-2-1, ranked fifteenth in the AP poll. The Washington Huskies posted a 15-point victory at #9 Nebraska in September, a 7-point win at #7 California in October, and consecutive Pac-10 and Rose Bowl championships. Washington defended its Rose Bowl title with a 20-point victory in the 1992 Rose Bowl over #4 Michigan, the Big Ten champions with Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard. The Wolverines scored a late touchdown to tighten the final score to 34-14, and finished at 10-2, ranked sixth in both polls.
The Florida Gators captured their first official SEC title in school history (they had previously won the 1984 SEC title, but it was later vacated) in dominating fashion. Alabama finished second in the SEC in 1991 with an 11-1 record, but were annihilated 35-0 by the Gators, led by head coach Steve Spurrier. Florida’s luck ran out in the Sugar Bowl, as #18 Notre Dame powered their way to a 39-28 win. Independent Florida State joined the ACC in 1991; known primarily as a basketball conference, the ACC would never be the same for football. Dominant from the moment they joined, Florida State went undefeated in conference play for years and won the conference title for the remainder of the 1990s. The Big East began to sponsor football, adding powerhouse Miami and other independents, though conference play wasn’t yet fully integrated and standings were not kept in 1991.
1992 College Football Recap
The 1992 NCAA Division I-A football season was the first year of the Bowl Coalition and concluded with Alabama’s first national championship in thirteen years—their first since the departure of Bear Bryant. One of Bryant’s former players, Gene Stallings, was the head coach, and he used a style similar to Bryant’s, a smashmouth running game combined with a tough defense. The members of the Bowl Coalition were the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl Classic, and Fiesta Bowl. Under the agreement the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Cotton Bowl Classic hosted the Southeastern Conference, Big 8, and Southwest Conference champions, respectively, and then a pool of at large teams was formed between the Atlantic Coast Conference champ, the Big East champ, Notre Dame, and two conference runner ups from the Big 8, SWC, ACC, Big East and Pac-10. The highest ranked host team would play the highest ranked at-large team. If the two highest ranked teams were both at-large teams, the championship game would be hosted by the Fiesta Bowl.
So for this year, (host) SEC champ Alabama played (at-large) Big East Champ Miami-FL, the Orange Bowl featured (host) Big-8 champ Nebraska and (at-large) ACC champ Florida St., the Cotton Bowl Classic featured (host) SWC champ Texas A&M and (at-large) independent Notre Dame, and the Fiesta Bowl featured (at-large) Big East runner up Syracuse and (at-large) Big 8 runner up Colorado. The 1992 season also saw the expansion of the SEC and the first conference championship game to be played in the country. Before the 1992 season, the Arkansas Razorbacks and the South Carolina Gamecocks joined the SEC, which expanded the conference to twelve teams. The conference then split into two divisions, and the winner of each division would face off in the SEC Championship Game in Birmingham’s historic Legion Field (later moved to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, in 1994). In the first year of the new system, Alabama won the SEC West, Florida won the SEC East, and the Tide won the match-up 28-21 on an Antonio Langham interception return for a touchdown in the closing minutes.
In the Sugar Bowl, to decide the national champion, Miami came in a heavy favorite with even heavier swagger. The Tide defense, however, with its eleven man fronts and zone blitzes, heavily confused Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta and Alabama won in a defensive rout, 34-13. In other circles, the Big West Conference lost two members; Fresno State left for the WAC and Long Beach State stopped sponsoring football, but they also gained a member in Nevada, which made the jump from Division I-AA. Possibly in a show of how weak the conference was, Nevada went 5-1 in conference, winning the Big West championship and representing the conference in the 1992 Las Vegas Bowl (formerly the California Bowl held in Fresno, California).
1993 College Football Recap
The 1993 NCAA Division I-A football season saw Florida State crowned national champions, in both the AP and Coaches poll. Under the Bowl Coalition, undefeated Big 8 champ and #2 ranked Nebraska hosted ACC champ and #1 ranked Florida State in the Orange Bowl. This produced a clear champion in the Coaches Poll and the AP poll, despite Florida State’s loss to Notre Dame 31–24 during the regular season, in a game known by many as the “Game of the Century”. This much hyped clash between #1 and #2 was the site of the first ever “live” broadcast of the ESPN College GameDay show and did not fail to live up to expectations as Irish defensive back Shawn Wooden batted down a Charlie Ward pass in the end zone with three seconds left to play. Despite the win over Florida State, Notre Dame’s title chances ended the very next week when the Fighting Irish lost to #17 Boston College. Further controversy surrounded the inclusion of one-loss Florida State in the national title game over undefeated West Virginia, who was ranked #2 (ahead of Florida State) by the final regular season coaches’ poll but not the AP (Nebraska was #2 in the AP).
