|1994 NCAA Division I-A season|
|Number of teams||107|
|Preseason AP No. 1||Florida|
|Heisman Trophy||Rashaan Salaam (running back, Colorado)|
|Bowl Coalition Championship|
|1995 Orange Bowl|
|Site||Miami Orange Bowl,|
|Champion(s)||Nebraska (AP, Coaches, FWAA)|
|Division I-A football seasons|
The 1994 NCAA Division I-A football season, play of college football in the United States at the NCAA Division I-A level, began in August 1994 and ended on January 2, 1995. Nebraska, who finished the season undefeated, ended the year ranked No. 1 in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls. This was the first national championship of coach Tom Osborne's career at Nebraska, having come close the year before, when Nebraska lost to eventual national champion Florida State on a missed field goal as time expired.
Although Osborne's team finished the season unbeaten, the national championship picture again was engulfed in controversy. For much of the second half of the season, Nebraska and Penn State were regarded as the top two teams in the country. This raised the possibility of a split national championship for the third time since 1990, due in large part to the system in place that had been concocted to avoid a split title.
Following the 1991 season, where Miami and Washington split the national championship in the AP and Coaches' polls, the Bowl Coalition was founded. The Coalition consisted of six bowls, with the Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, and Sugar bowls were all considered potential hosts for a national championship game. Since three of these bowls already had specific tie-ins with conferences, an agreement was struck where the conferences would agree to release those teams from their contractual obligations in order to achieve a No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup. For the first two years of the Coalition, this did occur without incident as the Sugar and Orange Bowls in 1993 and 1994 featured No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups in their respective games.
The problem with this as far as 1994 was concerned was that the Rose Bowl, which featured the Pac-10 and Big Ten champions playing each other, was not included in the Coalition and thus a team that finished No. 1 or No. 2 in the polls from those two conferences could not be considered by the Coalition to be its national champion. Nebraska, as a member of the Big Eight Conference, was part of the coalition while Penn State was not. As Nebraska went on to win the conference title, it earned an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl to face off against No. 3 Miami, who won the Big East title and was No. 2 in the Coalition pool. Thus Miami, who as recently as two years earlier was in the Coalition championship game, had a chance to stake a claim as the national champion with a win (as they would have been awarded the Coaches' Trophy) and all but ensure a split title with Penn State provided they defeated No. 13 Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
On January 1, 1995, Nebraska defeated Miami in the Orange Bowl 24–17 and clinched the championship. The next day Penn State defeated Oregon in the Rose Bowl by a count of 38–20 and secured the No. 2 spot in the polls.
In the offseason that followed, the Bowl Coalition was disbanded and in its place came the Bowl Alliance, which attempted to serve the same purpose by rotating a national championship game between the Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange Bowls. Like the Bowl Coalition before it, the Bowl Alliance did not include the Rose Bowl and two of the three national championship games did not feature a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup, with the 1997 season seeing another split national championship.
|School||1993 Conference||1994 Conference|
|Northeast Louisiana Indians||Southland (I-AA)||I-A Independent|
In February 1994, before the season began, an announcement was made regarding the future of the Southwest Conference. In 1991, the SWC became an all-Texas conference as Arkansas left the SWC to join the Southeastern Conference. As 1994 began Texas was rumored to be considering joining the Pac-10 with Big Eight member Colorado (rumors that would resurface over a decade later, which eventually resulted in Colorado joining the Pac-10 with Utah to form the Pac-12), while Texas A&M was reported to be looking at joining the SEC (which they would eventually do in 2012). On February 25, 1994, it was announced that Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Baylor would be joining with all eight of the teams in the Big Eight to form the Big 12 Conference, in 1996. Following this decision, another decision was made regarding the future of remaining SWC members SMU, Houston, TCU, and Rice; SMU, TCU, and Rice would join the Western Athletic Conference while Houston joined Conference USA. (Of the schools that joined the Big 12, as noted, the only one that did not stay in the conference was Texas A&M. TCU, SMU, and Rice all eventually became part of Conference USA as well, with TCU being the first to join while the other three schools joined as part of the 2005 conference realignment. TCU left for the Mountain West Conference in 2005 and eventually joined their former SWC brethren in the Big 12, while SMU and Houston became part of the American Athletic Conference in 2013 with the former Big East football schools that were still in the conference. Rice still plays in C-USA.)
