Let’s start with “Time Travel,” the weekly feature that highlights an old article (often from the World-Herald archives). This excerpt is not from the World-Herald. This is from the Los Angeles Times, January 1998.
I include it because Nebraska plays Michigan on Saturday. The two are linked by the 1997 season, when they split the national title.
If you don’t remember, the Wolverines had a commanding lead in both polls entering the bowls. But Michigan barely edged Washington State, Nebraska smoked Tennessee and 23 of 62 coaches changed their vote, giving NU enough for a share of the national title (Nebraska finished with 32 votes, Michigan 30).
Had 21 coaches — not 23 — changed their vote, Nebraska would’ve fallen short. Sonny Lubick, then-Colorado State coach, was one of the 23:
“I heard a sportscaster say no way the AP poll was going to change because it was something like 68 first-place votes to one,” Lubick said back then. “As I watched Nebraska play last night and saw their team out there, I felt like I had to vote for Nebraska and hopefully they could get a tie in this thing.”
“Winning the game was going to be good enough … it didn’t matter how bad or by how much. It would have been a crime for either team to go 12-0 or 13-0 and not be (national champs).”
ABC announcer Keith Jackson said Southern coaches miffed by the Heisman snub of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning may have been a factor in the national championship vote.
“The Southern bloc of voters voted for Tom Osborne because they were still mumbling down in the South about Charles Woodson winning the Heisman Trophy,” Jackson said. “I think it’s a carryover from that — whether that’s right or wrong.”
Personally, I have always valued the AP poll more than the coaches’ poll. It’s not because I’m a journalist, it’s because coaches have very little time to watch other games during the season. Too often, I think their votes are dictated by personal relationships. Having said that, I thought Nebraska was better than Michigan in ’97. (Of course, I was a 16-year-old growing up in Nebraska, so I was a little biased).
Anyway, check out this excerpt from LA Times columnist Chris Dufresne after the coaches’ vote:
Dear coaches: You whistle-blowing, clipboard-toting, poll-caving, sentimentalist saps. Here all these years we thought you were holed up nights watching opponent film when it’s obvious the tapes in those video recorders had to be “Love Story.”
Got a stray puppy?
Send it along to the 32 coaches who voted Nebraska No. 1 in Saturday’s final USA Today-ESPN coaches’ poll. Those mush-hearts couldn’t refuse it. You should see these guys at coaching conventions, sneaking off with their tissue boxes to watch John Tesh replays of great Olympic gymnastic moments.
Can you believe the coaches fell for it, all that CBS-produced, soft-focused campaigning for Nebraska? It was Tom Osborne’s last game, set to orchestral music – “You’ve just got to vote him a share of the national title” blah, blah, blah.
Listen, nothing against Nebraska, which beat up pretty good on gimpy-kneed quarterback Peyton Manning and the Tennessee Volunteers, or perhaps you didn’t notice how fast able-bodied Tennessee backup quarterback Tee Martin drove his team for a score late in the game.
Once again, the coaches got it wrong.
The whole national-title question might have been settled had CBS and coaches’ poll partner ESPN posed this simple question in the great Michigan-Nebraska debate:
How many games did Michigan win this season on a last-second play in which its receiver dropped a ball in his opponent’s end zone but, as he was falling down, miraculously kicked it in the air — illegally, the player acknowledged — only to have a teammate snatch it for a touchdown before it hit the ground?
Fourteen years later, it strikes me how emotional the Michigan-Nebraska debate was, even for those not directly involved. I’m curious. What do you remember about the critical bowl games of 1998 and subsequent votes. Do you think coaches like Lubick made the right call?
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>> With Arkansas moving up in the rankings, it means LSU and the Hogs will likely both be in the top-6 when they meet in Baton Rouge on Nov. 25. If LSU wins, it will have beaten three top-6 opponents in a regular season. (Oregon was 3rd, Alabama was 2nd). If the Tigers win it all, that’s another elite team. I wonder how many teams in college football history have beaten four top-six teams in one year.
>> Case Keenum and Brandon Weeden. Who is having the better season?
Keenum: 3,951 yards, 39 touchdowns, three INT, 193.3 rating
Weeden: 3,635 yards, 31 touchdowns, nine INT, 164.2 rating
Typically, you go with the guy playing in the BCS league. But have you seen Big 12 defenses lately?
>> A column about Coach K, the General, a broken record and a complex relationship.
>> I meant to post some links and thoughts on Penn State this morning, but I’m going to wait another day or so. I do want to link a few stories. Last summer, Joe Paterno transferred ownership of his house to his wife. Lawyers interviewed by the New York Times disagree on Paterno’s potential motives.
>> And one more from State College. Now Mike McQueary says he DID talk to police.
>> Franco Harris was a spokesman for a race track and casino…until he spoke out against Paterno’s firing. The track apparently fired him.
>> Don’t forget “Husker Insider” tonight at 6 p.m. on 1620 The Zone. Matt Schick and I are live at The Loose Moose on 120th and Fort Streets. We give away prizes, talk Nebraska-Michigan and dodge flying pizza from the crowd. You can listen on your radio or come join the fun.