The BCS Era: 1999, the first year of many that brought change

Peter Warrick and Florida State ended up beating Virginia Tech in the 1999 Sugar Bowl. (Getty)
Peter Warrick and Florida State ended up beating Virginia Tech in the 1999 Sugar Bowl. (Getty)

Throughout June and July and to commemorate the final year of the BCS era, Jerry Palm will be taking a year-by-year look at the machinations and controversies of the postseason system unleashed upon college football in 1998. Previous installments of the series can be found HERE.

Original setup: The championship game was the Sugar Bowl.  The regular Sugar Bowl wasn’t played.  The BCS bowl teams consisted of six automatic qualifiers, the champions of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac- 10 and SEC,  and two at-large teams. Based on the previous year's controversy, the “Kansas State” rule was added to ensure a team from a major conference that didn’t win its league, but still finished in the top four in the rankings, filled an at-large spot.

Number of bowls: 23, up one from 1998. New bowl: Mobile.

Number of Division I-A teams: 114. New schools: Buffalo (MAC), Middle Tennessee State (Independent)

Conference realignment: The Mountain West broke off from the WAC and debuted with Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah and Wyoming.

Also, Arkansas State joined the Big West and UAB went to Conference USA.

Formula changes: Five new computer rankings were added to the formula, bringing the total number to eight.  The new rankings were Richard Billingsley’s, the Dunkel Index, Ken Massey’s, Herman Matthews’ and David Rothman’s.

Instead of the strange computer averaging system used in 1998, the BCS honchos came up with a different, but still strange, averaging system.  The worst ranking was thrown out and the other seven were averaged for each team.  I guess it was ok for one computer to rate a team way too highly, but God forbid one might get rated way too poorly.

There was a formula controversy during the season.  The strength of schedule formula was changed Thanksgiving week.  Actually, the data included in the formula was changed.  Previously, I-AA playoff games were included, but that week, the BCS decided to exclude them.  That was important because undefeated Virginia Tech was No. 2 and Nebraska was nipping at its heels in spite of having one loss because the SOS difference was so huge in the Cornhuskers' favor. Tech had played James Madison, and the fear was a JMU playoff loss before the end of the I-A season could cause the Hokies to miss out on the championship game. The fact that the rules were changed so late in the season to clearly benefit one team in contention caused a lot of problems for the BCS, but it ended up being a moot point. Nebraska struggled to beat Colorado at the end of the regular season, clearing the way for Virginia Tech to face Florida State in the title game.

The Florida State-Virginia Tech game was the first matchup of undefeated teams in the BCS era.  The other selections were also relatively controversy free.  Despite a new rule named in its honor, No. 6 Kansas State was the highest rated team left out of the BCS for the second year in a row.  Stanford set a record that would last for a while by being the lowest-rated BCS conference champion at No. 22.

If the soon to be launched four-team playoff were in place:

Wisconsin was fourth in both polls at the end of the season, but played a pretty poor non-conference schedule, while SEC champion Alabama’s schedule ranked No. 1.  My guess is the Badgers would have paid for that with exclusion from the playoff.  The Big Ten would be well represented in the other bowls though.  Both Michigan schools finished in the top 10, with Penn State right behind at No. 11.

Marshall finished undefeated and ranked 11th, but would likely get aced out.  The spot reserved for the top-rated team from the non-majors, which now includes the Big East, goes to Virginia Tech.

Orange Bowl: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Alabama

Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Virginia Tech vs. No. 3 Nebraska

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Stanford

Fiesta Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan

Sugar Bowl: Kansas State vs. Penn State

Peach Bowl*: Tennessee vs. Michigan State

*- The Peach Bowl became the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in 2006.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jerry Palm started writing about sports on the Internet right after Al Gore invented it. He was the first to bring RPI out in the open and is one of the pioneers of predicting the March Madness bracket.... Full Bio

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