March Madness 2012: How Would This Bracket Play out in College Football?
Although spring football has finally arrived to provide more news and a good look forward to the 2012 college football season, today is a college sports holiday that has nothing to do with football: Selection Sunday.
But why should the basketball fans have all the fun at the water cooler? College football fans always want a playoff, and the beginnings of such a system sound like they are coming with a four-team playoff in 2012.
However, why wait until December to have a college football playoff? We have these brackets already filled out for us by a selection committee, so let's see what would happen if the football teams were playing March Madness rather than the basketball teams.
Plus, this is just as good a way to lose money in your office pool as spending all work week analyzing the matchups, only to get defeated by "pick by color" Sally or "pick the cutest animal" Bob. Fire away, football teams: it's time to fill out the brackets.
Note that I used the 2012 football teams in this analysis rather than the 2011 versions. Alabama fans don't need crowned again, at least not automatically.
South Region Top Half
In the top half of the South Region, the games kick off with No. 1 Kentucky of the SEC playing the winner of a play-in game: No. 16 Mississippi Valley State versus No. 16 Western Kentucky. Considering the Hilltoppers are a new FBS football team and MVSU is one of the worst teams in FCS football, Western Kentucky will play an intrastate game.
Despite Western Kentucky's forward momentum from the end of 2011, Kentucky recruits enough talent to compete in the SEC, even if the program is not a top-tier SEC football school. Kentucky knocks off the Hilltoppers by 28 in the first round.
The next game is No. 8 Iowa State vs. No. 9 Connecticut. The Cyclones enjoyed one of their biggest wins in knocking Oklahoma State from national championship consideration last November. Meanwhile, Connecticut is still figuring out how to compete on a consistent basis in the Big East, which is no football powerhouse.
Although this game could turn into a scoring spree with two mediocre defenses, Iowa State will have more than enough offense to run the Huskies off the field. Iowa State moves on with a 17-point win.
Next up is No. 5 Wichita State vs. No. 12 Virginia Commonwealth. VCU has a club football team that was formed in 2011, while Wichita State does not field a football team. It might be "shocking" to see the Shockers go down in basketball, but they have no chance with no team in football.
VCU wins by showing up.
The final game of the top half in the South Region is No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 13 New Mexico State. This first-round game is actually a compelling battle of two usually terrible FBS football teams. Both teams are adjusting to relatively new head coaches, but Kevin Wilson has more weapons at his disposal.
Plus, when the Aggies played Ohio State they were decimated, while Indiana played the Buckeyes tough the past two seasons. The Hoosiers win a close game by three.
No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Iowa State: After both teams sail through the first round, the Wildcats and Cyclones find themselves locked in a tight battle in the second round. Games like this usually come down to quarterback play, and Steele Jantz is a better talent than any of the Wildcats who may take over the job in 2012, led by junior Morgan Newton.
Iowa State knocks off a SEC school and celebrates in the streets of Ames. Cyclones win by 7.
No. 12 VCU vs. No. 4 Indiana: Although Indiana squeaked through the first round, the Hoosiers will find the sledding easier against the newly-formed club football team at VCU. Kevin Wilson will take this opportunity to prepare his team for the next game against Iowa State.
Hoosiers win by 41.
No. 8 Iowa State vs. No. 4 Indiana: The Hoosiers will have some trick plays ready for the Cyclone defense and will therefore put up some points early. However, Iowa State will slowly grind away at the Hoosier defense, eventually take the lead and never give it back in the second half.
Iowa State moves to the Elite Eight with a 10-point win.
South Region Bottom Half
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Lehigh: The Blue Devils have been unable to take the next step to regular bowl eligibility under David Cutliffe, but Duke is at least more competitive in the ACC. Lehigh plays FCS football and is not a regular contender for national titles at that level.
Lehigh will make it interesting early, but the Blue Devils have too much talent to fall to an FCS school anymore. Duke wins by 20.
No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Xavier: An interesting battle here as Brian Kelly takes on a team from his previous town of Cincinnati. Xavier only plays club football, though, so the Fighting Irish will blow away the Musketeers with little problem.
Notre Dame wins easily by 45, even with putting the substitute players in at halftime.
No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 South Dakota State: South Dakota State has been a tricky opponent for some FBS teams like Minnesota in recent seasons, while Baylor will see what life is like after Robert Griffin III. Unfortunately for the fighting Jackrabbits, life will remain pretty good for the Bears without RG3.
