1996 NCAA Division I-A season
Number of teams111[1]
Preseason AP No. 1Nebraska[2]
Post-season
Bowl games18
Heisman TrophyDanny Wuerffel (quarterback, Florida)
Bowl Alliance Championship
1997 Sugar Bowl
SiteLouisiana Superdome,
New Orleans, Louisiana
Champion(s)Florida (AP, Coaches, FWAA)
Division I-A football seasons
← 1995
1997 →

The 1996 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with the Florida Gators being crowned National Champions after defeating rival Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, which was the season's designated Bowl Alliance national championship game. Florida had faced Florida State earlier in the year, when they were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, and lost 24–21. However, unranked Texas's upset of No. 3 Nebraska in the first ever Big 12 Championship Game set up the rematch of in-state rivals in New Orleans. In the Sugar Bowl, Florida's Heisman Trophy-winning senior quarterback Danny Wuerffel and head coach Steve Spurrier led the Gators to a 52–20 victory and their first national championship.

Because the Pac-10 and Big Ten Conferences were not yet part of the Bowl Alliance, their champions met in the Rose Bowl as they had for decades. In 1996, these conference champions were potential national title contenders in No. 2 Arizona State and No. 4 Ohio State. In a close Rose Bowl contest, Arizona State's Jake Plummer ran for a touchdown with 1:40 left to play to give his team the lead, but Ohio State responded with its own touchdown drive led by backup quarterback Joe Germaine and won 20–17. Ohio State finished No. 2 in the final AP poll behind No. 1 Florida, and Arizona State finished No. 4 behind Florida State. The poll results helped push the Pac-10 and Big Ten to give up their Rose Bowl tradition. Before the 1998 season, they both agreed to join an expanded Bowl Championship Series (BCS) agreement, giving their programs a chance to play in a national championship game. Another controversy that led to the creation of the BCS was that No. 5 BYU was not invited to a major bowl game but were snubbed in favor of lower ranked teams from Bowl Alliance conferences.

The 1996 season saw ongoing realignment of many conferences. One of the most notable developments was the creation of the Big 12 Conference, which consisted of programs from the old Big 8 along with four former members of the dissolved Southwest Conference, namely Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor. The Big 12 began play as a two division conference, with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State joining the South Division, breaking up the classic Nebraska–Oklahoma rivalry, but renewing the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry, known as the Red River Shootout. The first Big 12 football game featured Texas Tech and Kansas State. Kansas State won by a score of 21–14.[3]

The 1996 season was also notable as it marked the end of ties in college football, as an overtime system was put into place across all of Division I. Though it has been modified slightly, the "Kansas Playoff" overtime rules have been used ever since. (The 1995 season also had overtime rules, but only for postseason games, and they were not used since none of the affected games ended regulation play in a tie.[4])

Rule changes

Conference realignment

Four teams upgraded from Division I-AA prior to the season and one university dropped its football program. As such, the total number of Division I-A schools increased to 111.

Conference changes

School 1995 Conference 1996 Conference
Alabama–Birmingham Blazers I-AA Independent I-A Independent
Arkansas State Indians Big West I-A Independent
Baylor Bears SWC Big 12
Boise State Broncos Big Sky (I-AA) Big West (I-A)
Central Florida Knights I-AA Independent I-A Independent
Colorado Buffaloes Big 8 Big 12
Cincinnati Bearcats I-A Independent Conference USA
Houston Cougars SWC Conference USA
Idaho Vandals Big Sky (I-AA) Big West (I-A)
Iowa State Cyclones Big 8 Big 12
Kansas Jayhawks Big 8 Big 12
Kansas State Wildcats Big 8 Big 12
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Big West I-A Independent
Louisville Cardinals I-A Independent Conference USA
Memphis Tigers I-A Independent Conference USA
Missouri Tigers Big 8 Big 12
Nebraska Cornhuskers Big 8 Big 12
North Texas Mean Green I-A Independent Big West
Northern Illinois Huskies Big West I-A Independent
Oklahoma Sooners Big 8 Big 12
Oklahoma State Cowboys Big 8 Big 12
Pacific Tigers Big West Dropped Program
Rice Owls SWC WAC
San Jose State Spartans Big West WAC
SMU Mustangs SWC WAC
Southern Miss Golden Eagles I-A Independent Conference USA
Southwestern Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Big West I-A Independent
TCU Horned Frogs SWC WAC
Texas Longhorns SWC Big 12
Texas A&M Aggies SWC Big 12
Texas Tech Red Raiders SWC Big 12
Tulane Green Wave I-A Independent Conference USA
Tulsa Golden Hurricane I-A Independent WAC
UNLV Rebels Big West WAC

