Only two matchups remain in the first round, including ’99 Nebraska vs. ’98 Kansas State in a clash of old Big 12 North rivals. The polls will be open until 10 p.m. Central Time Wednesday.
Final ranking: No. 3
Top player: QB Eric Crouch
Second-Team All-Big 12: OG Russ Hochstein, P Dan Hadenfeldt, PR Bobby Newcombe
Best wins: No. 21 Texas A&M (37-0); No. 5 Kansas State (41-15); No. 12 Texas (22-6, Big 12 Championship); No. 6 Tennessee (31-21, Fiesta Bowl)
Losses: at No. 18 Texas (24-20)
Why they should advance: Nebraska came within a hair of playing for the 1999 national title, and would have had a good chance of winning it, too.
The Cornhuskers avenged a close loss at Texas earlier in the season -- which kept them out of the national title game -- by coasting past the Longhorns in the Big 12 title.
The Browns (Mike and Ralph) anchored a tenacious Nebraska secondary, and Crouch broke out with a sizzling sophomore season to share Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors with Texas QB Major Applewhite.
Final ranking: No. 10
Top player: QB Michael Bishop
Best wins: at No. 14 Colorado (16-9); No. 11 Nebraska (40-30); at No. 19 Missouri (31-25)
Losses: No. 10 Texas A&M (36-33, Big 12 Championship); Purdue (37-34, Alamo Bowl)
Why they should advance: Kansas State has featured plenty of great teams since the “Manhattan Miracle,” but this was coach Bill Snyder’s best squad.
The ’98 Wildcats finally got over the Nebraska hump, putting them one game away from playing in the national championship. Instead, Texas A&M upset K-State in double overtime, knocking the Wildcats all the way down to the Alamo Bowl, where the hangover continued in an uninspired loss to unranked Purdue.
Still, any team a double overtime away from playing in the national championship should be considered formidable. And this team, led by the Heisman runner-up in Bishop, was most definitely that.
Who I would vote for: There’s a strong case to be made for either side here. Both teams just missed out on the national title game, due to heartbreaking losses (Nebraska at Texas, Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship). But when two sides are so close, I tend to look at the quarterbacks. Crouch would go on to win the Heisman two years after quarterbacking the ’99 Huskers. But Bishop almost won it in ’98, finishing second to Texas’ Ricky Williams in the voting. He had a spectacular final season in Manhattan, throwing for 2,844 yards and 23 touchdowns to just five interceptions during a time when high-volume passing was still not en vogue. Because of Bishop, I would have given the edge to the Wildcats in this coin-flip matchup.
Coming up Thursday: (2 seed) 2000 Oklahoma vs. (15 seed) 2012 Kansas State