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|2001 NCAA Division I-A season|
|Number of teams||117|
|Preseason AP No. 1||Florida|
|Duration||December 18, 2001 – |
January 3, 2002
|Heisman Trophy||Eric Crouch (quarterback, Nebraska)|
|Bowl Championship Series|
|2002 Rose Bowl|
|Site||Rose Bowl Stadium,|
|Division I-A football seasons|
The Hurricanes were led by Larry Coker, who was in his first year as head coach after five years as Miami's offensive coordinator under Butch Davis and became the first head coach since 1989's Dennis Erickson from the University of Miami to win a national title in his first season. Coker had the benefit of inheriting a star-studded program that Davis had rebuilt in the aftermath of NCAA sanctions in the mid-to-late '90s. Miami completed a perfect 12–0 season, which culminated in a 37–14 win over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl BCS National Championship Game.
In yet another controversial season for the BCS, (AP) #4 Nebraska was chosen as the national title opponent despite not having even played in the Big 12 championship game. The Huskers went into their last regularly scheduled game at Colorado undefeated, but left Boulder having lost the game by a score of 62–36. The Buffaloes went on to win the Big 12 championship game. The BCS computers, among other things, didn't weigh later games any more heavily than earlier games, and one-loss Nebraska came out ahead of two-loss #3 Colorado and one-loss, #2 Oregon. Some fans chanted "number 4" at the title game held at the Rose Bowl.
Florida State did not win the ACC championship for the first time since joining the conference in 1991, losing out to Maryland. Steve Spurrier left the Florida Gators at the end of the season to coach the Washington Redskins, accepting what was then the largest salary for an NFL head coach.
The season had one of the more competitive Heisman Trophy races with Eric Crouch of Nebraska winning by only a small margin over Rex Grossman of Florida. All of the five finalists played the quarterback position. Two of the finalists were coached at some point by Oregon offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford. Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El earned first-team All-America honors from the FWAA after becoming the first NCAA Division I-A quarterback to throw for 40 touchdowns and rush for 40 touchdowns in a career. He also became the first player in NCAA I-A history to record 2,500 total yards from scrimmage in four consecutive seasons.
Joe Paterno needed just 2 victories to pass legendary Alabama Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant as the winningest coach in Division I-A college football, However, after the Nittany Lions started the season 0-4 it looked like Bear Bryant's record would remain intact for at least 1 more year. After a 20-0 drubbing Penn State took against Michigan at home on Oct. 6, the Nittany Lions were a dismal 1-6 since Paterno notched his 321st coaching win on Oct. 28, 2000.
At Northwestern on October 20, the Lions lost a late 31–28 lead to fall behind 35–31 with two minutes to go. With their starting quarterback, Matt Senneca, out with an injury, Penn State put its collective hopes on the shoulders of redshirt freshman quarterback Zack Mills. All Mills did was drive the Lions 69 yards in 1:41 to lead Penn State to its first victory of the year, 38–35, giving Paterno win #323 tying Bear Bryant's record.
A week later, Penn State hosted Ohio State, who held on to a small lead for most of the game until the Buckeyes started to pull away with a 27–9 lead following a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown by Derek Ross in the third quarter. Penn State would fight all the way back with a 69-yard touchdown run by Mills and a 26-yard pass to Tony Johnson to cut the lead to 27–22, and they would take the lead early in the fourth quarter with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Eric McCoo. Penn State's 29–27 win moved Paterno in to first place on the all-time coaching victories list with 324 wins. He would later slip behind Bobby Bowden at Florida State, but he would relinquish the top spot a few years later. Paterno remains the winningest coach in Division I-A college football with a final record of 409-136-3.
The newly formed Boise State/Fresno State rivalry would be a major factor in the race to be the "BCS buster" for several seasons. Both teams ultimately lost the race to Utah, who became the first to bust the BCS in 2004, and the first to make a second trip in 2008.
The Aloha Bowl and Oahu Bowl lost funding after Chrysler Corporation, which owned the former bowl's sponsor of Jeep, was acquired by Daimler-Benz and became DaimlerChrysler. The Aloha Bowl moved to Seattle and became the Seattle Bowl.