Regular Season

August–September

Two-time defending champion Nebraska was heavily favored to win a third straight national title, and the Cornhuskers were followed in the preseason AP Poll by No. 2 Tennessee, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Florida, and No. 5 Colorado.

August 31: No. 1 Nebraska and No. 3 Florida State had not begun their schedules. No. 2 Tennessee overwhelmed UNLV 62-3, No. 4 Florida defeated Southwestern Louisiana 55-21, and No. 5 Colorado beat Washington State 37-19. The top five remained the same in the next poll.

September 7: No. 1 Nebraska opened with a 55-14 win over Michigan State, No. 2 Tennessee beat UCLA 35-20, No. 3 Florida State defeated Duke 44-7, No. 4 Florida prevailed 62-14 over Georgia Southern, and No. 5 Colorado won 48-34 at Colorado State. The top five again remained the same.

September 14: The only top-five team active this weekend was No. 5 Colorado, who committed 14 penalties (one of which nullified a game-tying touchdown) in a 20-13 loss to No. 11 Michigan. No. 6 Penn State shut out Northern Illinois 49-0 and moved up in the next poll: No. 1 Nebraska, No. 2 Tennessee, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Florida, and No. 5 Penn State.

September 19–21: No. 1 Nebraska took a 26-game winning streak into their matchup with No. 17 Arizona State, a team they had defeated by 49 points the previous year. However, the Sun Devils completely neutralized the Cornhuskers’ offense in a 19-0 shutout win, Nebraska’s first loss since the 1993 national title game. In a matchup of SEC contenders, No. 4 Florida took a 35-0 second-quarter lead over No. 2 Tennessee and held off a Volunteers comeback for a 35-29 victory. No. 3 Florida State won 51-17 at North Carolina State, No. 5 Penn State shut out Temple 41-0, No. 7 Ohio State blanked Pittsburgh 72-0, and No. 9 Notre Dame beat No. 6 Texas 27-24 on a field goal as time expired. The next poll featured No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 Penn State, No. 4 Ohio State, and No. 5 Notre Dame.

September 28: No. 1 Florida dominated Kentucky 65-0, and No. 2 Florida State shut out No. 11 North Carolina 13-0. No. 3 Penn State earned a 23-20 win at Wisconsin, but No. 4 Ohio State was more impressive in a 29-16 victory at No. 5 Notre Dame. No. 6 Arizona State beat Oregon 48-27 to move into the top five: No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Penn State, and No. 5 Arizona State.

October

October 5: No. 1 Florida won 42-7 at Arkansas, and No. 2 Florida State defeated Clemson 34-3. In their second top-five matchup in two weeks, No. 3 Ohio State looked dominant in a 38-7 rout of No. 4 Penn State. No. 5 Arizona State beat Boise State 56-7, and No. 7 Nebraska overwhelmed No. 16 Kansas State 39-3 to move back into the top five: No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Arizona State, and No. 5 Nebraska.

October 12: No. 1 Florida defeated No. 12 LSU 56-13. After two straight wins over highly-ranked opponents, No. 2 Ohio State needed a fourth-quarter comeback to escape unranked Wisconsin 17-14. No. 3 Florida State visited No. 6 Miami and beat their rivals 34-16. No. 4 Arizona State came back from a 21-point deficit to win 42-34 at UCLA. No. 5 Nebraska shut out Baylor 49-0, and the top five remained the same in the next poll.

October 19: No. 1 Florida dominated another ranked SEC opponent, winning 51-10 over No. 16 Auburn. No. 2 Ohio State won 42-14 at Purdue. No. 3 Florida State was idle. No. 4 Arizona State fell behind again and again in their game against USC but made three game-tying drives in regulation and another one in overtime. After taking their first lead of the game in double overtime, the Sun Devils put the game away with an 85-yard fumble return for a 48-35 final score. No. 5 Nebraska defeated Texas Tech 24-10, and the top five again remained the same.

October 26: No. 1 Florida was idle. No. 2 Ohio State visited No. 20 Iowa for a 38-26 win. No. 3 Florida State faced No. 14 Virginia, who had defeated them in a major upset the previous year, and the Seminoles got their revenge with a 31-24 victory. No. 4 Arizona State won 41-9 at Stanford, and No. 5 Nebraska beat Kansas 63-7. The top five again remained the same.

November–December

November 2: No. 1 Florida defeated Georgia 47-7, No. 2 Ohio State blanked Minnesota 45-0, No. 3 Florida State won 49-3 at Georgia Tech, No. 4 Arizona State visited Oregon State for a 29-14 victory, and No. 5 Nebraska blasted Oklahoma 73-21. The top five were the same yet again.

November 9: With all of the top-ranking teams on long winning streaks, several conference races were effectively over by early November. No. 1 Florida had an unexpectedly hard time with last-place Vanderbilt, but held on for a 28-21 win which clinched the SEC Eastern Division title for the Gators. No. 2 Ohio State posted their second straight shutout, 48-0 at Illinois. No. 3 Florida State wrapped up the ACC title with a 44-7 victory at Wake Forest, while No. 4 Arizona State earned the Pac-10 crown with a 35-7 defeat of California. No. 5 Nebraska beat Missouri 51-7, and the top five continued to stay the same.

November 16: No. 1 Florida defeated South Carolina 52-25, No. 2 Ohio State clinched the Big Ten title with a 27-17 win at Indiana, and No. 3 Florida State beat No. 25 Southern Mississippi 54-14. No. 4 Arizona State was idle, while No. 5 Nebraska won 49-14 at Iowa State. The top five remained unchanged for the fifth consecutive week.

November 23: No. 1 Florida and No. 3 Florida State were idle as they prepared for their upcoming game against each other. For the third time in four years, No. 2 Ohio State was undefeated going into their season-ending contest with archrival Michigan. In both 1993 and 1995, the Wolverines had spoiled the Buckeyes’ perfect record—and the result was the same in 1996, as No. 21 Michigan held OSU without a touchdown in a 13-9 come-from-behind victory which dropped Ohio State coach John Cooper’s career record against Michigan to 1-7-1. No. 4 Arizona State, soon to be the Buckeyes’ opponent in the Rose Bowl, did manage to complete a perfect regular season with a 56-14 win at Arizona. No. 5 Nebraska and No. 6 Colorado, who would play each other the following week, were both idle. The next poll featured No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 Arizona State, No. 4 Nebraska, and No. 5 Colorado.

November 29–30: No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Florida State, both undefeated, met with a spot in the national title game seemingly on the line. The Seminoles jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and held off a late Gators comeback to earn a 24-21 victory. No. 3 Arizona State, the only other undefeated team, had finished their schedule. No. 4 Nebraska and No. 5 Colorado, both with one loss, faced each other for the championship of the new Big 12 Northern Division, and the Cornhuskers prevailed 17-12 on a rain-soaked field. The next poll featured No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Arizona State, No. 3 Nebraska, No. 4 Florida, and No. 5 Ohio State.

