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1999 had star power, story lines, and one hell of a national title matchup

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Into the 1990s (a.k.a. the Bowden Decade) we go!

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

We ease into the 1990s with one of the easiest two-team selections in the BCS era. There were other solid teams in the country in 1999, but Florida State and Virginia Tech were both undefeated and exciting. Chris Weinke vs. Michael Vick. Easy peasy.

Beyond the FSU-VT title game, however, this year was fascinating because of the developments under the surface.

  • Miami's four losses distracted us from the fact that the Hurricanes were almost back (as you'll recall, Miami ranked first in Est. S&P+ in both 2000 and 2001).

  • A tight loss at Texas distracted Nebraska fans from how well Frank Solich was doing in his second year in Lincoln.

  • Michael Vick's success (and the fact that Vick actually had a defense backing him up) distracted us from how absurdly impressive Joe Hamilton's Georgia Tech offense was. (I mean, Hamilton was a consensus All-American, so maybe we weren't distracted, but a lot more fans remember Vick than Hamilton.)

  • Some close losses (by 4 at Notre Dame, by 2 to Ole Miss) distracted us from how good Oklahoma was (and how close the Sooners were to becoming even better).

  • Joe Tiller's version of the spread was posting massive numbers a year before Northwestern's spread caught on.

  • Marshall was legitimately awesome (but not quite awesome enough to have gotten a sniff at a BCS bowl, apparently).

Michael Vick, Joe Hamilton, Ron Dayne, Lavar Arrington, Corey Moore, Sebastian Janikowski, Mark Simoneau, Brian Urlacher, Peter Warrick, Deltha O'Neal, Dennis Northcutt, Drew Brees, Major Applewhite, Shaun Alexander, LaDainian Tomlinson, Anthony Thomas, Plaxico Burress, Quincy Morgan, Deuce McAllister. Hot damn, 1999 was loaded. And we even got a fun national title game out of the deal.