Baylor stumbles a bit out of the gate but regains the lead in the second quarter and never looks back. Baylor wins by 24.
No. 6 UNLV vs. No. 11 Colorado: Bobby Hauck has replaced both of his coordinators after only two seasons in Vegas, which is a bad sign if things do not turn around shortly. Meanwhile, Colorado is still trying to figure itself out in the move to the Pac-12 conference.
Although not an upset by seeding in basketball, a Rebels win is an upset in football. Yet that is precisely what will happen, as UNLV wins by four.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Notre Dame: The dream will end right here in the second round for the Blue Devils, as the Fighting Irish have top-25 talent next season. No matter whether Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, or Gunner Kiel is running the offense, Notre Dame will score in bunches against Duke.
Which will be a refreshing alternative to the Irish basketball team. Notre Dame wins by 13.
No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 6 UNLV: This is another blowout, although both teams are FBS competitors. Baylor will have little trouble disposing of the Rebels, setting up an interesting end of this portion of the region.
Baylor wins by 24.
No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Baylor: Make no mistake about it, Baylor would have crushed Notre Dame in 2011. However, Brian Kelly is putting together his type of athletes to run his offense in South Bend, while Baylor will be reloading in 2012.
Once again, a lot of points will be scored, but the Fighting Irish will have more than enough to run away late. Notre Dame wins by 14 and moves on.
West Region Top Half
No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 16 LIU: Mark Dantonio will enjoy this as the first round looks like a cupcake to open the season. Long Island at least has a football team, but they are on a club level compared to the top 10 talent in East Lansing.
Michigan State wins by 50, which could be what happens on the basketball court too.
No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 St. Louis: Do the Billikens have a football team? If not, one would think Rick Majerus would be able to coach football with some walk-ons. However, Memphis plays in Conference USA and is a respectable program.
A little bit of a mismatch compared to the basketball version. The Tigers roll to a 24-point win.
No. 5 New Mexico vs. No. 12 Long Beach State: This bracket is just full of club level football teams. Long Beach State will be able to console themselves that they have a prettier campus, as the Lobos will run over the lack of a real football team.
New Mexico wins by 45, the biggest win for the Lobos in decades.
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Davidson: This is actually the most balanced game in the first round of this portion of the bracket, as Davidson plays FCS football. Louisville will hold the same advantage as the other FBS teams in this region, though, as Charlie Strong has Cardinals football back on the map in a hurry.
Louisville wins by 31.
No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 8 Memphis: Once again, this looks like how the football Spartans ramp up to Big Ten play, with a lower conference team following a true cupcake. Expect Michigan State to feed the ball to returning RB Le'Veon Bell early and often against the Tigers' defense.
Michigan State will also shut down the Tigers on offense with one of the best defenses in the country. Spartans roll by 27.
No. 5 New Mexico vs. No. 4 Louisville: The Lobos are awful against fellow FBS competition, unless they are playing against rival New Mexico State. Charlie Strong will have Louisville ready for this level of competition.
Louisville wins by 17.
No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Louisville: The top half of the West Region has gone to form according to basketball seeding, and this game will not break that trend. Michigan State is a Big Ten title favorite heading into 2012 thanks to a stiff defense.
Meanwhile, Charlie Strong will have a good defense at Louisville, but it will take a couple more years to have any shot at the elite level where the Spartans are now. Michigan State wins by 14.
West Region Bottom Half
No. 2 Missouri vs. No. 15 Norfolk State: Norfolk State plays FCS football, and the Spartans are a solid contender at that level. However, Missouri is now an SEC school, grabbing better and better recruits to compete at the top of all levels of college football.
Missouri runs away with this one by 35.
No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 Virginia: This game would have made a compelling battle in the 2011 season, as Florida struggled in year one under Will Muschamp while Virginia found unprecedented success and nearly made the ACC Championship. The Cavaliers could cause some problems for new starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, assuming Driskel gets the job.
However, Muschamp will begin to turn the corner in his second season, despite losing his offensive coordinator to Kansas. The Gators pull out a close game with a seven-point win.
