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1997 is a nice reminder of how dumb college football's postseason used to be

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Nebraska was undefeated, Michigan was undefeated, and Florida State had lost only to an awesome Florida team by a tiny margin on the road. And none of them played each other in the postseason.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

1997 was my freshman year at Missouri. I grew up in Oklahoma, and college football was always my favorite sport, but I still wasn't completely immersed in it until I attended a major-conference school and got to see other teams up close.

As the Internet was still a recent invention, my relationship with Mizzou to date had been mostly looking at the tiny box scores in the Sunday edition of the Daily Oklahoman. But this was a truly immersive experience and changed my relationship with both my eventual alma mater and my sport.

I saw Ohio State up close and personal that year (though not quite as up close as Corby Jones did). I saw an inexplicable road loss (Kansas 15, Mizzou 7). I saw the Flea Kicker.

I apparently didn't, however, see the best team in the country, an FSU team that chose the wrong season to suffer a late loss.

This was the year before the BCS went into effect, but until FSU's late three-point loss at Florida, college football was plunging toward a nightmare scenario even the BCS couldn't have solved. As of the November 17 polls, AP No. 1 Michigan, No. 2 Florida State, and No. 3 Nebraska were all unbeaten. No. 4 Ohio State had lost only to No. 6 Penn State (and by four on the road). No. 5 Tennessee had lost only to No. 10 Florida (again on the road). This would have been the perfect season for a playoff race.

As it stood, the old, dumb bowl structure was in place, and while we finished with only two unbeaten teams, they didn't even get to play each other. Michigan beat Washington State in the Rose Bowl, Nebraska rocked Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, and we ended up with our third split national title in eight years.

We forget this now, but wow, were we ready for the BCS. And for all of its failures (mostly of the "failing to figure out how to get three teams on the same field" variety), it gave us a sure No. 1 vs. No. 2. That was a massive, belated step forward.

