The 1998 NCAA Division I-A football season was the first of the Bowl Championship Series, which saw Tennessee win the national championship, one year after star quarterback Peyton Manning left for the NFL. The Volunteers defeated the Florida State Seminoles 23-16 in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona to secure the inaugural BCS National Championship.
The BCS combined elements of the old Bowl Coalition and the Bowl Alliance it replaced. The agreement existed between the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, and Orange Bowls, the Cotton Bowl Classic diminishing in status since the breakup of the Southwest Conference. Like the Bowl Alliance, a national championship game would rotate between the four bowls, with the top two teams facing each other. These teams were chosen based upon a BCS poll, combining the AP poll, the Coaches poll, and a third computer component. The computer factored in things such as strength of schedule, margin of victory, and quality wins without taking into account time (in other words a loss in October and a loss in November were on equal footing).
However, like the Bowl Coalition, the bowls not hosting the national championship would retain their traditional tie-ins.
The first run of the Bowl Championship Series was not without controversy as Kansas State finished third in the final BCS standings but was not invited to a BCS bowl game. Ohio State (ranked 4th) and two-loss Florida (8th) received the at-large bids instead. Also, Tulane went undefeated but finished 10th in the BCS standings and was not invited to a BCS bowl because of their strength of schedule.
The following rule changes were adopted by the NCAA Rules Committee during their 1998 meeting: 
- Defensive players are allowed to recover and advance backward passes. Previously the defense was only allowed to recover but not advance backward passes.
- Illegal touching of a forward pass by an ineligible receiver is a five-yard penalty from the previous spot but no loss-of-down.
- Defensive players may not rough an offensive player in position to receive a backward pass (i.e. trail man on option play).
- Standardized uniform recognition regarding memorializing of deceased or severely ill teammates/coaches.
- Eyeshields must be clear.
Conference and program changes
With no teams upgrading from Division I-AA, the number of Division I-A schools was fixed at 112.
- Army broke away from almost one hundred years of tradition as an independent, joining Conference USA.
||#2 Florida State
||#4 Ohio State
||#8 Texas A&M
||New Orleans, LA|
|Cotton Bowl Classic
|| #20 Texas
|| #25 Mississippi State
|Florida Citrus Bowl
||#22 Penn State
||#12 Georgia Tech
||#17 Notre Dame
||#24 Miami (FL)
||El Paso, TX|
||#3 Kansas State
||San Antonio, TX|
||San Diego, CA|
||#16 Air Force
|Music City Bowl
|Las Vegas Bowl
||San Diego State
||Las Vegas, NV|
|Motor City Bowl
Rankings are from the AP Poll.
Heisman Trophy voting
The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is given to the
Most Outstanding Player of the year
Ricky Williams, Texas, Running Back (2335 points)
Other major awards
- Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year) - Ricky Williams, Texas
- Walter Camp Award (Back) - Ricky Williams, Texas
- Davey O'Brien Award (Quarterback) - Michael Bishop, Kansas St.
- Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (Senior Quarterback) - Cade McNown, UCLA
- Doak Walker Award (Running Back) - Ricky Williams, Texas
- Fred Biletnikoff Award (Wide Receiver) - Troy Edwards, Louisiana Tech
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Defensive Player) - Champ Bailey, Georgia
- Chuck Bednarik Award - Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M
- Dick Butkus Award (Linebacker) - Chris Claiborne, USC
- Lombardi Award (Lineman or Linebacker) - Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M
- Outland Trophy (Interior Lineman) - Kris Farris, UCLA
- Jim Thorpe Award (Defensive Back) - Antoine Winfield, Ohio St.
- Lou Groza Award (Placekicker) - Sebastian Janikowski, Florida St.
- Paul "Bear" Bryant Award - Bill Snyder, Kansas St.
- Football Writers Association of America Coach of the Year Award - Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee