Jim Tressel and Bobby Bowden are two of the most recongizable and successful coaches of the last 20 years. Between them, they won a combined seven national championships in an 11-year span from 1991 to 2002. Tressel won four at the Div. I-AA level, leading Youngstown State to titles in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997.
In 2002, he became the first — and still only — head coach with a national championship in both the FCS (then I-AA) and BCS.
His surprising Buckeyes kept the surprises coming in a Sweet 16 upset of the 2004 USC Trojans. Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart was no match for Ohio State’s Craig Krenzel, starter of the 2002 Buckeyes.
Krenzel goes head-to-head with another Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Chris Weinke. The Florida State play caller was a year away from winning college football’s most prestigious individual award, but had a decent junior campaign in 1999: 3103 yards on 61.5 percent passing with 25 touchdowns.
The Seminoles have the advantage at quarterback, but Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett was among the nation’s top rushers in his only collegiate season. He scored 16 touchdowns and surpassed 1200 yards, and hauled in another two touchdown scores via the pass.
Leading Seminole rusher Travis Minor’s statistics are modest in comparison. Those Seminoles deviated from past, great Bowden-coached teams that relied heavily on the run. Consider the 1993 Seminoles, Bowden’s other national championship squad in Tallahassee. Charlie Ward threw for over 3000 yards in what remains one of the all-time outstanding seasons for a college quarterback, but Ward was also one of six players to accrue at least 266 yards on the ground.
In contrast, only Minor reached that milestone during 1999. In fact, no other ball carrier reached 200 yards.
With each of these undefeated national champions featuring rather pedestrian facets to their offensive games, they had to compensate somewhere. That somewhere was the defensive end.
Ohio State’s 2002 defense allowed just 13.1 points per game, second fewest in college football. The 1999 Seminoles yielded only 15.8 points per game. The Seminoles forced 29 turnovers, including 22 interceptions, and outscored opponents 230-91 in first halves.
It’s stout defense vs. stout defense. Champion vs. champion. Bobby Bowden vs. Jim Tressel. Cast your ballot for a spot in the Final Four.
Quickly, all I have to say is this: no, FSU did not have a strong running game in 1999, but it didn’t need one. Chris Weinke was playing out of his mind. It was one of FSU’s better offenses in recent years. FSU would have torched OSU.