S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
1 Florida State 11-1 25.8 98.96% 39.9 2 14.2 4
2 Nebraska 13-0 23.6 98.28% 43.4 1 19.9 26
3 Florida 10-2 21.6 97.36% 37.3 7 15.7 7
4 Tennessee 11-2 20.1 96.48% 37.6 6 17.4 16
5 Washington 8-4 19.8 96.22% 38.2 5 18.4 20
6 Michigan 12-0 18.8 95.46% 27.5 45 8.6 1
7 Ohio State 10-3 18.5 95.14% 30.9 20 12.4 2
8 UCLA 10-2 18.4 95.03% 39.4 3 21.1 31
9 Kansas State 11-1 16.3 92.87% 32.9 15 16.6 9
10 Auburn 10-3 15.6 91.92% 30.4 22 14.9 5
11 Colorado State 11-2 15.0 91.05% 33.6 13 18.7 23
12 Georgia 10-2 14.4 90.26% 31.2 19 16.7 11
13 North Carolina 11-1 14.1 89.71% 27.6 42 13.5 3
14 Washington State 10-2 13.1 88.04% 39.1 4 26.0 66
15 LSU 9-3 11.7 85.28% 29.2 29 17.5 17
16 Arizona State 9-3 11.4 84.69% 27.9 39 16.5 8
17 Ole Miss 8-4 11.0 83.76% 26.5 51 15.6 6
18 Marshall 10-3 10.9 83.52% 34.1 10 23.3 44
19 Michigan State 7-5 10.7 83.21% 29.5 27 18.7 24
20 Miami-OH 8-3 10.2 81.94% 34.1 11 24.0 50
21 Oregon 7-5 9.8 81.00% 35.4 8 25.6 60
22 Iowa 7-5 9.3 79.94% 27.5 43 18.2 19
23 Colorado 5-6 9.1 79.19% 31.6 17 22.5 42
24 USC 6-5 8.9 78.72% 25.6 57 16.7 10
25 Syracuse 9-4 8.8 78.61% 30.1 25 21.2 32
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
26 Southern Miss 9-3 8.5 77.76% 27.0 46 18.5 21
27 Clemson 7-5 8.4 77.36% 25.8 56 17.4 14
28 Arizona 7-5 8.2 77.03% 30.3 23 22.1 39
29 Penn State 9-3 8.1 76.72% 29.9 26 21.8 36
30 Georgia Tech 7-5 7.4 74.80% 29.1 30 21.7 34
31 Purdue 9-3 7.4 74.54% 31.3 18 24.0 51
32 Texas A&M 9-4 7.2 74.17% 29.3 28 22.1 38
33 Notre Dame 7-6 6.8 72.80% 24.4 62 17.6 18
34 Virginia 7-4 6.7 72.63% 27.6 41 20.9 30
35 NC State 6-5 6.3 71.30% 30.1 24 23.8 49
36 Central Florida 5-6 6.1 70.69% 34.0 12 27.9 74
37 Missouri 7-5 5.4 68.75% 34.4 9 29.0 82
38 Mississippi State 7-4 5.1 67.68% 22.5 73 17.4 15
39 Wyoming 7-6 4.9 66.87% 23.5 70 18.7 22
40 South Carolina 5-6 4.8 66.73% 26.8 47 22.0 37
41 Toledo 9-3 4.4 65.25% 28.2 36 23.8 48
42 Alabama 4-7 4.1 64.48% 24.5 61 20.3 27
43 Ohio 8-3 3.8 63.32% 23.2 71 19.4 25
44 New Mexico 9-4 3.4 62.03% 28.2 37 24.8 54
45 Tulane 7-4 3.1 60.86% 28.8 33 25.8 61
46 Air Force 10-3 2.9 60.21% 20.1 91 17.2 12
47 Stanford 5-6 2.8 60.04% 28.4 34 25.6 59
48 Oklahoma State 8-4 2.4 58.42% 25.5 58 23.2 43
49 West Virginia 7-5 2.1 57.34% 27.9 38 25.9 64
50 Virginia Tech 7-5 1.5 55.29% 23.7 68 22.2 41
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
51 Navy 7-4 1.5 55.21% 27.5 44 26.1 67
52 Texas Tech 6-5 1.0 53.40% 21.4 81 20.5 28
53 Northwestern 5-7 0.7 52.49% 22.4 75 21.7 35
54 Kentucky 5-6 0.5 51.94% 32.6 16 32.1 91
55 Arkansas 4-7 0.4 51.48% 21.3 85 20.9 29
56 California 3-8 0.3 51.10% 29.0 32 28.7 80
57 Utah State 6-6 0.1 50.48% 29.1 31 28.9 81
58 Cincinnati 8-4 0.1 50.36% 23.9 64 23.8 47
59 Nevada 5-6 -0.3 48.93% 30.5 21 30.8 88
60 SMU 6-5 -0.4 48.46% 21.7 79 22.2 40
61 Rice 7-4 -0.6 47.94% 26.6 50 27.2 71
62 Fresno State 6-6 -0.6 47.84% 25.3 59 25.9 65
63 Wisconsin 8-5 -1.2 45.70% 22.3 76 23.5 45
64 Wake Forest 5-6 -1.2 45.69% 23.6 69 24.8 55
65 Miami-FL 5-6 -1.4 44.82% 26.5 52 28.0 75
66 Utah 6-5 -1.5 44.66% 19.8 93 21.3 33
67 BYU 6-5 -1.6 44.39% 22.1 77 23.7 46
68 San Diego State 5-7 -1.7 44.01% 23.7 66 25.4 57
69 Vanderbilt 3-8 -3.8 36.53% 13.5 110 17.3 13
70 Western Michigan 8-3 -4.0 36.04% 23.7 65 27.7 73
71 East Carolina 5-6 -4.4 34.53% 21.0 86 25.5 58
72 Oregon State 3-8 -4.6 33.93% 19.5 96 24.1 52
73 Duke 2-9 -5.1 32.41% 23.1 72 28.2 77
74 Louisiana Tech 9-2 -5.5 31.20% 26.6 49 32.1 92
75 Eastern Michigan 4-7 -5.5 31.06% 28.3 35 33.8 98
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
76 Pittsburgh 6-6 -5.6 30.87% 25.9 55 31.5 90
77 Bowling Green 3-8 -5.6 30.85% 21.4 83 26.9 70
78 Texas 4-7 -5.7 30.33% 26.7 48 32.4 94
79 Ball State 5-6 -5.8 30.12% 20.5 89 26.3 68
80 Oklahoma 4-8 -6.0 29.43% 22.4 74 28.5 79
81 Minnesota 3-9 -6.3 28.69% 20.7 87 26.9 69
82 Kansas 5-6 -7.8 24.15% 16.8 102 24.6 53
83 Memphis 4-7 -8.1 23.48% 16.9 101 24.9 56
84 Indiana 2-9 -8.3 22.91% 17.6 99 25.9 63
85 Boston College 4-7 -8.7 21.65% 20.7 88 29.4 84
86 UNLV 3-8 -9.3 20.22% 23.7 67 33.0 95
87 Maryland 2-9 -9.4 19.94% 18.7 98 28.1 76
88 Baylor 2-9 -9.5 19.60% 21.4 82 30.9 89
89 Akron 2-9 -9.6 19.37% 24.9 60 34.6 102
90 Boise State 4-7 -9.9 18.79% 24.3 63 34.2 100
91 Kent 3-8 -9.9 18.66% 33.2 14 43.1 111
92 Tulsa 2-9 -10.2 18.03% 26.1 54 36.3 104
93 Hawaii 3-9 -11.5 15.05% 14.3 108 25.8 62
94 UL-Monroe 5-7 -11.5 15.04% 18.9 97 30.4 86
95 Iowa State 1-10 -11.9 14.32% 26.3 53 38.2 106
96 Army 4-7 -12.9 12.30% 16.6 103 29.5 85
97 Idaho 5-6 -13.0 12.24% 20.2 90 33.1 97
98 Temple 3-8 -13.0 12.09% 20.0 92 33.0 96
99 San Jose State 4-7 -13.1 12.04% 21.3 84 34.4 101
100 Houston 3-8 -13.5 11.34% 21.8 78 35.2 103
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
101 UTEP 4-7 -14.0 10.51% 14.5 107 28.4 78
102 Central Michigan 2-9 -14.1 10.22% 27.7 40 41.8 109
103 Illinois 0-11 -14.2 10.14% 15.0 105 29.2 83
104 UAB 5-6 -14.6 9.53% 12.8 111 27.3 72
105 TCU 1-10 -16.1 7.46% 14.5 106 30.6 87
106 Louisville 1-10 -16.6 6.86% 21.4 80 38.0 105
107 North Texas 4-7 -16.7 6.64% 17.4 100 34.2 99
108 Northern Illinois 0-11 -18.0 5.35% 14.2 109 32.2 93
109 Rutgers 0-11 -23.2 1.86% 19.7 94 42.9 110
110 New Mexico State 2-9 -24.4 1.43% 15.6 104 40.0 108
111 UL-Lafayette 1-10 -24.9 1.26% 19.6 95 44.5 112
112 Arkansas State 2-9 -26.9 0.79% 11.7 112 38.6 107

