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Often, well sometimes, OK, almost never the Tom Bowl receives questions about how we came up with the selections for each game. As part of the 15th anniversary celebration we asked the Tom Bowl president to think back to each of the first 14 match ups and explain, for posterity, how the selections were made.

Tom Bowl I - 1989
Middle Tennessee St. vs. Eastern Michigan
 This game just doesn’t fit in with the others, but there is a reason. The first couple of years we did bowl bids, we would send alternate bids. It was really just an excuse to send more letters. This was the game that started the whole thing because Miami-FL and Colorado didn’t play each other in their bowl games. Since Colorado sent a letter declining the invite, the official game was played with the alternates. Both Eastern and Middle Tennessee State had pretty good teams that year, but overall, this would not have been a big game.

Tom Bowl II - 1990
Colorado vs. Notre Dame
 Rematch of the year before. This was the last year we did alternates. I have absolutely no explanation for how we came up with this. I imagine we just repeated the year before, perhaps in hopes of getting some responses. This should have been Colorado vs. Georgia Tech. I wish I could remember what we were thinking back then. Maybe about toast.

Tom Bowl III - 1991
University of Washington vs. University of Miami
This was one of those “back in the day” situations that led to the whole BCS thing in the first place. This game was absolutely necessary and is one of the top three in Tom Bowl games that should have been played. Washington and Miami were both undefeated and both finished ranked #1, Washington by the Coaches and Miami by the AP. This would have been a great game.

Tom Bowl IV - 1992
Florida St. vs. University of Miami
I have no idea why we picked this game. Miami and Alabama were playing for the title and they were #1 and #2 and they were both undefeated so without any real concept or reasoning we just picked Miami and Florida State. I guess we figured that if Miami hadn’t beaten Florida St. earlier in the year then they’d both of been undefeated. Sorry Alabama, no offense in not getting picked. I guess we were struggling for relevance.

Tom Bowl V - 1993
Florida St. vs. University of West Virginia
This one? Well, at the end of the year, Nebraska and West Virginia are both undefeated. The championship game is set for Florida State and Nebraska. That’s not justice. It should be the battle of unbeaten teams. So we pick West Virginia and inexplicably Florida State instead of Nebraska. I have no explanation or memory of why that choice was made. We probably need to do some research I guess. The Tom Bowl was a mess this year. Very convoluted as too who was ranked where. Auburn was undefeated but they were on probation. Notre Dame was really good that year too, having beaten Florida State earlier in the year and were undefeated going into the season finale but then lost to Boston College on a last second field goal. Between all the confusions and upsets and the fact we didn’t even know where this game was going to be played it’s no surprise we made an odd choice.

Tom Bowl VI - 1994
University of Nebraska vs. Penn St.
Another nail in the construction of the argument for the BCS. This was easy. Both teams were undefeated, but bowl commitments kept them from playing. This would have been a top notch contest and another of the games that should have been played. This is a Tom Bowl invite to be proud of.

Tom Bowl VII - 1995
University of Nebraska vs. Northwestern
OK, ok. This was weird. Nebraska and Florida were clearly #1 and #2 and we weren’t sure what to do since they were going to play anyway and then we saw Northwestern up there in the rankings and we just kind of indulged ourselves since we didn’t suspect we’d have a chance to invite Northwestern again so we just went ahead and asked them to come. Along with the first Tom Bowl this would have probably been one of the less popular games. In retrospect if we were searching for relevance we’d of asked Tennessee. But again, it’s hard to pass up Northwestern when you get the chance. Isn’t it? No? Really, that’s interesting.

Tom Bowl VIII - 1996
Arizona State University vs. Florida St.
This one always looks strange when you consider they finished #3 and #4 in the polls but at the end of the season, Arizona State and Florida State were both undefeated so it was a natural they’d play each other in the Tom Bowl. Too bad they didn’t play each other because if they had one of them would have finished #1. As it turned out, FSU got blown out by Florida in the Sugar Bowl and ASU lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl so neither one of them finished in the top spot. This could have been a good one.