No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Arizona State, the only two undefeated teams at the end of the regular season, could not play each other for the national title; as the winner of the Pac-10, Arizona State was contractually obligated to meet Big Ten champ Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. In previous years, No. 3 Nebraska would have been the next team in line to face Florida State. However, due to the recent merger between the Big 8 and SWC, the Cornhuskers needed to play one more game before heading into the bowls. In the first-ever Big 12 Championship Game on December 7, Nebraska faced off against Texas. The unranked Longhorns trailed in the fourth quarter, but scored two late touchdowns to pull off a 37-27 upset. Later that day, No. 4 Florida beat No. 11 Alabama 45-30 in the SEC Championship Game to move back ahead of Nebraska in the final pre-bowl poll. No. 6 Brigham Young, with a 28-25 overtime defeat of No. 20 Wyoming in the WAC Championship Game, also moved up: No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Arizona State, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Ohio State, and No. 5 Brigham Young.

Therefore, just a month after their previous meeting, Florida State and Florida were set for a rematch in the Sugar Bowl. The Rose Bowl between Arizona State and Ohio State would also have national title implications, especially if the Seminoles lost and the Sun Devils won. The major games were rounded out by No. 5 Brigham Young and No. 14 Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl, No. 6 Nebraska and No. 10 Virginia Tech in the Orange, and No. 7 Penn State and No. 20 Texas in the Fiesta.

Conference standings

1996 Atlantic Coast Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 3 Florida State $   8 0     11 1  
No. 10 North Carolina   6 2     10 2  
Clemson   6 2     7 5  
Virginia   5 3     7 5  
Georgia Tech   4 4     5 6  
Maryland   3 5     5 6  
NC State   3 5     3 8  
Wake Forest   1 7     3 8  
Duke   0 8     0 11  
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Big 12 Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
North Division
No. 6 Nebraska x%   8 0     11 2  
No. 8 Colorado   7 1     10 2  
No. 17 Kansas State   6 2     9 3  
Missouri   3 5     5 6  
Kansas   2 6     4 7  
Iowa State   1 7     2 9  
South Division
No. 23 Texas x$   6 2     8 5  
Texas Tech   5 3     7 5  
Texas A&M   4 4     6 6  
Oklahoma   3 5     3 8  
Oklahoma State   2 6     5 6  
Baylor   1 7     4 7  
Championship: Texas 37, Nebraska 27
  • x – Division champion/co-champions
  • $ – Bowl Alliance representative as champion
    % – Bowl Alliance at-large representative
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Big East Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 13 Virginia Tech +   6 1     10 2  
No. 14 Miami (FL) +   6 1     9 3  
No. 21 Syracuse +   6 1     9 3  
West Virginia   4 3     8 4  
Pittsburgh   3 4     4 7  
Boston College   2 5     5 7  
Rutgers   1 6     2 9  
Temple   0 7     1 10  
  • + – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Big Ten Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 2 Ohio State +   7 1     11 1  
No. 15 Northwestern +   7 1     9 3  
No. 7 Penn State   6 2     11 2  
No. 18 Iowa   6 2     9 3  
No. 20 Michigan   5 3     8 4  
Michigan State   5 3     6 6  
Wisconsin   3 5     8 5  
Purdue   2 6     3 8  
Minnesota   1 7     4 7  
Indiana   1 7     3 8  
Illinois   1 7     2 9  
  • + – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Big West Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
Nevada +   4 1     9 3  
Utah State +   4 1     6 5  
Idaho   3 2     6 5  
North Texas   3 2     5 6  
Boise State   1 4     2 10  
New Mexico State   0 5     1 10  
  • + – Conference co-champions
1996 Conference USA football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
Houston +   4 1     7 5  
Southern Miss +   4 1     8 3  
Cincinnati   2 3     6 5  
Louisville   2 3     5 6  
Memphis   2 3     4 7  
Tulane   1 4     2 9  
  • + – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Mid-American Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
Ball State $   7 1     8 4  
Toledo   6 2     7 4  
Miami (OH)   6 2     6 5  
Ohio   5 3     6 6  
Central Michigan   4 4     5 6  
Akron   3 5     4 7  
Bowling Green   3 5     4 7  
Eastern Michigan   3 5     3 8  
Western Michigan   2 6     2 9  
Kent State   1 7     2 9  
  • $ – Conference champion
1996 Pacific-10 Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 4 Arizona State $   8 0     11 1  
No. 16 Washington   7 1     9 3  
Stanford   5 3     7 5  
UCLA   4 4     5 6  
Oregon   3 5     6 5  
California   3 5     6 6  
USC   3 5     6 6  
Arizona   3 5     5 6  
Washington State   3 5     5 6  
Oregon State   1 7     2 9  
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Southeastern Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
Eastern Division
No. 1 Florida x$   8 0     12 1  
No. 9 Tennessee   7 1     10 2  
South Carolina   4 4     6 5  
Kentucky   3 5     4 7  
Georgia   3 5     5 6  
Vanderbilt   0 8     2 9  
Western Division
No. 11 Alabama xy   6 2     10 3  
No. 12 LSU x   6 2     10 2  
No. 24 Auburn   4 4     8 4  
Mississippi State   3 5     5 6  
Ole Miss   2 6     5 6  
Arkansas   2 6     4 7  
Championship: Florida 45, Alabama 30
  • $ – Conference champion
  • x – Division champion/co-champions
  • y – Championship game participant
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 Western Athletic Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
Mountain Division
No. 5 BYU x$   8 0     14 1  
Utah   6 2     8 4  
Rice   6 2     7 4  
SMU   4 4     5 6  
New Mexico   3 5     6 5  
TCU   3 5     4 7  
Tulsa   2 6     4 7  
UTEP   0 8     2 9  
Pacific Division
No. 22 Wyoming x   7 1     10 2  
San Diego State   6 2     8 3  
Colorado State   6 2     7 5  
Air Force   5 3     6 5  
Fresno State   3 5     4 7  
San Jose State   3 5     3 9  
Hawaii   1 7     2 10  
UNLV   1 8     1 11  
Championship: BYU 28, Wyoming 25 OT
  • $ – Conference champion
  • x – Division champion/co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1996 NCAA Division I-A independents football records
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 25 Army       10 2  
Navy       9 3  
No. 19 Notre Dame       8 3  
East Carolina       8 3  
Louisiana Tech       6 5  
UAB       5 6  
UCF       5 6  
Southwestern Louisiana       5 6  
Northeast Louisiana       5 6  
Arkansas State       4 7  
Northern Illinois       1 10  
Rankings from AP Poll

Bowl Alliance first and seconds

The Bowl Alliance did not include the Pacific-10 and Big 10 conferences, whose champions played in the Rose Bowl. Thus, Arizona State and Ohio State (who met in the Rose Bowl) were excluded from the Bowl Alliance championship.

WEEKS First Conf. Second Conf. Event Date
PRE-4 Nebraska Big 12 Tennessee SEC Arizona St. 19, Nebraska 0 September 21
5-6 Florida SEC Florida State ACC Ohio State 38, Penn State 7 October 5
7-14 Florida SEC No. 3 Florida State ACC Florida St. 24, Florida 21 November 30
15 Florida State ACC No. 3 Nebraska Big 12 Texas 37, Nebraska 27 December 7
16 Florida State ACC No. 3 Florida SEC Florida 52, Florida State 20 January 1

