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Computer Rankings And National Titles
National Champion Prediction: Nebraska
Predicted Participants (Sugar): Nebraska (11-0) vs. Florida (12-0)
Actual Participants (Sugar): Florida State (11-0) vs. Florida (11-1)
Computer Line: Florida by 2
Final: Florida 52, Florida State 20
National Champ: Florida
Comment: Florida State and Arizona State were the only unbeaten teams at the end of the regular season. But not even the Alliance could set up a true national title game between the 'Noles and Sun Devils. As PAC-10 champs, ASU was committed to the Rose Bowl where it played Ohio State.
This quirk in the Alliance actually helped create one of the most exciting bowl seasons in recent history.
On the evening of New Year's Day, #4 Ohio State did the Alliance a favor by scoring with 19 seconds left for a 20-17 win to knock #2 Arizona State out of the title picture. That meant that #1 Florida State could finish as the only unbeaten team and lay claim to an undisputed title if it beat #3 Florida the next night. It didn't happen.
When the Gators won, everyone anxiously awaited the results of the AP Sportswriters Poll and USA Today/CNN Coaches Poll to see who would be number one. Would it be Florida or Ohio State? Many expected a split decision. After all, both had only one loss during the year, and each beat an undefeated team in a major bowl.
Florida, however, was voted the consensus number one and justified it by pointing out how convincingly they had downed FSU. To this day, Ohio State fans still feel gypped. And Gator fans are extremely grateful that they had the opportunity for a rematch with the Seminoles, who beat them at the end of the regular season. At the time, it was thought that Florida had been knocked out of the title chase altogether.
Nebraska, by the way, finished the year 11-2 after beating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl 41-21.
The Congrove rankings were the only major preseason poll to pick Arizona State to win the PAC. Everyone else banked on USC that year. Over-all, the computer correctly tabbed 9 out of 14 conference or division winners. ESPN and Athlon each picked 5, while Sports Illlustrated selected 4. Even better, the computer came within just one win or loss of correctly forecasting the exact record of 64 teams.
See: 1996 Final Computer Rankings
National Champion Prediction: Florida
Predicted Participants (Orange): Florida (11-0) vs. Colorado
Actual Participants (Orange): Nebraska (12-0) vs. Tennessee
Computer Line: Nebraska by 5
Final: Nebraska 42, Tennessee 17
National Champ: Nebraska (Coaches Poll, Congrove Computer
Michigan (AP Sportswriters)
Comment: Nebraska and Michigan were both unbeaten, but again the Rose Bowl stood in the way of a true national championship with the Big 10's obligation to the Pasadena game. Both won their bowl games. Brian Griese and Michigan edged Ryan Leaf's Washington State Cougars on New Year's Day, 21-16. The next night, Scott Frost quarterbacked Nebraska past Peyton Manning and the Volunteers. The polls split their decision and the Alliance was done.
The computer had Nebraska number one in the final rankings.
Over-all, this was a great year for preseason predictions by the computer. It predicted the exact record of 30 teams, and came within one victory or loss of 85 teams. However, It didn't do so well on its prediction of Colorado making it to the national title game. The Buffaloes ended a dreadful 5-6. Florida finished the year with a 10-2 mark and ranked 4th by the computer after beating Penn State in the Citrus Bowl.
See: 1997 Final Computer Rankings
National Champion Prediction: Tennessee
Predicted Participants (Fiesta): Tennessee (11-0) vs. Florida State (10-1)
Actual Participants (Fiesta): Tennessee (11-0) vs. Florida State (10-1)
Computer Line: Florida State by 3
Final: Tennessee 23, Florida State 16
National Champ: Tennessee
Comment: It was the first year of the BCS and, lucky for
it, Tennessee won. Otherwise, Rose Bowl champ Wisconsin could
have laid claim to a piece of the crown.
Tulane, coached by Tommy Bowden, was the only other undefeated team in the nation that year. But schedule strength kept them from being ranked high enough to get a BCS bid.
See: 1998 Final Computer Rankings