S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
1 Florida State 12-0 24.6 98.8% 39.9 1 15.3 8
2 Nebraska 12-1 22.7 98.2% 34.9 6 12.2 1
3 Virginia Tech 11-1 20.6 97.1% 37.5 3 17.0 13
4 Tennessee 9-3 19.0 96.0% 32.9 17 13.9 2
5 Alabama 10-3 18.9 95.9% 34.2 8 15.3 7
6 Penn State 10-3 18.6 95.7% 34.3 7 15.7 9
7 Michigan 10-2 17.5 94.7% 34.1 9 16.6 11
8 Michigan State 10-2 16.1 93.1% 34.0 10 17.9 15
9 Wisconsin 10-2 16.0 92.9% 30.8 24 14.9 4
10 Miami-FL 9-4 15.8 92.8% 32.6 19 16.7 12
11 Kansas State 11-1 15.0 91.6% 33.4 14 18.4 16
12 Florida 9-4 14.9 91.6% 33.4 13 18.5 17
13 Marshall 13-0 14.5 90.9% 29.4 27 14.9 6
14 Southern Miss 9-3 13.3 89.0% 28.2 38 14.9 5
15 Oklahoma 7-5 12.0 86.5% 33.8 11 21.8 37
16 Illinois 8-4 11.1 84.6% 33.2 16 22.1 38
17 Minnesota 8-4 10.8 84.1% 28.2 40 17.4 14
18 Texas 9-5 10.4 83.1% 31.8 22 21.4 34
19 Clemson 6-6 10.2 82.6% 29.0 30 18.9 20
20 Ohio State 6-6 9.7 81.5% 28.7 33 18.9 22
21 Purdue 7-5 9.5 81.0% 33.5 12 24.0 49
22 Utah 9-3 9.4 80.7% 29.3 28 19.9 25
23 Georgia Tech 8-4 9.1 80.0% 39.0 2 29.9 89
24 Texas A&M 8-4 8.5 78.3% 27.1 45 18.6 18
25 BYU 8-4 8.3 77.8% 28.6 35 20.2 27
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
26 Ole Miss 8-4 8.0 77.0% 26.9 48 18.9 21
27 Colorado State 8-4 7.8 76.5% 29.5 26 21.7 35
28 Notre Dame 5-7 7.7 76.2% 32.2 21 24.5 52
29 Oregon 9-3 7.7 76.0% 32.8 18 25.2 57
30 Washington 7-5 7.0 74.0% 29.9 25 22.9 41
31 Louisville 7-5 6.9 73.8% 36.3 4 29.4 84
32 Arkansas 8-4 6.9 73.7% 27.0 47 20.1 26
33 Colorado 7-5 6.7 73.3% 33.3 15 26.6 70
34 Stanford 8-4 6.2 71.8% 35.9 5 29.6 88
35 Mississippi State 10-2 5.7 70.0% 19.8 95 14.1 3
36 East Carolina 9-3 5.7 70.0% 26.1 53 20.4 29
37 Auburn 5-6 5.6 69.8% 24.3 65 18.7 19
38 Oregon State 7-5 5.2 68.4% 26.9 49 21.7 36
39 USC 6-6 5.2 68.3% 28.7 32 23.5 46
40 Memphis 5-6 4.7 66.9% 21.1 84 16.3 10
41 Cincinnati 3-8 4.1 64.9% 27.5 42 23.4 44
42 Syracuse 7-5 3.9 64.1% 25.1 58 21.2 32
43 San Diego State 5-6 3.7 63.2% 24.0 68 20.4 28
44 Air Force 6-5 3.4 62.4% 23.2 72 19.8 24
45 Virginia 7-5 3.1 61.3% 31.2 23 28.1 78
46 Georgia 8-4 2.9 60.5% 28.4 36 25.5 61
47 Wyoming 7-4 2.7 59.9% 27.1 44 24.4 51
48 Fresno State 8-5 2.6 59.6% 28.6 34 26.0 64
49 Louisiana Tech 8-3 2.3 58.3% 32.4 20 30.1 91
50 Boise State 10-3 1.4 55.2% 27.9 41 26.5 67
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
51 Wake Forest 7-5 1.4 55.0% 20.4 93 19.0 23
52 TCU 8-4 0.8 53.1% 24.3 64 23.5 45
53 Kentucky 6-6 0.7 52.5% 28.2 37 27.5 73
54 Pittsburgh 5-6 0.6 52.1% 25.7 55 25.1 56
55 West Virginia 4-7 0.6 52.0% 26.7 51 26.2 66
56 UAB 5-6 0.0 49.8% 23.9 70 23.9 47
57 Houston 7-4 -0.1 49.8% 21.0 86 21.1 31
58 Maryland 5-6 -0.1 49.6% 24.5 62 24.6 53
59 Arizona 6-6 -0.3 49.0% 29.2 29 29.5 86
60 Oklahoma State 5-6 -1.0 46.3% 24.1 67 25.1 55
61 Arizona State 6-6 -1.0 46.2% 24.3 66 25.3 60
62 Hawaii 9-4 -1.1 46.1% 27.1 46 28.2 79
63 Boston College 8-4 -1.1 45.9% 24.4 63 25.5 62
64 UCLA 4-7 -1.2 45.7% 24.0 69 25.2 58
65 Missouri 4-7 -1.4 45.0% 26.4 52 27.8 76
66 Vanderbilt 5-6 -1.8 43.3% 21.5 79 23.4 43
67 Iowa State 4-7 -1.8 43.2% 23.0 74 24.8 54
68 Western Michigan 7-5 -2.0 42.5% 28.2 39 30.2 92
69 LSU 3-8 -2.0 42.5% 20.8 90 22.9 39
70 California 4-7 -2.1 42.2% 18.6 101 20.7 30
71 Navy 5-7 -2.5 40.7% 25.1 59 27.6 74
72 Toledo 6-5 -2.6 40.4% 23.4 71 26.1 65
73 Rice 5-6 -2.8 39.6% 21.2 83 24.0 48
74 Miami-OH 7-4 -3.0 39.2% 25.8 54 28.7 81
75 North Carolina 3-8 -3.2 38.4% 19.7 98 22.9 40
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
76 NC State 6-6 -3.4 37.7% 20.9 89 24.3 50
77 Indiana 4-7 -4.4 34.4% 28.7 31 33.1 102
78 New Mexico 4-7 -5.1 31.9% 21.4 80 26.5 68
79 Washington State 3-9 -5.2 31.4% 21.3 81 26.6 69
80 Iowa 1-10 -5.6 30.4% 20.3 94 25.9 63
81 Ohio 5-6 -5.7 30.1% 22.2 77 27.9 77
82 Temple 2-9 -6.0 29.0% 20.5 91 26.6 71
83 Texas Tech 6-5 -6.1 28.6% 21.2 82 27.4 72
84 Kansas 5-7 -6.4 27.8% 22.4 75 28.8 82
85 Northwestern 3-8 -6.6 27.1% 16.7 104 23.3 42
86 Idaho 7-4 -6.8 26.7% 21.9 78 28.7 80
87 UTEP 5-7 -7.4 24.7% 25.3 57 32.7 100
88 Akron 7-4 -7.7 24.0% 24.8 60 32.5 98
89 Central Florida 4-7 -7.8 23.6% 24.8 61 32.6 99
90 Duke 3-8 -8.0 23.0% 22.4 76 30.4 93
91 Tulane 3-8 -8.4 21.9% 26.7 50 35.1 107
92 Army 3-8 -8.5 21.7% 20.4 92 28.9 83
93 New Mexico State 6-5 -8.6 21.5% 21.0 87 29.5 87
94 Utah State 4-7 -8.8 20.8% 18.9 99 27.7 75
95 Bowling Green 5-6 -9.0 20.4% 23.2 73 32.2 97
96 South Carolina 0-11 -9.7 18.6% 11.6 113 21.3 33
97 Eastern Michigan 4-7 -10.6 16.5% 21.0 88 31.5 94
98 Northern Illinois 5-6 -10.9 15.7% 21.1 85 32.0 96
99 SMU 4-6 -11.5 14.5% 13.8 110 25.3 59
100 Arkansas State 4-7 -11.8 13.8% 19.7 97 31.6 95
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
101 Nevada 3-8 -12.8 12.0% 25.6 56 38.4 110
102 Kent 2-9 -14.0 9.8% 19.8 96 33.8 103
103 San Jose State 3-7 -14.2 9.6% 27.5 43 41.7 114
104 Rutgers 1-10 -15.7 7.4% 18.6 100 34.3 105
105 UNLV 3-8 -15.9 7.1% 14.0 109 29.9 90
106 Central Michigan 4-7 -18.0 4.9% 17.2 103 35.1 108
107 Baylor 1-10 -18.1 4.7% 16.0 105 34.1 104
108 UL-Monroe 5-6 -18.4 4.5% 14.4 108 32.9 101
109 Tulsa 2-9 -19.7 3.4% 17.7 102 37.4 109
110 Ball State 0-11 -22.0 2.1% 12.5 112 34.5 106
111 North Texas 2-9 -22.0 2.1% 7.4 114 29.5 85
112 UL-Lafayette 2-9 -24.5 1.2% 15.1 106 39.6 112
113 Buffalo 0-11 -25.5 0.9% 15.1 107 40.6 113
114 Middle Tennessee 3-8 -25.6 0.9% 13.1 111 38.7 111