What a playoff race this could have been

The AP top five at the end of the regular season was 1 Michigan, 2 Nebraska, 3 Tennessee, 4 Florida State, 5 UCLA.

These Est. S&P+ rankings at the end of the regular season were 1 FSU, 2 Nebraska, 3 Florida, 4 Tennessee, 5 Michigan.

Conference champions: 11-0 Michigan, 12-0 Nebraska, 11-1 Tennessee, 10-1 FSU, 10-1 Washington State. UCLA had begun the season 0-2 then won nine games in a row. Florida was 9-2 but with wins over both Tennessee and FSU.

Hell, this would have been a perfect year for an eight-team playoff.

As it stood, with the hypothetical four-team playoff that I talk about in each of these year-in-review pieces, I think Wazzu gets left out. The Cougars had lost on the road to a solid Arizona State team, but Tennessee and FSU had both lost to a better Florida team. And despite wins over good UCLA, USC and Washington teams, Wazzu ranked just 15th in Est. S&P+ at the end of the regular season. I'm figuring a Playoff would have given us matchups of 1 Nebraska vs. 4 Tennessee and 2 Michigan vs. 3 FSU, though that seeding could have worked out in a lot of different ways.

Uh ... Washington?

In 1997, Washington pulled off an even more extreme version of what it accomplished in 2015 -- lose to good teams (usually by tight margins) and wreak havoc in wins. UW beat four top-30 teams (ASU, Michigan State, USC, Arizona) by an average score of 41-16, which is remarkable. The Huskies spent most of the year playing like the top-five team they were supposed to be. But quarterback Brock Huard battled injuries, and they faded late, losing three in a row to No. 21 Oregon (31-28), No. 8 UCLA (52-28), and No. 14 Washington State (41-35).

Huge wins over good teams and mostly competitive losses to even better teams? That's how you end up grading out well. Fourth surprises me, but Washington certainly seems like a team that would have been perfectly fine over a 30- or 50-game season. The 11-game sample was not kind, though.

Missouri: 9th on offense, 82nd on defense

Yeah, that sounds about right.

1996 is on the clock.