The Modern Era College Football Tournament Final: ’95 Nebraska vs. ’01 Miami
Getty Images. Pictured: Tommie Frazier
In a bracket-less world, sports fans and gamblers alike are restless. Luckily, I created a break-glass-in-of-emergency tournament for just such an occasion.
In the hopes of settling a classic college football argument, I created a 68-team tournament comprised of the greatest college football teams of the modern era (1980 onward).
Each school is represented by a single team, so you won’t see a handful of Miami Hurricane squads littering the field, just the 2001 national champions.
I’ve been simulating the games using NCAA Football 2014 on PS3, and will be streaming the final between 1995 Nebraska and 2001 Miami live on Twitter at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday night, March 27.
Each game receives a recap card and can be seen on my Twitter feed, so you can get the results there.
Here’s a preview and Collin Wilson’s bet on the final:
No. 1 ‘95 Nebraska vs. No. 1 ‘01 Miami (FL)
- Spread: Pick ‘em
- Total: 54.5
The Modern Era College Football Championship Game pits arguably the greatest offense against the greatest defense in the history of the game.
1995 Nebraska and 2001 Miami came into the bracket as number one seeds, defeating some of the greatest teams of all-time.
And just like that, we're down to the Final Four.
— Michael Calabrese (@EastBreese) March 22, 2020
Over the span of the last 25 years in college football play, no other teams have put up as impressive overall statistics as the 1995 Nebraska offense or the 2001 Miami defense. The Cornhuskers averaged a stunning 399.8 rushing yards per game at 7.0 yards per carry on the season.
Quarterback Tommie Frazier could pass when needed, in compiling a 17 to 4 touchdown to interception ratio. A backfield that included Ahman Green and Lawrence Phillips gave the Huskers one of the more potent offensive attacks in history.
The Hurricanes defense did their own damage in 2001. If the turnover chain existed 19 years ago, Miami would have needed designated staffers on the sidelines to polish it each quarter. Larry Coker’s defense racked up 45 total turnovers on the season, 27 alone from interceptions.
A legendary defense had names like Jonathan Vilma and Ed Reed. Not only did Reed intercept nine balls on the season, he averaged 23 yards per return with two touchdowns.
The split stats on these two teams show just how dominant Nebraska and Miami were in their respective years.
The handicap in this game comes down to Miami’s ability to stop the run between the tackles. Tom Osborne’s triple option attack was lethal behind Frazier, Green and Phillips. Miami would need to own the trench and force Frazier to throw into an all-time back seven defense.
In a few games during 2001, Miami was outgained in the box score. Florida State gained almost 500 yards on the Hurricanes, but ultimately lost because of six turnovers. Troubles continued on the road for Miami, as Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones averaged 6.7 yards on 24 carries. The Hurricanes would win the game by two points, but the Hokies proved the Miami defensive line could be gashed.
Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee and Frank Gore made up one of the most talented backfields in the history of the sport. Gore averaged 9.0 yards per carry for the entire 2001 season. The Nebraska defense was known to give up yards and points, allowing six opponents to score at least 21 points.
There certainly is a case to be made that each team would have success moving the ball on the ground in chunks.
My bet on this game is over 54.5. While Miami is known for defense, the Cornhuskers would have moved the ball between the tackles without much resistance. The Hurricanes were known for defensive touchdowns, thus aiding the over.
Special teams would make an appearance as Nebraska punt returner Mike Fullman averaged 13.6 yards per return with a touchdown on the season. Miami defensive back Phillip Buchanon had two punt return touchdowns on the season averaging 15 yards per punt.
This game is lined correctly at a pick’ em. Nebraska will win this game if it wins the turnover battle.
But if the Huskers allow the Miami defense to create takeaways, the Hurricanes will be crowned as the greatest college football team in the modern era. — Collin Wilson