Despite beating Florida State in the regular season, Notre Dame finished #2 in the two major polls. Florida State, during the 1993 regular season played #2 Notre Dame, #2 Nebraska, #3 Miami, #7 Florida, #13 North Carolina, #15 Virginia, and #17 Clemson. FSU went 3–1 vs top 7 teams while playing only 1 home game in the 4 contests. Florida State’s Charlie Ward threw for 3,032 yards, completed 70 percent of his passes and became the first player to win the Heisman Trophy and the national championship in the same season since Pittsburgh’s Tony Dorsett in 1976. Penn State also played their first year as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Another Big West member and Cal State school dropped football, this time Cal State Fullerton, dropping the total number of Division 1-A schools to 106. The league picked up four other teams; Southwest Louisiana (later Louisiana-Lafayette) and Arkansas State which had just made the jump to Division I-A in 1990, and former independents Northern Illinois and Louisiana Tech. The Alamo Bowl played its inaugural game. The Sunshine Classic was no longer sponsored by Blockbuster Entertainment, and was now known as the Carquest Bowl.
1994 College Football Recap
The season began in August 1994 and ended on January 2, 1995. Nebraska, who finished the season undefeated, ended the year ranked #1 in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls. This was the first national championship of coach Tom Osborne’s career at Nebraska, despite coming close in two prior attempts; in 1983, his team lost to Miami after Osborne, with his team trailing 31-30 late in the game, elected to try for the lead instead of the tie and failed. In the previous season, Osborne’s team lost to eventual national champion Florida State on a missed field goal as time expired.
Although Osborne’s team finished the season unbeaten, the national championship picture once again was shrouded in controversy. For much of the second half of the season, Nebraska and Penn State were regarded as the top two teams in the country. This raised the possibility of a split national championship for the third time since 1990, due in large part to the system in place that had been concocted to avoid a split title. Following the 1991 season, where Miami and Washington split the national championship in the AP and Coaches’ polls, the Bowl Coalition was founded. The Coalition consisted of six bowls, with the Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, and Sugar bowls were all considered potential hosts for a national championship game. Since three of these bowls already had specific tie-ins with conferences, an agreement was struck where the conferences would agree to release those teams from their contractual obligations in order to achieve a #1 vs #2 matchup. For the first two years of the Coalition, this did occur without incident as the Sugar and Orange Bowls in 1993 and 1994 featured #1 vs. #2 matchups in their respective games.
The problem with this as far as 1994 was concerned was that the Rose Bowl, which featured the Pac-10 and Big Ten champions playing each other, was not included in the Coalition and thus a team that finished #1 or #2 in the polls from those two conferences could not be considered by the Coalition to be its national champion. Nebraska, as a member of the Big Eight Conference, was part of the coalition while Penn State was not. As Nebraska went on to win the conference title, it earned an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl to face off against #3 Miami, who won the Big East title and was #2 in the Coalition pool. Thus Miami, who as recently as two years earlier was in the Coalition championship game, had a chance to stake a claim as the national champion with a win (as they would have been awarded the Coaches’ Trophy) and all but ensure a split title with Penn State provided they defeated #13 Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
On January 1, 1995, Nebraska defeated Miami in the Orange Bowl 24-17 and clinched the championship. The next day Penn State defeated Oregon in the Rose Bowl by a count of 38-20 and secured the #2 spot in the polls. In the offseason that followed, the Bowl Coalition was disbanded and in its place came the Bowl Alliance, which attempted to serve the same purpose by rotating a national championship game between the Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange Bowls. Like the Bowl Coalition before it, the Bowl Alliance did not include the Rose Bowl and two of the three national championship games did not feature a #1 vs. #2 matchup, with the 1997 season seeing another split national championship.
1995 College Football Recap
The 1995 NCAA Division I-A football season was the first year of the Bowl Alliance. Tom Osborne led Nebraska to its second straight national title with a victory over Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. This match up was only possible because of the new Bowl Alliance. Under the old system, Nebraska would have been tied to the Orange Bowl and Florida to the Sugar Bowl. The Bowl Alliance created a national championship game which would rotate between the Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta Bowls free of conference tie-ins and featuring the #1 and #2 teams as chosen by the Bowl Alliance Poll. The Pac-10 and Big Ten chose not to participate, keeping their tie-ins with the Rose Bowl. Nebraska was showing signs of dynasty, playing in its third consecutive national title game, and became the first school to claim back to back titles since the 1970s. This was an amazingly dominant Nebraska team, averaging 52 points per game and a 39 point average margin of victory, including a 62-24 victory over Florida. This lopsided victory came after Florida was picked by many sportswriters to win the game.
