The inaugural BCS title game was between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Florida State Seminoles, and the final score was Tennessee 23, FSU 16.
However, the top four teams going into the bowl games were the Tennessee Volunteers, Florida State Seminoles, Kansas State Wildcats and Ohio State Buckeyes.
Under a four-game playoff system with the pre-bowl rankings, the Vols would have hosted the Buckeyes, and the Seminoles would have faced the Wildcats.
Kansas State vs. FSU
Kansas State was undefeated and won the Big 12 North before facing No. 10 Texas A&M in the Trans World Dome in St. Louis. ABC televised this double-overtime game, and the Aggies finally won 36-33. If a four-game playoff were in place, they would have faced a Seminole team after their first loss of the season.
The Seminoles defeated Texas A&M in the first game of the season, 23-14, in the Kickoff Classic in Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Then they traveled to Raleigh, N.C., and lost to the unranked N.C. State Wolfpack, 24-7. It would be their only loss of the season.
Comparing the competition, clearly FSU would have defeated the Wildcats on a neutral field. It would have been a decent matchup, but the Seminoles would prove to be too fast and strong for Kansas State.
Ohio State vs. Tennessee
John Cooper's Ohio State Buckeyes were a formidable team in 1998 with only one loss all season to unranked Michigan State at home, which was a shocker to say the least. That same season, they routed No. 7 Penn State at Ohio Stadium 28-9.
The Volunteers, led by Phillip Fulmer, were experiencing their first season sans QB Peyton Manning. They had also lost to the NFL WR Marcus Nash and LB Leonard Little. Expecting to have a fall-off season, the Vols ran the tables and were 12-0 going into the bowl season.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the Vols would have defeated the Buckeyes if they played in a four-team playoff. The Vols were too athletic and fast for every team they faced that year, and it would not have been any different against Ohio State.
Championship Game: Tennessee vs. FSU
Therefore, in 1998 it wouldn't have mattered if there were a four-team playoff; the Vols would have gone undefeated and been crowned national champions.