1997 NCAA Division I-A football season


1997 NCAA Division I-A football season

The 1997 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with a split championship for the third time in the 1990s.

In Tom Osborne's last season as head coach, Nebraska took over the #1 ranking in the nation after defeating Texas Tech midway through the season. Three weeks later, despite winning at Missouri in a thrilling double overtime 45-38 game, in which a kick-ball deflection touchdown pass by Nebraska tied the game up in regulation, Nebraska slipped to a #2 ranking in the polls.

In the end, however, Nebraska captured one half of the title. Undefeated #2 Nebraska squared off in the Orange Bowl versus #3 Tennessee. It was a dominating 42-17 victory for Nebraska over Tennessee in what was the designated Bowl Alliance championship game.

The consensus #1 team going into the bowl season was undefeated Michigan, coached by coach of the year Lloyd Carr and led by Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson. Michigan went into the Rose Bowl against #8 Washington State ranked #1 in both the AP and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. After a controversial 21-16 Rose Bowl victory when official inexplicably ran off the last 3 seconds on the clock with WSU knocking on the door, they slipped a notch in the coaches poll to #2, but retained their position in the writers poll.

Fortunately this wouldn't be a problem again as the Pac 10 and Big 10 would join the other conferences the following year to form a Super Alliance, though that was just a working title.

The national title picture could have been even murkier as Florida State went into their final regular season game ranked #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".

The Humanitarian Bowl began play in Boise, Idaho to help publicise the dwindling Big West Conference and Boise State. The Broncos with their wacky blue turf had just made the jump to Division I-A a year ago. 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 began play in Detroit, Michigan hosted by a MAC team.

The Copper Bowl gained corporate sponsorship and was now known as the Insight.com bowl.

The MAC also grew to a 12 team, 2 division conference with a championship game after the addition of Northern Illinois from the Big West and newcomer to Division I-A Marshall. In a scenario similar to the Big West in 1993, this up-and-comer from Division I-AA was able to win the division in its first year. To be fair, the Thundering Herd had gone unbeaten and won the I-AA national title the previous season, and had future NFL star wideout Randy Moss.

East Carolina joined a conference for the first time since Division I split in 1978, becoming a member of Conference USA.

AP Poll Progress

+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

Final AP Poll

#Michigan (51 1/2)
#Nebraska (18 1/2)
#Florida St.
#Florida
#UCLA
#North Carolina
#Tennessee
#Kansas St.
#Washington St.
#Georgia
#Auburn
#Ohio St.
#LSU
#Arizona St.
#Purdue
#Penn St.
#Colorado St.
#Washington
#So. Mississippi
#Texas A&M
#Syracuse
#Mississippi
#Missouri
#Oklahoma St.
#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

#Nebraska
#Michigan
#Florida St.
#North Carolina
#UCLA
#Florida
#Kansas St.
#Tennessee
#Washington St.
#Georgia
#Auburn (AL)
#Ohio St.
#Louisiana St.
#Arizona St.
#Purdue (IN)
#Colorado St.
#Penn St.
#Washington
#Southern Mississippi
#Syracuse (NY)
#Texas A&M
#Mississippi
#Missouri
#Oklahoma St.
#Air Force (CO)

Heisman Trophy Voting

"The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is given to the Most Outstanding Player of the year"
Winner:
Charles Woodson, Michigan, Defensive Back (1815 points)
*2. Peyton Manning, Tennessee, QB (1543 points)
*3. Ryan Leaf, Washington St., QB (861 points)
*4. Randy Moss, Marshall, WR (861 points)
*5. Ricky Williams, Texas, RB (135 points)

Other Major Awards

*Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year) - Peyton Manning, Tennessee
*Walter Camp Award (Back) - Charles Woodson, Michigan
*Davey O'Brien Award (Quarterback) - Peyton Manning, Tennessee
*Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (Senior Quarterback) - Peyton Manning, Tennessee
*Doak Walker Award (Running Back) - Ricky Williams, Texas
*Fred Biletnikoff Award (Wide Receiver) - Randy Moss, Marshall
*Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Defensive Player) - Charles Woodson, Michigan
*Dick Butkus Award (Linebacker) - Andy Katzenmoyer, Ohio St.
*Lombardi Award (Lineman or Linebacker) - Grant Wistrom, Nebraska
*Outland Trophy (Interior Lineman) - Aaron Taylor, Nebraska
*Jim Thorpe Award (Defensive Back) - Charles Woodson, Michigan
*Lou Groza Award (Placekicker) - Martin Gramatica, Kansas State
*Paul "Bear" Bryant Award - Lloyd Carr, Michigan
*Football Writers Association of America Coach of the Year Award: Mike Price, Washington St.


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