Ohio State almost managed to create a national title controversy, going into its final regular season game against Michigan undefeated and ranked #2. Had they finished the season #2 the Bowl Alliance would have been unable to pit #1 vs. #2 as the Big Ten champ was tied to the Rose Bowl. Fortunately for the Bowl Alliance, Michigan upset Ohio State, but Buckeye running back Eddie George still managed to win the Heisman Trophy. Things were lively in the state of Florida, where the Florida Gators won their third straight SEC championship. Florida State started the season #1, but lost an ACC game for the first time ever when Virginia stopped a last minute drive a few inches from the end zone, knocking them out of the national title race. However, Northwestern was able to steal the show as the year’s Cinderella story. Its only regular season loss came against Miami-OH. Northwestern began the season with an upset of Notre Dame and went on to defeat Michigan and Penn State later in the season. Undefeated in the Big Ten after decades as a doormat, the Wildcats went on to face USC in the Rose Bowl. However, the Wildcats lost to the Trojans in what was a see-saw game until USC pulled away in the fourth quarter. Miami and Alabama had to sit the post season out, as they were on NCAA probation.
The Southwest Conference played its final game ever, an 18–17 Houston win over Rice. Four of its members would join the Big 8 to form the Big 12; the other four were split between the WAC and the newly formed Conference USA. The Hall of Fame Bowl, originally played in Birmingham, then moved to Tampa, Florida gained corporate sponsorship, and was now known as the Outback Bowl. The Freedom Bowl was discontinued and the Holiday Bowl absorbed its WAC tie-in. University of North Texas upgraded to Division 1-A football this season bringing the total number of teams to 108. The first ever Division I-A overtime game was played during the 1995 bowl season, the Las Vegas Bowl between Toledo and Nevada. Overtime would be adopted permanently for all games in 1996. Due to the adoption of overtime, the season-ending 3-3 game between Wisconsin and Illinois on November 25 is the last tied game in Division 1-A.
1996 College Football Recap
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.
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.
1997 College Football Recap
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.
1998 College Football Recap
The 1998 NCAA Division I-A football season was the first of the Bowl Championship Series, which saw Tennessee win the national championship, one year after star quarterback Peyton Manning left for the NFL. The Volunteers defeated the Florida State Seminoles 23-16 in the Tostitos 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 Bowls, 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 third 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 in October and a loss in November were on equal footing).
However, like the Bowl Coalition, the bowls not hosting the national championship would retain their traditional 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 strength of schedule. Army broke away from almost one hundred years of tradition as an independent, joining Conference USA. The victories of the Penn State Nittany Lions for the 1998 season have been vacated due to NCAA sanctions handed down on July 23, 2012 resulting from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal; 1998 was his last season as the team’s defensive coordinator, and the first of twelve seasons where wins were vacated
1999 College Football Recap
The 1999 NCAA Division I-A football season saw Florida State named national champions, defeating Virginia Tech in the BCS Sugar Bowl. Florida State became the first team in history to start out preseason #1 and remain there through the entire season. Their 12-0 season gave them 109 victories in the 90’s, the most for any decade. Virginia Tech also had a remarkable season behind freshman quarterback Michael Vick, who was being touted as college football’s best player. Vick was outshined in the national championship game by Florida State Wide Receiver Peter Warrick. Warrick had early problems with the law, charged with a misdemeanor he sat out two games early in the season. But he scored three touchdowns in the title game, earning MVP honors.
The BCS adopted a new rule after the previous season, nicknamed the “Kansas State Rule,” which stated that any team ranked in the top four in the final BCS poll is ensured of an invitation to a BCS bowl game. A lot of teams faced debacles. East Carolina faced Hurricane Floyd, and in that same week, faced the #9 Miami Hurricanes. The Pirates were down 23-3, but scored 24 unanswered points to win the football game, 27-23. Kansas State finished 6th in the BCS standings but again received no BCS bowl invitation, this time being passed over in favor of Michigan (ranked 8th). Kansas State’s predicament demonstrated early on the problem of trying to balance historic bowl ties and creating a system which gives top bowl bids to the most deserving teams. In addition, for a second straight season, an undefeated team from outside the BCS conferences (Marshall) went undefeated but did not receive a bid to a BCS bowl game, which illustrated the problem of non-BCS teams being shut out of the major BCS bowls.
Four members from each of the WAC’s two divisions, the Mountain and Pacific, broke off from the unstable 16-team conference to form the Mountain West Conference. Arkansas State left the ranks of the Independents to join the Big West Conference, as its seventh member. Two schools made the move up to Division I-A football this season: University at Buffalo and Middle Tennessee State University. Also, two schools adopted new names this season. Northeast Louisiana and Southwestern Louisiana became Louisiana–Monroe and Louisiana–Lafayette, respectively