1997 NCAA Division I-A football season

Last updated
1997 NCAA Division I-A season
Number of teams112
Preseason AP No. 1 Penn State
Post-season
DurationDecember 20, 1997 –
January 2, 1998
Bowl games 20
AP Poll No. 1 Michigan
Coaches Poll No. 1 Nebraska
Heisman Trophy Charles Woodson (cornerback, Michigan)
Bowl Alliance Championship
1998 Orange Bowl
Site Pro Player Stadium
Miami Gardens, Florida
Champion(s) Nebraska
Division I-A football seasons
  1996
1998  

The 1997 NCAA Division I-A football season, play of college football in the United States organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association at the Division I-A level, began in late summer 1997 and culminated with the major bowl games in early January 1998. 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.

Contents

In Tom Osborne's last season as head coach, Nebraska took over the No. 1 ranking in the nation after defeating Texas Tech midway through the season. Three weeks later, despite winning at Missouri in an overtime game against an unranked Missouri football team, Nebraska slipped to a No. 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 No. 3 ranked Penn State.

The consensus No. 1 team going into the bowl season was undefeated Michigan, ranked No. 1 in both the AP and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Led by coach of the year Lloyd Carr and Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, Michigan went into the 1998 Rose Bowl against No. 8 Washington State. Michigan defeated Washington State 21–16.

Meanwhile, undefeated No. 2 Nebraska squared off in the 1998 Orange Bowl versus the No. 3 ranked Tennessee Volunteers. The Cornhuskers made a point of smacking down Tennessee as they defeated the Volunteers 42–17. Unusually for the low-key Osborne and his straight-ahead team, after the game he 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 No. 1-No. 2 title game, due to the 1998 BCS realignment.

Florida State went into their final regular season game ranked No. 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". Florida State's loss opened the door for Tennessee's Orange Bowl bid to play against Nebraska.

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 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 Cactus 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. 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.

Rule changes

Conference and program changes

One team upgraded from Division I-AA prior to the season. As such, the total number of Division I-A schools increased again, from 111 to 112.

School1996 Conference1997 Conference
Marshall Thundering Herd Southern (I-AA) MAC (I-A)
Northern Illinois Huskies I-A Independent MAC
East Carolina Pirates I-A Independent Conference USA