The New Orleans Bowl began to play, the host team being the Sun Belt champion.
End of season upsets and BCS drama
The final 3 weeks of the regular season saw an incredible amount of drama as several teams were in prime position to earn their way to the Rose Bowl to play Miami. On November 23, the day after Thanksgiving, Nebraska was the number one team in the BCS heading to Boulder to play the Colorado Buffaloes. After a devastating 62–36 loss, they were unable to win their division and their season seemed to fall by the wayside, allowing the Florida Gators the inside track to meet Miami if they were able to win out.
This also gave the Oklahoma Sooners the opportunity to earn their way to the National Championship if Florida was to stumble against either Tennessee or in the SEC Championship game. Those hopes would soon dissolve the day after Nebraska's loss as the Sooners were upset at home by Oklahoma State 16–13, ending their title hopes and knocking them out of the Big 12 Championship game as well.
Florida had an inside track to the National Championship game until the following week in their matchup with Tennessee, losing that game 34–32 in Gainesville. The loss not only ended their dreams of a trip to the Rose Bowl but also ended their shot at going to Atlanta for the SEC title game. Tennessee then stepped into the number 2 spot the following week going into the SEC Championship against LSU but was upset by the Tigers 31–20, and their hopes of National Championship appearance were gone as quickly as they had come.
Later that evening, Texas entered the Big 12 Championship game against Colorado in prime time television knowing that a win would seal their spot in the Rose Bowl as the number 2 team in the BCS. Unfortunately they, too, were upset by the Buffaloes, feeling the same sting that Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Nebraska had felt the previous few weeks.
Miami was left at the top of all the polls, and the debate began about who deserved to play in the Rose Bowl. Many felt Colorado was the hottest team in the country after dismantling Nebraska and then beating the Longhorns in the Big 12 title game, but their 2 losses at the beginning of the year were tough to ignore. Others felt Oregon deserved the honor, being ranked in some polls as the number 2 team in the country. Ultimately, after all of the upsets, Nebraska ended up as the number 2 team in the BCS, despite being the team to start all of the drama 3 weeks earlier.
The NCAA Rules Committee adopted the following rules changes for the 2001 season:
- Charged team time-outs are reduced to 30 seconds if the team taking the time-out requests it. Otherwise, team time-outs are 90 seconds in length.
- Eliminated TV/Radio time-outs during overtime periods.
- All penalties committed by the offense behind the neutral zone are enforced from the previous spot, completely repealing the 1991 rule that enforced offensive holding, clipping, and illegal use of hands occurring behind the line from the spot of the foul.
- Stopping the clock once a runner's helmet comes off.
- Runners are exempt from being called for hurdling.
- Roughing the passer penalties committed during a two-point conversion will be assessed on the ensuing kickoff or, if committed during overtime, on the succeeding spot.
- Guidelines for officials on lightning-related game issues are included in the rulebook.
Conference and program changes
One team upgraded from Division I-AA, thus increasing the number of Division I-A schools from 116 to 117.
- The Big West Conference stopped sponsoring football after the 2000 season. Its remaining football-playing members departed for the WAC, the Sun Belt (see below), or independence:
- The Sun Belt Conference, previously a non-football conference, began sponsoring football during the 2001 season, absorbing many of the Big West's former members.
- TCU joined Conference USA from the Western Athletic Conference
- Louisiana Tech joined the Western Athletic Conference after five years as an independent.
- Troy State joined Division I-A football this season.
