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|2001 NCAA Division I-A season|
|Number of teams||117|
|Preseason AP No. 1||Florida|
|Duration||December 18, 2001 – |
January 3, 2002
|Heisman Trophy||Eric Crouch (quarterback, Nebraska)|
|Bowl Championship Series|
|2002 Rose Bowl|
|Site|| Rose Bowl Stadium,|
|Division I-A football seasons|
The 2001 NCAA Division I-A football season was the first college football season of the 21st Century. It ended with the University of Miami winning the national title for the fifth time.
The Hurricanes were led by Larry Coker, who was in his first year as head coach after five years as Miami's offensive coordinator under Butch Davis and became the first head coach since 1989's Dennis Erickson from the University of Miami to win a national title in his first season. Coker had the benefit of inheriting a star-studded program that Davis had rebuilt in the aftermath of NCAA sanctions in the mid-to-late '90s. Miami completed a perfect 12–0 season, which culminated in a 37–14 win over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl BCS National Championship Game.
In yet another controversial season for the BCS, (AP) No. 4 Nebraska was chosen as the national title opponent despite not having even played in the Big 12 championship game. The Huskers went into their last regularly scheduled game at Colorado undefeated, but left Boulder having lost the game by a score of 62–36. The Buffaloes went on to win the Big 12 championship game. The BCS computers, among other things, didn't weigh later games any more heavily than earlier games, and one-loss Nebraska came out ahead of two-loss No. 3 Colorado and one-loss, No. 2 Oregon. Some fans chanted "number 4" at the title game held at the Rose Bowl.
Florida State did not win the ACC championship for the first time since joining the conference in 1991, losing out to Maryland. Steve Spurrier left the Florida Gators at the end of the season to coach the Washington Redskins, accepting what was then the largest salary for an NFL head coach.
The season had one of the more competitive Heisman Trophy races with Eric Crouch of Nebraska winning by only a small margin over Rex Grossman of Florida. All of the five finalists played the quarterback position. Two of the finalists were coached at some point by Oregon offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford. Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El earned first-team All-America honors from the FWAA after becoming the first NCAA Division I-A quarterback to throw for 40 touchdowns and rush for 40 touchdowns in a career. He also became the first player in NCAA I-A history to record 2,500 total yards from scrimmage in four consecutive seasons.
Joe Paterno needed just 2 victories to pass legendary Alabama Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant as the winningest coach in Division I-A college football, However, after the Nittany Lions started the season 0–4 it looked like Bear Bryant's record would remain intact for at least 1 more year. After a 20–0 drubbing Penn State took against Michigan at home on Oct. 6, the Nittany Lions were a dismal 1–6 since Paterno notched his 321st coaching win on Oct. 28, 2000.
At Northwestern on October 20, the Lions lost a late 31–28 lead to fall behind 35–31 with two minutes to go. With their starting quarterback, Matt Senneca, out with an injury, Penn State put its collective hopes on the shoulders of redshirt freshman quarterback Zack Mills. Mills drove the Lions 69 yards in 1:41, leading Penn State to its first victory of the year by a 38–35 margin. The victory gave Paterno 323 career wins, tying Bear Bryant's record.
A week later, Penn State hosted Ohio State, who held on to a small lead for most of the game until the Buckeyes started to pull away with a 27–9 lead following a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown by Derek Ross in the third quarter. Penn State would fight all the way back with a 69-yard touchdown run by Mills and a 26-yard pass to Tony Johnson to cut the lead to 27–22, and they would take the lead early in the fourth quarter with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Eric McCoo.Penn State's 29–27 win moved Paterno in to first place on the all-time coaching victories list with 324 wins. He would later slip behind Bobby Bowden at Florida State, but he would relinquish the top spot a few years later. Paterno remains the winningest coach in Division I-A college football with a final record of 409–136–3.
The newly formed Boise State/Fresno State rivalry would be a major factor in the race to be the "BCS buster" for several seasons. Both teams ultimately lost the race to Utah, who became the first to bust the BCS in 2004, and the first to make a second trip in 2008.