Conference standings

1997 Atlantic Coast Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
Team W L    W L 
No. 3 Florida State $ 80    111 
No. 6 North Carolina  71    111 
Virginia  53    74 
No. 25 Georgia Tech  53    75 
Clemson  44    75 
NC State  35    65 
Wake Forest  35    56 
Maryland  17    29 
Duke  08    29 
  • $ Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Big 12 Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
Team W L    W L 
Northern Division
No. 2 Nebraska † xy$ 80    130 
No. 8 Kansas State % 71    111 
No. 23 Missouri  53    75 
Colorado  35    56 
Kansas  35    56 
Iowa State  17    110 
Southern Division
No. 20 Texas A&M xy 62    94 
No. 24 Oklahoma State  53    84 
Texas Tech  53    65 
Texas  26    47 
Oklahoma  26    48 
Baylor  17    29 
Championship: Nebraska 54, Texas A&M 15
  • x Division champion/co-champions
  • y Championship game participant
  • † – Coaches Poll National Champion
    $ – Bowl Alliance representative as champion
    % – Bowl Alliance at-large representative
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Big East Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
Team W L    W L 
No. 21 Syracuse $ 61    94 
No. 23 Virginia Tech  52    75 
West Virginia  43    75 
Pittsburgh  43    66 
Miami (FL)  34    56 
Boston College  34    47 
Temple  34    38 
Rutgers  07    011 
  • $ Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Big Ten Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
Team W L    W L 
No. 1 Michigan $ 80    120 
No. 12 Ohio State  62    103 
No. 16 Penn State  62    93 
No. 15 Purdue  62    93 
Wisconsin  53    85 
Iowa  44    75 
Michigan State  44    75 
Northwestern  35    57 
Minnesota  17    39 
Indiana  17    29 
Illinois  08    011 
  • $ Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Big West Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
Team W L    W L 
Utah State + 41    66 
Nevada + 41    56 
Boise State  32    56 
Idaho  23    56 
North Texas  23    47 
New Mexico State  05    29 
  • + Conference co-champions
1997 Conference USA football standings
Conf  Overall
Team W L    W L 
No. 19 Southern Miss $ 60    93 
Tulane  51    74 
East Carolina  42    56 
Cincinnati  24    84 
Memphis  24    47 
Houston  24    38 
Louisville  06    110 
  • $ Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Mid-American Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
Team W L    W L 
East Division
Marshall x$ 71    103 
Miami  62    83 
Ohio  62    83 
Bowling Green  35    38 
Kent State  35    38 
Akron  27    29 
West Division
Toledo x 71    93 
Western Michigan  62    83 
Ball State  44    56 
Eastern Michigan  45    47 
Central Michigan  17    29 
Northern Illinois  08    011 
Championship: Marshall 34, Toledo 14
  • $ Conference champion
  • x Division champion/co-champions
1997 Pacific-10 Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
Team W L    W L 
No. 9 Washington State + 71    102 
No. 5 UCLA + 71    102 
No. 14 Arizona State  62    93 
No. 18 Washington  53    84 
Arizona  44    75 
USC  44    65 
Oregon  35    75 
Stanford  35    56 
California  17    38 
Oregon State  08    38 
  • + Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Southeastern Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
Team W L    W L 
Eastern Division
No. 7 Tennessee x$ 71    112 
No. 10 Georgia  62    102 
No. 4 Florida  62    102 
South Carolina  35    56 
Kentucky  26    56 
Vanderbilt  08    38 
Western Division
No. 11 Auburn xy 62    103 
No. 13 LSU x 62    93 
No. 22 Ole Miss  44    84 
Mississippi State  44    74 
Alabama  26    47 
Arkansas  26    47 
Championship: Tennessee 30, Auburn 29
  • $ Conference champion
  • x Division champion/co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 Western Athletic Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
Team W L    W L 
Mountain Division
New Mexico x 62    94 
Rice  53    74 
SMU  53    65 
Utah  53    65 
BYU  44    65 
UTEP  35    47 
Tulsa  26    29 
TCU  17    110 
Pacific Division
No. 17 Colorado State x$ 71    112 
Air Force  62    103 
Fresno State  53    66 
Wyoming  44    76 
San Diego State  44    57 
San Jose State  44    47 
UNLV  26    38 
Hawaii  17    39 
Championship: Colorado State 41, New Mexico 13
  • $ Conference champion
  • x Division champion/co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1997 NCAA Division I-A independents football records
Conf  Overall
Team W L    W L 
Louisiana Tech      92 
Navy      74 
Notre Dame      76 
UAB      56 
UCF      56 
Northeast Louisiana      57 
Army      47 
Arkansas State      29 
Southwestern Louisiana      110 
Rankings from AP Poll

AP Poll progress

WEEKNo. 1No. 2No. 3Event
PRE-1 Penn State+ Florida Florida State
2Penn State+Florida Tennessee
3Penn State+Florida Washington+
4Penn State+Washington+Florida
5-7FloridaPenn State+ Nebraska
8Penn State+NebraskaFlorida State
9-11NebraskaPenn State+Florida State
12-13 Michigan+Florida StateNebraska
14-16Michigan+NebraskaTennessee

+Penn State and Michigan were Big Ten teams, and Washington was a Pac-10 team. The Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences played in the Rose Bowl rather than the Bowl Alliance championship game.