Bowl Championship Series rankings
|OCT 22||Oklahoma||Nebraska||Nebraska 20, Oklahoma 10|
|OCT 29||Nebraska||Oklahoma||Miami 38, Temple 0|
|NOV 5||Nebraska||Miami||Nebraska 31, Kansas St. 21|
|NOV 12||Nebraska||Miami||Miami 59, Syracuse 0|
|NOV 19||Nebraska||Miami||Colorado 62, Nebraska 36|
|NOV 26||Miami||Florida||Tennessee 34, Florida 32|
|DEC 3||Miami||Tennessee||LSU 31, Tennessee 20|
Final BCS standings
- Washington State
- South Carolina
- Rose Bowl: #1 Miami (FL) (BCS #1) 37, #4 Nebraska (BCS #2) 14
- Fiesta Bowl: #2 Oregon (Pac-10 champ) 38, #3 Colorado (Big 12 champ) 16
- Sugar Bowl: #12 LSU (SEC champ) 47, #7 Illinois (Big 10 champ) 34
- Orange Bowl: #5 Florida (At Large) 56, #6 Maryland (ACC champ) 23
Other New Year's Day bowls
- Cotton Bowl Classic: #10 Oklahoma 10, Arkansas 3
- Florida Citrus Bowl: #8 Tennessee 45, #17 Michigan 17
- Gator Bowl: #24 Florida State 30, #15 Virginia Tech 17
- Outback Bowl: #14 South Carolina 31, #22 Ohio State 28
December bowl games
- Holiday Bowl: #9 Texas 47, #21 Washington 43
- Peach Bowl: North Carolina 16, Auburn 10
- Tangerine Bowl: Pittsburgh 34, NC State 19
- Sun Bowl: #13 Washington State 33, Purdue 27
- Independence Bowl: Alabama 14, Iowa State 13
- Alamo Bowl: Iowa 19, Texas Tech 16
- Insight.com Bowl: #18 Syracuse 26, Kansas State 3
- Liberty Bowl: #23 Louisville (C-USA champ) 28, #19 BYU (MWC champ) 10
- Humanitarian Bowl: Clemson 49, Louisiana Tech (WAC Champ) 24
- Motor City Bowl: #25 Toledo (MAC Champ) 23, Cincinnati 16
- Seattle Bowl: Georgia Tech 24, #11 Stanford 14
- Music City Bowl: Boston College 20, #16 Georgia 16
- Las Vegas Bowl: Utah 10, Southern California 6
- GMAC Bowl: Marshall 64, East Carolina 61 (2 OT)
- Silicon Valley Classic: Michigan State 44, #20 Fresno State 35
- Galleryfurniture.com bowl: Texas A&M 28, TCU 9
- New Orleans Bowl: Colorado State 45, North Texas (Sun Belt Champ) 20
Heisman Trophy voting
The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is given to the Most Outstanding Player of the year.
- Eric Crouch, Nebraska, Quarterback (770 points)
- Rex Grossman, Florida (708 points)
- Ken Dorsey, Miami-FL (638 points)
- Joey Harrington, Oregon (364 points)
- David Carr, Fresno St. (101 points)
Other annual awards
- Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year) – Ken Dorsey, Miami
- Walter Camp Award (Back) – Eric Crouch, Nebraska
- Davey O'Brien Award (Quarterback) – Eric Crouch, Nebraska
- Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (Senior Quarterback) – David Carr, Fresno State
- Doak Walker Award (Running back) – Luke Staley, BYU
- Fred Biletnikoff Award (Wide receiver) – Josh Reed, Louisiana State
- John Mackey Award (Tight end) – Daniel Graham, Colorado
- Dave Rimington Trophy (Center) – LeCharles Bentley, Ohio State
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Defensive Player) – Roy Williams, Oklahoma
- Chuck Bednarik Award – Julius Peppers, North Carolina
- Dick Butkus Award (Linebacker) – Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma
- Lombardi Award (Lineman or Linebacker) – Julius Peppers, North Carolina
- Outland Trophy (Interior Lineman) – Bryant McKinnie, Miami, OT
- Jim Thorpe Award (Defensive back) – Roy Williams, Oklahoma
- Lou Groza Award (Placekicker) – Seth Marler, Tulane
- Ray Guy Award (Punter) – Travis Dorsch, Purdue
- Paul "Bear" Bryant Award – Larry Coker, Miami
- The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award: Ralph Friedgen, Maryland
- Estle, Sarah; ONeil, Dave. "Nothing easy about win No. 324". The Lantern. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- Patriot-News, The (2009-10-30). "Penn State vs. Northwestern: The last 10 meetings". pennlive.com. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "Ohio State vs. Penn State - Game Summary - October 27, 2001 - ESPN". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "Paterno passes the Bear". DeseretNews.com. 2001-10-28. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "2001 BCS Standings, BCS Rankings". Archived from the original on 2013-08-07. Retrieved 2013-07-05.