Oct 6, 2012; Gainesville, FL, USA; A statue of Florida Gators former quarterback Tim Tebow outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Sweet 16 of BCS Era Champions: 1998 Tennessee vs. 2008 Florida

The Bowl Championship Series was introduced in 1998 as an alternative to the traditional college football postseason. Its creation was the response to three split championships during the 1990s, and an immediate rematch title game in 1996. The BCS was meant to solve any disputes *snicker* by pitting the two top ranked teams against each other at season’s end, regardless of conference affiliation.

The Tennessee Volunteers were surprising contenders for the first BCS championship, a season removed from the departure of quarterback Peyton Manning. Tee Martin was a much different style of play caller from his predecessor, but it just worked.

Martin’s dual threat abilities yielded 26 total touchdowns. He certainly wasn’t the passer Manning had been, but Martin protected the ball and kept defenses honest enough to open the field for Travis Henry. And with outstanding wideout Peerless Price lined up on the offense, Martin had plenty of leeway.

Price was tremendous through Tennessee’s unbeaten run, catching for over 900 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. He was perhaps never better than the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, when his 79-yard, fourth quarter score put away the Florida State Seminoles. Price was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Tennessee’s defense shut down Florida State that January night in Tempe, much as it had overwhelmed opponents all season. With All-America linebackers Al Wilson and Raynoch Thompson leading the charger, UT held four opponents to single digits, and another six in the teens. Indeed, that Vol team solidified Phil Fulmer’s place as a College Football Hall of Famer.

On the 10-year anniversary of the BCS, another SEC program used a similar formula to win the national championship: stifling defense, play-making star wide receiver, dual threat quarterback.

Few have done the dual threat thing better than Florida Gators star Tim Tebow. He became the first 20 passing touchdown, 20 rushing touchdown player in college football history in 2007 en route to winning the Heisman Trophy, but he perhaps earned another statue the following year — the statue that now stands outside The Swamp.

Tebow established the leader reputation that has since been invoked ad nauseum during the Gators’ 2008 season, first when delivering The Promise after a loss to the Ole Miss Rebels:

and then at halftime of the BCS championship game against the Oklahoma Sooners:

While Tebow is remembered as the face of that time — and deservedly so — the 2008 Gators were teeming with talent. Percy Harvin was the perfect complement to Tebow’s style. He was one of four Gators with over 600 yards rushing, and accounted for more than 1300 yards from scrimmage.

On defense, Brandon Spikes and Carlos Dunlap brought the heat for a group that allowed 20 or more points just three times all season. Florida held five opponents to single digits, and another four to 14 or less. Among those was Oklahoma, one of the nation’s highest scoring teams coming into the BCS championship game, but stymied for just 14 in the season finale.

Cast your vote between these bitter SEC rivals in the SaturdayBlitz.com Sweet 16, and sound off in the comments.

BCS Sweet 16: Who Advances?

  • 1998 Tennessee Volunteers (91%, 288 Votes)
  • 2008 Florida Gators (9%, 28 Votes)

Total Voters: 316

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Tags: Football

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