Bowl games

BOWLLocation
Rose Bowl No. 1 Michigan 21No. 8 Washington State 16Pasadena
Orange Bowl No. 2 Nebraska 42No. 3 Tennessee 17Miami
Sugar Bowl No. 4 Florida State 31No. 9 Ohio State 14New Orleans
Cotton Bowl Classic No. 5 UCLA 29No. 20 Texas A&M 23Dallas
Florida Citrus Bowl No. 6 Florida 21No. 11 Penn State 6Orlando
Gator Bowl No. 7 North Carolina 42 Virginia Tech 3Jacksonville
Fiesta Bowl No. 10 Kansas State 35No. 14 Syracuse 18Tempe, Arizona
Outback Bowl No. 12 Georgia 33 Wisconsin 6Tampa
Peach Bowl No. 13 Auburn 21 Clemson 17Atlanta
Independence Bowl No. 15 LSU 27 Notre Dame 9Shreveport
Sun Bowl No. 16 Arizona State 17 Iowa 7El Paso
Alamo Bowl No. 17 Purdue 33No. 24 Oklahoma State 20San Antonio
Holiday Bowl No. 18 Colorado State 35No. 20 Missouri 24San Diego
Aloha Bowl No. 21 Washington 51 Michigan St 23Honolulu
Liberty Bowl No. 22 Southern Mississippi 41 Pittsburgh 7Memphis
Carquest Bowl No. 25 Georgia Tech 35 West Virginia 30Miami
Insight.com Bowl Arizona 20 New Mexico 14Tucson, Arizona
Las Vegas Bowl Oregon 41 Air Force 13Las Vegas
Motor City Bowl Mississippi 34 Marshall 31Detroit
Humanitarian Bowl Cincinnati 35 Utah State 19Boise

Final AP Poll

  1. Michigan
  2. Nebraska
  3. Florida State
  4. Florida
  5. UCLA
  6. North Carolina
  7. Tennessee
  8. Kansas St.
  9. Washington St.
  10. Georgia
  11. Auburn
  12. Ohio St.
  13. LSU
  14. Arizona St.
  15. Purdue
  16. Penn St.
  17. Colorado St.
  18. Washington
  19. So. Mississippi
  20. Texas A&M
  21. Syracuse
  22. Mississippi
  23. Missouri
  24. Oklahoma St.
  25. Georgia Tech

Others receiving votes: 26. Arizona; 27. Oregon; 28. Air Force; 29. Marshall; 30. Virginia; 31. Clemson; 32. Louisiana Tech; 33. Mississippi St.; 34. Michigan St.; 35. Wisconsin; 36. New Mexico ; 37. Cincinnati; 38. Notre Dame; 39. Iowa; 40. Virginia Tech.

Final Coaches Poll

  1. Nebraska
  2. Michigan
  3. Florida State
  4. North Carolina
  5. UCLA
  6. Florida
  7. Kansas St.
  8. Tennessee
  9. Washington St.
  10. Georgia
  11. Auburn
  12. Ohio St.
  13. Louisiana St.
  14. Arizona St.
  15. Purdue
  16. Colorado St.
  17. Penn St.
  18. Washington
  19. Southern Mississippi
  20. Syracuse
  21. Texas A&M
  22. Mississippi
  23. Missouri
  24. Oklahoma St.
  25. Air Force

Others receiving votes: 26. Clemson (58); 27. Georgia Tech (55); 28. Iowa (32); 29. Louisiana Tech (31); 30. Oregon (25); 31. Cincinnati (24); 32. Arizona (23); 33. Mississippi St. (20); 34. Michigan St. (16); 35. New Mexico and Wisconsin (13); 37. Tulane (10); 38. Virginia (9); 39. West Virginia (7); 40. Marshall (4); 41. Notre Dame (1).

Awards

Heisman Trophy

Charles Woodson of Michigan won the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the "most outstanding player in collegiate football."

Voting

PlaceNameTeamClassPosition1st2nd3rdTotal
1 Charles Woodson Michigan Junior Cornerback 433209981,815
2 Peyton Manning Tennessee Senior Quarterback 2812631741,543
3 Ryan Leaf Washington State JuniorQuarterback70203241861
4 Randy Moss Marshall Sophomore Wide receiver 175690253
5 Ricky Williams Texas Junior Running back 3182065
6 Curtis Enis Penn State JuniorRunning back3182065
7 Tim Dwight Iowa SeniorWide receiver531132
8 Cade McNown UCLA JuniorQuarterback071226
9 Tim Couch Kentucky SophomoreQuarterback051222
10 Amos Zereoué West Virginia SophomoreRunning back311021

Other major awards

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References