Bowl games

Main article: 1996–97 NCAA football bowl games

Sugar Bowl No. 3 Florida 52 No. 1 Florida St. 20 1/2/97
Rose Bowl: No. 4 Ohio St. 20 No. 2 Arizona St. 17 1/1/97
Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 5 Brigham Young 19 No. 14 Kansas St. 15 1/1/97
Fiesta Bowl: No. 7 Penn State 38 No. 20 Texas 15 1/1/97
Florida Citrus Bowl: No. 9 Tennessee 48 No. 11 Northwestern 28 1/1/97
Gator Bowl: No. 12 North Carolina 20 No. 25 West Virginia 13 1/1/97
Outback Bowl: No. 16 Alabama 17 No. 15 Michigan 14 1/1/97
Orange Bowl: No. 6 Nebraska 41 No. 10 Virginia Tech 21 12/31/96
Sun Bowl: Stanford 38 Michigan State 0 12/31/96
Independence Bowl Auburn 32 No. 24 Army 29 12/31/96
Holiday Bowl: No. 8 Colorado 33 No. 13 Washington 21 12/30/96
Alamo Bowl: No. 21 Iowa 27 Texas Tech 0 12/29/96
Peach Bowl No. 17 LSU 10 Clemson 7 12/28/96
Carquest Bowl No. 19 Miami (FL) 31 Virginia 21 12/27/96
Liberty Bowl No. 23 Syracuse 30 Houston 17 12/27/96
Copper Bowl: Wisconsin 38 Utah 10 12/27/96
Aloha Bowl Navy 42 California 38 12/25/96
Las Vegas Bowl Nevada 18 Ball State 15 12/18/96

Final AP Poll

Main article: 1996 NCAA Division I-A football rankings

  1. Florida
  2. Ohio St.
  3. Florida St.
  4. Arizona St.
  5. BYU
  6. Nebraska
  7. Penn St.
  8. Colorado
  9. Tennessee
  10. North Carolina
  11. Alabama
  12. LSU
  13. Virginia Tech
  14. Miami (FL)
  15. Northwestern
  16. Washington
  17. Kansas St.
  18. Iowa
  19. Notre Dame
  20. Michigan
  21. Syracuse
  22. Wyoming
  23. Texas
  24. Auburn
  25. Army

Others receiving votes: 26. West Virginia; 27. East Carolina; 28. Southern Mississippi; 29. Stanford; 30. Wisconsin; 31. San Diego St.; 32. Virginia; 33. Clemson

Final Coaches Poll

Main article: 1996 NCAA Division I-A football rankings

  1. Florida
  2. Ohio St.
  3. Florida St.
  4. Arizona St.
  5. Brigham Young
  6. Nebraska
  7. Penn St.
  8. Colorado
  9. Tennessee
  10. North Carolina
  11. Alabama
  12. Virginia Tech
  13. LSU
  14. Miami (FL)
  15. Washington
  16. Northwestern
  17. Kansas St.
  18. Iowa
  19. Syracuse
  20. Michigan
  21. Notre Dame
  22. Wyoming
  23. Texas
  24. Army
  25. Auburn

Heisman Trophy voting

The Heisman Trophy is given to the year's most outstanding player

Player School Position 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Danny Wuerffel Florida QB 300 158 147 1,363
Troy Davis Iowa State RB 209 206 135 1,174
Jake Plummer Arizona State QB 116 113 111 685
Orlando Pace Ohio State OT 87 101 136 599
Warrick Dunn Florida State RB 40 76 69 341
Byron Hanspard Texas Tech RB 15 68 70 251
Darnell Autry Northwestern RB 9 10 20 85
Peyton Manning Tennessee QB 4 23 23 81
Marcus Harris Wyoming WR 7 7 18 53
Beau Morgan Air Force QB 3 3 11 26

Other major awards

References

  1. ^ "1996 NCAA Division IA Football Power Ratings". www.jhowell.net. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 2, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ DeLassus, David. "Kansas State University football records--1996". College Football Data Warehouse. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "No more ties: NDAA D-I football adds tiebreakers". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. (Idaho-Washington). Associated Press. February 17, 1996. p. 4D.