The Aloha Bowl and Oahu Bowl lost funding after Chrysler Corporation, which owned the former bowl's sponsor of Jeep, was acquired by Daimler-Benz and became DaimlerChrysler. The Aloha Bowl moved to Seattle and became the Seattle Bowl.
The New Orleans Bowl began to play, the host team being the Sun Belt champion.
The final 3 weeks of the regular season saw an incredible amount of drama as several teams were in prime position to earn their way to the Rose Bowl to play Miami. On November 23, the day after Thanksgiving, Nebraska was the number one team in the BCS heading to Boulder to play the Colorado Buffaloes. After a devastating 62–36 loss, they were unable to win their division and their season seemed to fall by the wayside, allowing the Florida Gators the inside track to meet Miami if they were able to win out.
This also gave the Oklahoma Sooners the opportunity to earn their way to the National Championship if Florida was to stumble against either Tennessee or in the SEC Championship game. Those hopes would soon dissolve the day after Nebraska's loss as the Sooners were upset at home by Oklahoma State 16–13, ending their title hopes and knocking them out of the Big 12 Championship game as well.
Florida had an inside track to the National Championship game until the following week in their matchup with Tennessee, losing that game 34–32 in Gainesville. The loss not only ended their dreams of a trip to the Rose Bowl but also ended their shot at going to Atlanta for the SEC title game. Tennessee then stepped into the number 2 spot the following week going into the SEC Championship against LSU but was upset by the Tigers 31–20, and their hopes of National Championship appearance were gone as quickly as they had come.
Later that evening, Texas entered the Big 12 Championship game against Colorado in prime time television knowing that a win would seal their spot in the Rose Bowl as the number 2 team in the BCS. Unfortunately they, too, were upset by the Buffaloes, feeling the same sting that Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Nebraska had felt the previous few weeks.
Miami was left at the top of all the polls, and the debate began about who deserved to play in the Rose Bowl. Many felt Colorado was the hottest team in the country after dismantling Nebraska and then beating the Longhorns in the Big 12 title game, but their 2 losses at the beginning of the year were tough to ignore. Others felt Oregon deserved the honor, being ranked in some polls as the number 2 team in the country. Ultimately, after all of the upsets, Nebraska ended up as the number 2 team in the BCS, despite being the team to start all of the drama 3 weeks earlier.
The NCAA Rules Committee adopted the following rules changes for the 2001 season:
One team upgraded from Division I-AA, thus increasing the number of Division I-A schools from 116 to 117.
|School||2000 Conference||2001 Conference|
|Arkansas State Indians||Big West||Sun Belt|
|Boise State Broncos||Big West||WAC|
|Idaho Vandals||Big West||Sun Belt|
|Louisiana–Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns||I-A Independent||Sun Belt|
|Louisiana–Monroe Warhawks||I-A Independent||Sun Belt|
|Louisiana Tech Bulldogs||I-A Independent||WAC|
|Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders||I-A Independent||Sun Belt|
|New Mexico State Aggies||Big West||Sun Belt|
|North Texas Mean Green||Big West||Sun Belt|
|TCU Horned Frogs||WAC||Conference USA|
|Troy State Trojans||I-AA Independent||I-A Independent|
|Utah State Aggies||Big West||I-A Independent|
|WEEK||No. 1||No. 2||EVENT|
|OCT 22||Oklahoma||Nebraska||Nebraska 20, Oklahoma 10|
|OCT 29||Nebraska||Oklahoma||Miami 38, Temple 0|
|NOV 5||Nebraska||Miami||Nebraska 31, Kansas St. 21|
|NOV 12||Nebraska||Miami||Miami 59, Syracuse 0|
|NOV 19||Nebraska||Miami||Colorado 62, Nebraska 36|
|NOV 26||Miami||Florida||Tennessee 34, Florida 32|
|DEC 3||Miami||Tennessee||LSU 31, Tennessee 20|
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