National and Big 12 Recap – 1998

The Tennessee Volunteers capped off an undefeated 13-0 season by defeating 2nd-ranked Florida State, 23-16, in the Fiesta Bowl to claim their first national championship in almost 50 years. Coach-of-the-Year Phillip Fulmer led the Volunteers to the Bowl Championship Series national title the year after Peyton Manning had taken his talents to the pros.

The only other Division 1-A school to finish unblemished was the Green Wave of Tulane, which completed its season with a 12-0 record and a No. 7 ranking under head coach Tommy Bowden. Ohio State, which spent most of the season at No. 1, finished at 11-1 and ranked second, with only a 28-24 loss to Michigan State in November preventing a perfect season.

The Heisman race was anything but, as Texas running back Ricky Williams posted one of the most lopsided margins in Heisman history. Williams, in surpassing Tony Dorsett as the all-time career rushing leader, led the Longhorns to a 9-3 record, including a 38-11 pasting of Mississippi State in the Cotton Bowl.

In the Big 12

In the Big 12, 1998 was the Year That Almost Was for Kansas State.

After rumbling through the regular season 11-0, including the first win over Nebraska in 29 years, the Wildcats stumbled in the Big 12 Championship game to fall out of the national championship race. The 36-33 double overtime loss to Texas A&M apparently took an emotional toll on Kansas State, as the Wildcats thereafter fell to underdog Purdue in the Alamo Bowl to finish 11-2 and 10th in the nation. Wildcat quarterback Michael Bishop posted the highest ever finish for a Kansas State player in the Heisman trophy voting, finishing second to Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne. Kansas State also had two consensus All-Americans, linebackr Jeff Kelly and kick returner David Allen.

Overall, despite losing its last two games of the season, KSU’s effort was still the best in the Big 12 conference in 1998. The Wildcats led the nation in scoring, with 48 points per game, while David Allen led the nation in punt returns, with a 22.1 yards per return average.

Big 12 champion Texas A&M fell 24-14 to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl to finish 11-3 and ranked 11th. Texas finished 15th despite Ricky Williams’ efforts, while Nebraska, losing four games in a season for the first time in 30 years after succumbing 23-20 to Arizona in the Holiday Bowl, posted a No. 19 final ranking.

Missouri was the only remaining Big 12 school with a year-end national ranking, completing 1998 with an 8-4 mark and a No. 21 ranking. Texas Tech, defeated by Mississippi in the Independence Bowl, and Colorado, a 51-43 winner over Oregon in the Aloha Bowl, finished the season unranked.


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