The 1991 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with a split champion for the second consecutive season. Both the Miami Hurricanes and the Washington Huskies finished the season undefeated (12-0) and with the top ranking in a nationally recognized poll. Under the conference-bowl selection alignments of the time, the Hurricanes and Huskies could not meet in a decisive title game because A) Washington was slotted into the Rose Bowl as the Pac-10 champions and B) the other spot in the Rose Bowl was automatically given to the Big 10 champions, in this case Michigan. The Rose Bowl's selection terms also thwarted potential title matchups of undefeated teams in 1994 and 1997; since the 1998 BCS realignment, several Pac-10 and Big 10 teams have been able to play in a BCS title game instead of being forced to play a non-title contender in the Rose Bowl; examples of this include Ohio State in 2002, USC in 2004 and Oregon in 2010.
A major rule change narrowed the goal posts from 23 feet, 4 inches to 18 feet, 6 inches, the same width as the National Football League. The distance between the hashmarks were not moved in until 1993, leaving kickers to face severe angles on short field goal attempts for the 1991 and 1992 seasons.
The Hurricanes closed the 1991 season with a 22-0 shutout over #11 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, but their season was defined by a dramatic November victory over then-#1 ranked and perennial rival Florida State. That game ended with the FSU place kicker missing a field goal, wide right, which would become a theme in the Miami-FSU rivalry; this game later took on the moniker "Wide Right I." Nebraska lost to both national champions in 1991 and finished at 9-2-1, ranked fifteenth in the AP poll.
The Washington Huskies posted a 15-point victory at #9 Nebraska in September, a 7-point win at #7 California in October, and consecutive Pac-10 and Rose Bowl championships. Washington defended its Rose Bowl title with a 20-point victory in the 1992 Rose Bowl over #4 Michigan, the Big Ten champions with Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard. The Wolverines scored a late touchdown to tighten the final score to 34-14, and finished at 10-2, ranked sixth in both polls.
The Florida Gators captured their first SEC title in school history (excepting the 1984 SEC title, which was vacated by the NCAA) in dominating fashion. Alabama finished second in the SEC in 1991 with an 11-1 record, but were annihilated 35-0 by the Gators, led by head coach Steve Spurrier. Florida's luck ran out in the Sugar Bowl, as #18 Notre Dame powered their way to a 39-28 win.
Independent Florida State joined the ACC in 1991; known primarily as a basketball conference, the ACC would never be the same for football. Dominant from the moment they joined, Florida State went undefeated in conference play for years and won the conference title for the remainder of the 1990s.
The Big East began to sponsor football, adding powerhouse Miami and other independents, though conference play wasn't yet fully integrated and standings were not kept in 1991.
In the pre-season poll, Florida State was ranked #1 with 54 of the 59 votes cast, Michigan was 2nd, and Miami 3rd. As of the September 10th poll, Florida State remained the overwhelming choice for #1 and Miami reached #2. Those two Sunshine State teams would continue to be 1 and 2 as their November 16th meeting approached. On November 16th in Tallahassee, the long awaited #1 & #2 showdown had the 10-0 Seminoles hosting the 8-0 Hurricanes. Visiting Miami won, 17-16 to take the top spot. In the Pacific Northwest, Washington won its Apple Cup game by 35 points on November 23rd and finished the regular season at 11-0; the Huskies took over the #2 spot in the final two polls of the regular season.