Who gets the fourth spot?

As I work backwards, I try to look at how a College Football Playoff debate might have taken shape in each season had a playoff actually existed. (What can I say ... I'm a what-if guy.) While a two-team BCS matchup was easy, a decision on the fourth seed would have been fascinating this year.

The top three are easy, obviously. FSU and VT were undefeated, and Nebraska was 11-1, with only the tight loss in Austin. (And thank goodness for that loss because if NU had gone unbeaten, we might not have gotten to watch Michael Vick in the BCS title game.)

But here are the candidates for the No. 4 spot:

  • 10-1 Kansas State, which was seventh in the AP poll, sixth in the BCS rankings, and ninth in pre-bowl Est. S&P+ (not that S&P+ matters, of course, but I'm including it anyway).
  • 10-2 SEC champion Alabama, which was fifth in AP, fourth in BCS, and fifth in pre-bowl S&P+.
  • 9-2 Big Ten champion Wisconsin, which was fourth in the AP, seventh in BCS, and eighth in S&P+.
  • 9-2 Tennessee, which was sixth in AP, fifth in BCS, and fourth in S&P+.
  • 9-2 Michigan, which was eighth in AP and BCS and seventh in S&P+.

There is not an obvious pick there. KSU didn't win the Big 12, which would get a ding from the committee, but the Wildcats' only loss was at Nebraska (granted, by 26 points). And of the two-loss teams, Alabama had the computer edge, but Wisconsin was admired by pollsters and had caught fire after starting the season 2-2 (plus, the Badgers had Heisman winner Ron Dayne). Michigan, meanwhile, handed Wisconsin one of those losses and had recently won at a top-10 Penn State squad. Tennessee beat Alabama but lost at Florida and Arkansas. Alabama was awesome ... except for a home loss to Louisiana Tech.

Man, that's tricky. My guess is that the committee picks KSU here, but Alabama and Wisconsin wouldn't have surprised me.

1998 is up next.