I’ll be the first to admit that I felt silly writing this article. Have you ever held a 19-year grudge versus anything in your life? Seems like a waste to hold on to so much anger when you were merely a kid when the transgressions transpired. But alas, here I sit as a 35-year-old man, seething, hoping for some mild form of retribution this Saturday when UCF comes to The Big House.
Why, you ask? Scott Frost.
Frost is now the head coach at UCF following a lengthy stint as the offensive coordinator for Oregon. I don’t like Scott Frost. You, as a Michigan fan, shouldn’t like Scott Frost either.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
When I was sixteen years old, I experienced the best sports season of my life to date. The year was 1997. My beloved Detroit Red Wings won the first of their back-to-back Stanley Cups. I watched Barry Sanders, my hero, become the third player in NFL history to run for 2,000 yards in a season. It was a fantastic time to be a Detroit sports fan. The most important sport for me has always been college football. Titles in major sports are great and all, but my heart bleeds maize and blue and in 1997 my heart sang.
In the fall of ’97 when the Michigan Wolverines embarked on their greatest season since 1948 the expectations surrounding the team were meager. The Wolverines started the season ranked No. 14 following back-to-back four loss seasons under Lloyd Carr.
As the season progressed, hope began to build that Michigan had a shot at a national championship. I was wary, especially because of the gauntlet of games against ranked opponents Michigan hadn’t faced yet.
Additionally, the No. 1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers were annihilating the competition of their weak schedule (we’ll get to that in a bit) and looked to be unstoppable.
Things took a turn in Michigan’s favor on November 8, 1997. Michigan was undefeated and traveling to undefeated No. 2 Penn State. Michigan dominated Penn State in every phase of the game earning a 34-8 victory.
No 1. Nebraska faltered after defeating the Missouri Tigers on a fluke touchdown now known as the Flea Kicker.
Michigan vaulted to No. 1 in both polls. They did nothing the rest of the season to warrant losing that position. They went on to defeat No. 4 Ohio State and secure a trip to the Rose Bowl to take on Pac 12 champion Washington State. Michigan won that game 21-16. The ending of the game would become pivotal in Nebraska’ arguments as to why they felt they deserved a split.
Hours after watching No. 1 Michigan finish its perfect season by defeating Washington State in the Rose Bowl, its fourth consecutive ranked opponent of which three were in the Top-10, I listened to Scott Frost say the following after defeating No. 3 ranked Tennessee 42-17. Post-game, Scott Frost took his frosted tips on stage to rattle off some zingers in an effort to sway the coaches into voting for Nebraska over Michigan. Either out of spite or the Orange Bowl being fresh on their minds, the coaches voted Nebraska No. 1 causing a split in the National Championship.
It was the first time in college football history that a team ranked No. 1 in both polls lost the top spot despite finishing the year undefeated. Nebraska did not deserve to be national champions that year. I will die on this hill, but fortunately I have plenty of ammunition to defend this hill until my dying day.
Let’s take a few moments to dissect some of Frost’s comments and point out the hypocrisy.
I PRESENT TO YOUR EVIDENCE QUOTE NUMBER 1 via USA Today:
Okey doke, let’s get out the scalpel and talk about this for a moment. When the merits of a team’s dominance are in question and they don’t have the luxury of playing each other during the season there are a few measurable you can point to that help make your point. Let’s take a look at who Michigan and Nebraska played over the course of the season. The first, of course, is strength of schedule.
Nebraska’s schedule, for lack of a better word, was a joke in 1997. Nebraska played four ranked opponents all season. ALL SEASON. Michigan accomplished more in the month of November than Nebraska did in the past two seasons. Scott Frost, as a starter, defeated eight ranked opponents over the course of two years. Michigan played eight ranked teams in 1997 alone.
The Big 12 was a weak pile of hot garbage in the 1990s. Nebraska was the beneficiary, especially in 1997. How about common opponents? Did Michigan and Nebraska play any of the same teams? Glad you asked! Michigan defeated Colorado 27-3 that year. Nebraska, which claimed to have the country’s highest octane offense in the country, also defeated Colorado…27-24.
Michigan scored the same number of points against Colorado that Nebraska did but Nebraska’s defense gave up three more touchdowns to the Buffaloes. When you have the best defense in the country, a defense that would have dominated Nebraska, you only give up 3 points. Where was Nebraska’s vaunted offense when it mattered? And if you think I’m being hyperbolic about Michigan’s defense please keep in mind that no team Michigan faced the entire 1997 season scored more than 17 points. Iowa reached 24 points via one of the most electrifying punt returns from Tim Dwight.
I PRESENT TO EVIDENCE QUOTE NUMBER 2:
Couple things here: First, do we really want to talk about benefitting from a controversial play, Scotty? The only reason Nebraska was in position to win for the national title was because they won a game AGAINST A COMPLETELY INFERIOR OPPONENT by intentionally (and illegally) kicking a ball in the air to keep it alive. The Flea Kicker will go down as one of the most ridiculously controversial plays I’ve ever seen live. Michigan’s “controversial” play to end the game was that the refs started the clock when the ball was ready. Time expired and Washington State’s comeback bid was foiled. I could see Frost’s point if at some point in the game Brian Griese dropped back to pass, fired a ball over the middle to Charles Woodson who somehow did an intentional bicycle kick to himself to save the ball and score.
While this isn’t out of the realm of possibility, Charles Woodson is and was the best player in the 1997 season, (What’s up, Peyton Manning?) it’s not how Michigan won their title.
Second, Nebraska did take apart the third ranked team in the country, sure, but Michigan beat the No. 8 team in the country and it was the third Top 10 team they played in the last four weeks of the season. I cannot stress strength of schedule enough.
MY LAST PIECE OF EVIDENCE, YOUR HONOR, IS THE MOST EGRIGOUS OF THEM ALL.
This, by far, is the biggest lie Frost spoke in his post-game speech. Frost transferred to Nebraska from Stanford prior to the 1995 season. The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers were the most dominant football team to ever take the field. You could make a case for 2001 Miami but the ’01 Hurricanes didn’t have Tommie Frazier. Tommie Frazier was a human tank constructed for the sole purpose of running Nebraska’s option offense. Scotty got a ring from that season, but not for anything he did on the field.
In 1997, he was at the helm and tasked with maintaining that championship level. He failed in 1996. In 1997, he propped up his retiring coach as a reason for winning the title. Let’s call a spade a spade, here. Scotty wanted it for himself. No one politics that hard to impress a coach who has his foot out the door. He wanted to cement his place in Nebraska lore and he used an excuse to make it happen. When you can’t get it done on the field, you have to make up for it somewhere else.
That was the last National Championship that Nebraska won. I say it here now in front of all of you that Frost cursed the Nebraska Cornhuskers January 2nd, 1998. The Football Gods have punished Nebraska for it’s insolence and whining and this Saturday when Frost takes his UCF team onto the field at the Big House Michigan will slow bleed the Knights into submission.
You wanted Michigan, Scotty. You got ‘em, now.