Tom Bowl IV - 1997
University of Nebraska vs. University of Michigan
Of all the Tom Bowls, this was the one that was really necessary. Nebraska and Michigan were both #1s. Nebraska in the Coach’s poll and Michigan in the AP press poll. Co-national champions is a ridiculous idea but with the way things worked out, Michigan played in the Rose Bowl and Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. It would have been great but the Big 10 said that Michigan couldn’t fly back to Beal City while they were practicing in Pasadena. I suspect Nebraska would have blown them away which I think is the real reason that of all the Tom Bowls, this is the one people tell me they’d of most liked to have seen both teams show up.

Tom Bowl X - 1998
Kansas State University vs. Ohio State University
This could have been the greatest idea in Tom Bowl history, but disaster struck at the end of the season. Going into the final week, UCLA, Kansas State and Tennessee were all undefeated. We already had letters written inviting three teams to the first three way game in college football history. Each team would play the other for a half and the one with the most points would be the victor. However, in their last games, UCLA lost to Miami 49-45 and Kansas State lost to Texas A&M 36-33 and the whole thing had to be junked. This was also the first year of the BCS and by their rankings Tennessee and Florida State were the top two teams. So, this was the year we came up with the True #2 concept. If #1 and #2 are going to play, then #3 and #4 ought to play because whoever would win that game, would likely take the #2 slot from whoever lost the #1 vs. #2 game. That’s a lot of numbers. Regardless, we thought it would be interesting to see K-State vs. O-State. But it was still a bummer after the potential of the three-way game.

Tom Bowl XI - 1999
University of Nebraska vs. University of Wisconsin
Another True #2 thing. Florida State and Virginia Tech played for the #1 slot, so we picked #3 and #4 again. After this though we got tired of the True #2 concept and went back to just picking teams.

Tom Bowl XII - 2000
University of Oklahoma vs. University of Miami
This was another year when the Tom Bowl has the right idea. Oklahoma was the clear #1 but Florida State was BCS ranked #2 despite that Miami had beaten them earlier in the season. What screwed up Miami was a close loss to Washington in the second week of the season. This is probably the second most demanded game in Tom Bowl history after the Michigan-Nebraska tilt. Had Florida State beaten Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl a lot of people thought that Miami might have leapfrogged them to #1.

Tom Bowl XIII - 2001
University of Miami vs. University of Colorado
This was definitely the year we picked the wrong team. As much as I like Colorado for giving us the first letter back in Tom Bowl history we got caught up in all the hype about the injustice of Miami playing Nebraska for the title when Colorado had beaten them 62-36 near the end of the season. This was the year the BCS computer system was all blooey so that Nebraska was the pick against Miami. However, sitting quietly off to the side was Oregon and everyone just kind of blew them off, I believe, based on a weak Pac 10. We shouldn’t have. They were #2 in the polls and should have been invited but we goofed. See, no one really knew that Nebraska wasn’t any good either. Our decision looked even worse when Oregon slammed Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. This game should have been Miami vs. Oregon.

Tom Bowl XIV - 2002
University of Iowa vs. Ohio State
Well, this was the year we went in a whole different direction. Ohio State was set to play Miami for the title and at the time it seemed the Buckeyes didn’t stand a chance. We felt that Iowa was better than OSU and wanted to see them play for the Big 10 title since the two teams didn’t play against each other due to the Big 10’s uneven 11 team schedule. So Tom Bowl XIV was actually the first Big 10 championship game. This would have been interesting I think. It turned out we were wrong about OSU though.

Tom Bowl XV - 2003
University of Southern California vs. Louisiana State University
Sometimes the decision is really easy to make. This one rivals Tom Bowl VII (Michigan-Nebraska) in terms of relevance. And as much as we like to complain about Tom Bowl prospects that fell apart at the last minute this was one where everything came together nicely for us to put on a bang up contest. Oklahoma choking was the key.  This would have been another one for the ages if the teams hadn't gotten lost or something. I'm sure they would have come. This game prompted the BCS to revise their methods again. But fear not, for the Tom Bowl will always be there when the BCS flubs up.

Tom Bowl XVI - 2004
University of Southern California vs. Oklahoma vs. Auburn

Finally, the Tom Bowl got to do the game its been dreaming of for years. Since 1998 the Tom Bowl had been hoping to pull off a three-way game. In 1998 this dream was ruined when UCLA and Kansas St. lost. This year it was an easy match-up as three teams remained unbeaten and at the top of the polls at the end of the season.