The 1994 Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony was held on December 10, 1994, at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City. The five finalists were:
Warren Sapp from Miami was the 6th finalist and also attended the ceremony.
McNair's nomination as a finalist was a rare feat, as Alcorn State was a member of Division I-AA and I-AA awarded the Walter Payton Award to its most outstanding player (which McNair won).
The Heisman voters awarded the trophy to Salaam, who also won the Walter Camp Award and the Doak Walker Award. Salaam received 400 first place votes and 1743 total points, 842 more than second-place Carter. McNair finished third, sixteen points ahead of Collins, and Barker finished a distant fifth.
Other players receiving votes were Miami defensive tackle Warren Sapp, Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier, Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips and offensive tackle Zach Wiegert, and Washington running back Napoleon Kaufman.
After being played for the first two years at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, the SEC Championship Game moved to its now-permanent home in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, the demolition and reconstruction of Gator Bowl Stadium that coincided with the Jacksonville Jaguars' entry into the NFL for 1995 forced the Gator Bowl to move to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville for its 1994 playing. The game returned to Jacksonville in the newly built Jacksonville Municipal Stadium the following year. Also, John Hancock Insurance's deal for naming rights to the Sun Bowl expired and the game reverted to its former name.
Although Nebraska, Penn State and Alabama were still ranked in the Top 10, many of college football's legendary teams finished the regular season with their lowest rankings in years. Ohio State finished the season ranked 14th in the AP poll while Michigan was No. 20 and USC No. 21. Notre Dame, which started the season ranked fourth, finished the season unranked as did preseason No. 16 Oklahoma.
Due to several fighting incidents that occurred during the 1993 season (including one between the Miami Hurricanes and the Colorado Buffaloes that resulted in 12 ejections), the following changes were made:
The top five of the preseason AP Poll were No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Nebraska, and No. 5 Michigan. There was something of a lack of consensus at the top as each of the top four teams received at least ten first-place votes, with fourth-place Nebraska getting the most such votes.
August 28: No. 4 Nebraska shut out No. 24 West Virginia 31-0 in the Kickoff Classic. The other top teams had not begun their schedules, and the Cornhuskers moved up in the next poll: No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 4 Florida State, and No. 5 Michigan.
September 3: No. 1 Florida overwhelmed New Mexico State 70-21. No. 2 Nebraska was idle. No. 3 Notre Dame won 42-15 at Northwestern, and No. 4 Florida State beat Virginia 41-17. No. 5 Michigan defeated Boston College 34-26, but No. 6 Miami shut out Georgia Southern 56-0 and moved ahead of the Wolverines in the next poll. The voters also made a change at the top: No. 1 Nebraska, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 4 Florida State, and No. 5 Miami.
September 8-10: No. 1 Nebraska won 42-16 at Texas Tech while No. 2 Florida blew out Kentucky 73-7, leading the two teams to switch places again. After coming back to take the lead with less than a minute to play, No. 3 Notre Dame lost 26-24 to No. 6 Michigan on a field goal with two seconds left. No. 4 Florida State won 52-20 at Maryland, and No. 5 Miami defeated Arizona State 47-10. The next poll featured No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Michigan, and No. 5 Miami.
September 17: No. 1 Florida visited No. 15 Tennessee and shut the Volunteers out 31-0, No. 2 Nebraska defeated No. 13 UCLA 49-21, and No. 3 Florida State won 56-14 at Wake Forest. No. 4 Michigan and No. 5 Miami were idle. No. 6 Penn State beat Iowa 61-21 and moved up in the next poll: No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Michigan, and No. 5 Penn State.
