Pennington’s Revenge: The 1999 Group of Five National Champion

For all of College Football’s long, wonderful history only one thing has remained constant; small schools do not get a chance at a national title.

No matter how good the team or how terrible the field is that season, a small school will never be given a chance at College Football’s ultimate prize, a National Championship.

This leaves few opportunities to recognize Mid-Major glory, but greatness deserves recognition and I’m here to give it to them in the only way they can get it. On a small college football blog.

To that end, I have created a scoring system to judge who deserves to be crowned Group of 5 National Champion. First up is the 2014 season.

If you want to know the points system go back and read it here. I don’t have time for all that.

1999.

The final year before the 21st century. Randy Moss was solidifying his status as a demi-god in the NFL. The Buffalo Bulls were in the first year of their transition to Division 1-A (FBS) and promptly went winless, the third team to do so this season.

Florida State would win the 20th century’s last national title, going wire to wire. But if you know what I do around here you know I am going to stare history in the face, take a deep breath, think of the Houston Rockets with their fleet of data nerds, channel the old wild west of college football, and declare a national champion twenty years after the fact.

We have three contenders for college football’s 9th highest honor today.

The Marshall Thundering Herd hailing from the MAC and only in 3 years removed from the transition back up to Division 1-A have given the BCS another undefeated mid-major to snub in its second season.

They have competition from the Southern Miss Golden Eagles of America’s True #1 Conference: Conference USA.

Finally, the Utah Utes, a good team but also so boring I almost put in a Boise State squad that averaged 2 points a game.

But hey three’s a party and two’s a drag so let’s present the 1999 RC Cola Group of Five National Champion (this time without the commie style revolution talk).

Marshall

Week 1: At Clemson 13-10 +4.5
Week 2: VS Liberty 63-3 +5.5
Week 3: VS Bowling Green 35-16 +1.5
Week 4: Rank: 21st VS Temple 34-0 +9.25
Week 5: Rank: 17th At Miami (Ohio) 32-14 +4
Week 6: Rank: 15th IDLE +2
Week 7: Rank: 15th VS Toledo 38-13 +5
Week 8: Rank: 15th At Buffalo 59-3 +8
Week 9: Rank: 13th VS NIU 41-9 +5
Week 10: Rank: 13th At Kent State 28-16 +3.5
Week 11: Rank: 12th At Western Michigan 31-17 +4
Week 12: Rank: 12th VS Ohio 34-3 +5
Week 13: Rank: 11th (MAC Championship) Western Michigan 34-30 +7
Bowl: Rank: 11th (Motor City Bowl) BYU 21-3 +7
Final: Record: 13-0 Rank: 10th Points: 75

 

’99 Marshall is a heavily underrated team in the talks of best mid-major of all time.

This squad went into the REAL Death Valley (come to Minnesota if you want to chat LSU) and beat a bowl bound Clemson, had their worst game of the season points wise come in a 19 point win, and propelled Chad Pennington into being as a strong NFL prospect.

But don’t let their slew of 30+ points games fool you, as good as this team was on offense (7th in the nation in scoring at 35.6 PPG) they were even better on the defensive side of the ball holding their opponents to 10.5 PPG best in the nation.

Now a moment of silence for these teams in the early BCS era before the Mid-Majors got their New Years bowl autobid. Their sacrifice allowed their successors to introduce college football to some much-needed chaos.

I’m sorry I blew my load first, but alphabetical order is a stone cold bitch.

 

Southern Miss

Week 1: Vs Tulane 48-14 +3
Week 2: Vs Northwestern State 40-6 +2.5
Week 3: At (3) Nebraska 13-20 +0
Week 4: At (23) Texas A&M 6-23 +0
Week 5: IDLE +0
Week 6: At East Carolina 39-22 +2.5
Week 7: Rank: 25th Vs Army 24-0 +3
Week 8: Rank: 21st Vs Cincinnati 28-20 +2
Week 9: Rank: 20th At (8) Alabama 14-35 +1
Week 10: Rank: 25th At Memphis 20-5 +3
Week 11: Rank: 21st Vs Louisiana 48-0 +5.5
Week 12: Rank: 18th At Louisville 30-27 +3.5
Week 13: Rank: 15th Wins C-USA +5
Bowl: Rank: 16th (Liberty Bowl) Colorado State 23-17 +6
Final: Record: 9-3 Rank: 14th Points: 40

 

Speaking of stone-cold bitches let’s have a look at that Southern Miss schedule.

Road games at three(!) P5 teams, one of which was the iron-fisted dictator of ’90s college football in Nebraska, all of whom finished in the top 25.

Southern Miss still managed a 9-3 record and the 14th spot in the nation. Take out those 3 games and we have the 3rd unbeaten mid-major of the 2 year BCS era. They almost upset a very good Nebraska team too. Mice and men though.

Despite having three(!) payoff games Southern Miss still managed 40 points and the 14th ranking in the nation.

“How did they do this”? I hope you are whispering at your screen.

It is simple; this team was really good at defense while being not bad enough on offense to let it all slip away. The Golden Eagles held their opponents to just 15.8 PPG (7th in the nation). Shutouts are a rare occurrence even back in the ’90’s and yet Southern Miss pitched 2, held another team to 5, and let only one team cross the 30 point barrier.

Southern Miss may have a 30 point deficit, 3 more losses, and a lower AP ranking but they may still challenge for that aforementioned Mid-Major glory.

Utah

Week 1: At Washington State 27-7 +5.25
Week 2: IDLE +0
Week 3: Vs Utah State 38-18 +2
Week 4: At UNLV 52-14 +4
Week 5: At Boise State 20-26 +0
Week 6: Vs Louisiana-Monroe 42-0 +5.5
Week 7: At Air Force 21-15 +2
Week 8: Vs San Diego State 38-16 +2
Week 9: At Colorado State 24-31 +0
Week 10: Vs Wyoming 29-43 +0
Week 11: Vs New Mexico 52-7 +4.5
Week 12: At BYU 20-17 +2
Week 13: Wins Mountain West +3
Bowl: (Las Vegas Bowl) Fresno State 17-16 +4.5
Final: Record: 9-3 Rank: Unranked Points: 34.75

 

You know who names their team after their state? Losers.

The Illinois Fighting Illini, The Kansas Jayhawks, The North Carolina Tarheels. These are not good teams.

I would rather Utah have gone 3-9 because then I wouldn’t have to talk about them. This chart just makes me sad. They start the year off with a resounding win over a (bad) P5 team, then immediately just stop.

You don’t go to a buffet eat one plate and then pause for forty minutes to digest. You keep on going until staff must physically restrain you. They did come off the break hot winning their next two in dominant fashion. Get a little hot streak going.

Then Utah hit Boise State. I am convinced that if they win this game they go undefeated. Football is a game of momentum after all. This team was the 21st best scoring offense and 14th best scoring defense in the nation.

That’s not a team that should lose to the other most boring team in the country in Boise State. This team is not what drives you to drink but rather what brings you no sense of fulfillment because they really did nothing of note.

What a mixed bag of tone and feelings in this third edition. If you got this far then I’m sorry.

That’s it. Oh Yeah, except this.

 

Verdict

AP Champ: Marshall

Points Champ: Marshall

People’s Champ: Marshall

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