1998 Season Recap
The Tennessee Volunteers did it all wrong in 1998. You don't wait until your star quarterback leaves and then win it all. But the Vols did it backwards this year. One year after UT legend Peyton Manning graduated, the Vols, behind their new star quarterback Tee Martin and wide receiver Peerless Price, finished a perfect season with a 23-16 win over Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl.
It was the debut of the Bowl Championship Series, the complicated ranking system designed to dispel calls for a playoff system and to pit the top two teams in the country against each other in a national title game. All season the experts we worried about what would happen if their were three deserving “top” teams and that one of them got shut out. Kansas State looked like they could be on the outside looking in at a national championship game before the undefeated Wildcats stumbled against Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game. Florida State, the winningest team of the 1990's, had one loss going into the bowl season, falling early in the season to North Carolina State, but their late season run had put them second in the BCS rankings.
In the end it all worked out. The BCS, which takes polls, computer rankings, strength of schedule and losses into account, came through and although Manning was quarterbacking in Indianapolis instead of Knoxville, the Vols, under head coach Phil Fulmer, won their first national championship since 1951.
It was a year in which Lou Holtz (South Carolina), Dennis Erickson (Oregon St) and John Robinson (UNLV) all returned to the college coaching ranks and in which Frank Solich debuted as Tom Osborne's successor at Nebraska.
University of Texas running back Ricky Williams ran off with the Heisman Trophy and the NCAA records for career rushing yards and touchdowns but Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch was taken as the first pick in the NFL draft by the resurrected Cleveland Browns.