September 24: No. 1 Florida was idle. No. 2 Nebraska defeated Pacific 70-21, but the Cornhuskers’ star quarterback Tommie Frazier was sidelined for the rest of the regular season with blood clots in his calf. No. 3 Florida State beat No. 13 North Carolina 31-18. In the “Miracle at Michigan,” No. 7 Colorado won 27-26 over No. 4 Michigan thanks to Kordell Stewart’s 64-yard Hail Mary for a touchdown as time expired. No. 5 Penn State was a 55-27 winner over Rutgers. The next poll featured No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Penn State, and No. 5 Colorado.
October 1: No. 1 Florida won 38-14 at Mississippi. With Brook Berringer taking over the quarterback duties from Frazier, No. 2 Nebraska got off to a slow start against Wyoming but came back for a 42-32 victory. No. 3 Florida State was idle. No. 4 Penn State visited Temple for a 48-21 win. No. 5 Colorado pulled off a buzzer-beating play for the second week in a row, this time beating No. 16 Texas 34-31 on a field goal as time expired. The top five remained the same in the next poll.
October 8: No. 1 Florida defeated LSU 42-18, and No. 2 Nebraska opened Big 8 play with a 32-3 win over Oklahoma State. No. 3 Florida State visited No. 13 Miami with an unlucky result, as the Seminoles committed five turnovers on the way to a 34-20 loss. No. 4 Penn State was idle. No. 5 Colorado beat Missouri 38-23, and No. 7 Michigan won 40-20 over Michigan State. The next poll featured No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Penn State, No. 4 Colorado, and No. 5 Michigan.
October 15: No. 1 Florida was upset 36-33 by No. 6 Auburn, who capitalized on a late interception to score the game-winning touchdown with 30 seconds left; it was the Gators’ first home loss to a conference opponent in coach Steve Spurrier’s five years with the team. No. 2 Nebraska defeated No. 16 Kansas State 17-6, No. 3 Penn State won a back-and-forth 31-24 matchup with No. 5 Michigan, and No. 4 Colorado beat No. 22 Oklahoma 45-7. The AP voters reshuffled the top teams in the next poll: No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Colorado, No. 3 Nebraska, No. 4 Auburn, and No. 5 Florida.
October 22: No. 1 Penn State, No. 4 Auburn, and No. 5 Florida were all idle. No. 2 Colorado defeated No. 19 Kansas State 35-21, and No. 3 Nebraska won 42-7 at Missouri. The top five remained the same in the next poll.
October 29: No. 1 Penn State blew out No. 21 Ohio State 63-14, but the AP voters were more impressed by the performance of No. 3 Nebraska, who took control of the Big 8 race with a 24-7 defeat of No. 2 Colorado. No. 4 Auburn beat Arkansas 31-14, No. 5 Florida defeated Georgia 52-14, and No. 6 Miami won 24-3 over No. 13 Virginia Tech. The top five in the next AP Poll were No. 1 Nebraska, No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Auburn, No. 4 Florida, and No. 5 Miami. Penn State remained at No. 1 in the Coaches Poll.
November 5: No. 1 Nebraska defeated Kansas 45-17. No. 2 Penn State held a 35-14 lead over Indiana midway through the fourth quarter, but the Hoosiers mounted a comeback and cut the final margin to 35-29. No. 3 Auburn beat East Carolina 38-21, No. 4 Florida defeated Southern Mississippi 55-17, and No. 5 Miami won 27-6 at No. 10 Syracuse. The top five remained the same in the AP Poll, and Nebraska took over first place in the Coaches Poll as well.
November 12: No. 1 Nebraska won 28-12 at Iowa State to clinch the Big 8 title and an Orange Bowl berth. No. 2 Penn State had another close call in their game at Illinois. This time the Nittany Lions were the ones who faced a big deficit, trailing 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, but they mounted a comeback for a 35-31 victory which earned them the Big Ten championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl. No. 3 Auburn brought a 20-game winning streak into their game against Georgia, but the Tigers missed a last-second field goal and had to settle for a 23-23 tie. No. 4 Florida beat South Carolina 48-17 to clinch the SEC Western Division title. No. 5 Miami defeated Pittsburgh 17-12, while No. 6 Alabama won 29-25 at No. 20 Mississippi State. The top five in the next poll were No. 1 Nebraska, No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Alabama, and No. 5 Miami.
