In Tom Osborne's last season as head coach, Nebraska took over the #1 ranking in the nation after defeating Texas Tech midway through the season. Three weeks later, despite winning at Missouri in an overtime game, Nebraska slipped to a #2 ranking in the polls, as voters weren't impressed by the way the Cornhuskers won the game (a controversial kicked-ball that was caught for the game-tying TD as time expired in regulation); the University of Michigan moved ahead of Nebraska after its 34-8 victory over #3 ranked Penn State University.
Undefeated #2 Nebraska squared off in the 1998 Orange Bowl versus the #3 ranked Tennessee Volunteers football team. Unusually for the low-key Osborne and his straight-ahead team, the Cornhuskers made a point of smacking down Tennessee as they defeated the Volunteers 42-17, and after the game campaigned openly for Nebraska to be named the consensus national champion (Grant Wistrom stated that if "they wanted to give it to Michigan because they haven't won one in 50 years, we don't want it anyway.").
After the bowl games, the AP poll awarded the national championship to Michigan, and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll awarded the national championship to Nebraska, giving Tom Osborne his third national title in four seasons to cap his career. This also marked the last time that a Big 10 (or Pac-10) team would be bound to play in the Rose Bowl instead of heading to a #1-#2 title game, due to the 1998 BCS realignment.
The national title picture could have been even murkier as Florida State went into their final regular season game ranked #1. However, Fred Taylor of Florida would run for 162 yards and four touchdowns on the nation's top-ranked run defense, one of those touchdowns being the winning score with less than two minutes to play. This game is commonly referred to as "The Greatest Game Ever Played in the Swamp".
The Humanitarian Bowl began play in Boise, Idaho to help publicise the dwindling Big West Conference and Boise State. The Broncos with their wacky blue turf had just made the jump to Division I-A a year earlier. The Big West champion had formerly gone to the Las Vegas Bowl, but the now only 6 team conference wasn't much of a seat filler.
The MAC also grew to a 12-team, two-division conference with a championship game after the addition of Northern Illinois from the independent ranks and newcomer to Division I-A Marshall. Marshall's addition increased the number of teams in Division I-A to 113. In a scenario similar to the Big West in 1993, this up-and-comer from Division I-AA was able to win the division in its first year. To be fair, the Thundering Herd had gone unbeaten and won the I-AA national title the previous season, and had future NFL stars Randy Moss and Chad Pennington.