November 19: No. 1 Nebraska was idle. No. 2 Penn State defeated Northwestern 45-17, and No. 3 Florida won 24-7 at Vanderbilt. No. 4 Alabama and No. 6 Auburn squared off in a battle for the SEC Eastern Division championship. Alabama was already assured of a spot in the SEC Championship Game because Auburn was barred from postseason play due to NCAA violations, and the Crimson Tide won the division title outright with a 21-14 triumph. No. 5 Miami beat Temple 38-14. The top five in the next poll were No. 1 Nebraska, No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Florida, and No. 5 Miami.
November 25-26: No. 1 Nebraska won a defensive struggle against Oklahoma, 13-3, while No. 2 Penn State prevailed in a 59-31 shootout against Michigan State. No. 3 Alabama had finished their regular-season schedule. In the “Choke at Doak,” No. 4 Florida entered the fourth quarter with a 31-3 lead over No. 7 Florida State, but the Seminoles scored 28 unanswered points (tying an NCAA record for the biggest fourth-quarter comeback of all time) to salvage a 31-31 tie. No. 5 Miami beat No. 25 Boston College 23-7. No. 6 Colorado had finished their schedule, but the Buffaloes still moved up in the next poll: No. 1 Nebraska, No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Miami, and No. 5 Colorado.
December 3: The third annual SEC Championship Game featured the same teams as the first two, with undefeated No. 3 Alabama facing off against No. 6 Florida. The Crimson Tide had won in 1992 and the Gators prevailed in 1993, and the rubber match was a very close game. Alabama held a 23-17 lead in the fourth quarter, but Danny Wuerffel threw a touchdown pass to put Florida back up by a point, and the Gators closed out the game with an interception on Alabama’s final drive. The final AP poll of the regular season featured No. 1 Nebraska, No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Miami, No. 4 Colorado, and No. 5 Florida.
Alabama’s loss in the SEC title game left Nebraska and Penn State as the only undefeated and untied teams in the nation. However, since they were the Big Ten champions, the Nittany Lions were required to play in the Rose Bowl against the Pac-10 winner, No. 12 Oregon. Therefore, Nebraska’s opponent in the Orange Bowl would be third-ranked Miami. The other major bowls included a rematch between Florida and No. 7 Florida State in the Sugar Bowl and Colorado against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. No. 8 Texas A&M finished with a 10-0-1 record and easily won the SWC title, but the Aggies were on probation and ineligible for postseason play. Texas Tech, who finished in a five-way tie for second place and sported a less-impressive 6-5 record, replaced A&M in the Cotton Bowl against No. 21 USC.
The Bowl Coalition did not include the Big 10 and Pacific-10 conferences, whose champions played in the Rose Bowl. Penn State, which was ranked No. 1 in the Oct 18 and Oct 25 polls, and No. 2 for the remainder of the season, finished the regular season 11–0–0 and played in the Rose Bowl as the champion of the Big Ten.
|8-9||No. 2 Colorado||Big 8||No. 3 Nebraska||Big 8|
|10-11||Nebraska||Big 8||No. 3 Auburn||SEC|
|12||Nebraska||Big 8||No. 3 Florida||SEC|
|13–14||Nebraska||Big 8||No. 3 Alabama||SEC|
|15||Nebraska||Big 8||No. 3 Miami||Big East|
Main article: 1994–95 NCAA football bowl games
Main article: 1994 NCAA Division I-A football rankings
The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is given to the Most Outstanding Player of the year
Rashaan Salaam, Colorado, JR. RB (1400 votes)
See also: 1994 College Football All-America Team
((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)