No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 BYU or No. 14 Iona: Marquette is a basketball-only member of the Big East, as any football up in Wisconsin is not going to be competitive with FBS level competition in all likelihood. BYU will stomp through any club level teams that Iona and Marquette put out on the field.
BYU wins by 45. Viva la independence!
No. 6 Murray State vs. No. 11 Colorado State: Murray State plays FCS football, while Colorado State competes on the lower end of the FBS level. That means we could have our first major upset of an FBS team by a team from a lower division.
That is precisely what will happen, as Murray State comes from behind to win the game in the fourth quarter. The Rams are shocked with a three-point loss.
No. 2 Missouri vs. No. 7 Florida: The Gators have 10 returning players on defense, and that unit carried the team to a winning record in 2011. Meanwhile, Missouri will be adjusting to SEC play by trying to figure out the likes of Florida and others. An early preview for the Tigers in this one.
Unfortunately, the SEC is going to be a tough road to hoe for Missouri. This game will be only the beginning, as Florida wins by 13.
No. 14 BYU vs. No. 6 Murray State: This is nearly another freebie for the Cougars, who will relish the chance to beat up on an FCS foe, given the tough schedule the independent football team faces every autumn.
BYU wins by 35.
No. 7 Florida vs. No. 14 BYU: All of a sudden, the competition level goes from non-existent to highly difficult for the Cougars. BYU will have to generate enough offense against the talented Florida defense to put pressure on the young Gators offense.
If BYU could force a couple turnovers, this game might go against Florida. However, Florida will be ready for the test and will make the Elite Eight with a 10-point win.
East Region Top Half
No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 16 UNC Asheville: Unfortunately, Syracuse cannot use this as preparation against future ACC competition as UNCA is not the Tar Heels. However, perhaps that will be a blessing as Syracuse could use a couple easy games to get on a roll on the football side of things.
Syracuse wins by 31.
No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Southern Mississippi: The Wildcats competed well in the Cotton Bowl this past season and will be considered among the conference favorites alongside Oklahoma in 2012. Look for QB Collin Klein to throw all over a Southern Mississippi defense that is a bit depleted following a championship season in 2011.
Southern Miss will keep this game competitive, like the Conference USA championship against Houston last year. But the Wildcats will be more careful with the ball than Houston was. Kansas State wins by 10.
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Montana: The Grizzlies are a serious contender in FCS play and could likely move to FBS football with some modicum of success. However, Wisconsin is becoming a dominant force in the Big Ten with Bret Bielema leading with a steady hand and solid recruiting.
Montana will try to outgun Wisconsin, but the Badgers will control the clock with James White and Montee Ball. Too much Badgers running for Montana, as Wisconsin wins by 21.
No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Harvard: The Commodores are a perennial SEC doormat, but that is still an SEC team. Meanwhile, Harvard plays in the Ivy League, which is not anywhere close to the level of the SEC. As a result, Vanderbilt will blow through the Crimson.
Vanderbilt wins by 24.
No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 8 Kansas State: Unlike the first Pinstripe Bowl game in Yankee Stadium, these teams are no longer evenly matched. Syracuse has continued to be a middling team in the Big East, while Kansas State is back to elite under long-time head coach Frank Snyder.
Kansas State will use a new defensive line to pressure and force turnovers from the hands of Syracuse early and often. Wildcats win by 27.
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Vanderbilt: This looks like another bracket that is going relatively to form, with the exception of Syracuse going down early (but that actually happens frequently in March, too). In this game, the Badgers will push around the Vanderbilt defensive front, much like many other power running games in the SEC do.
Plus, Vanderbilt will have trouble generating passing offense with the pressure the Wisconsin defensive front can generate. Wisconsin wins by 17.
No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 4 Wisconsin: Now this is a game worth watching on the football field. Both teams come into the season looking at likely top-15 rankings and conference championship aspirations. Plus, Montee Ball and Collin Klein will be serious contenders for the Heisman Trophy.
In a battle of running versus passing, the running game will usually win—especially against a young inexperienced defensive front that will struggle with the unorthodox zone blocking schemes of Wisconsin. Kansas State could easily win this game, but Wisconsin will hold on for a four-point win.
East Region Bottom Half
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Loyola: Loyola does not play Division I football. Ohio State does. Urban Meyer will enjoy the warm up act for the rest of the games as the Buckeyes will be able to rotate in most of the new young talent in this one.
Ohio State wins by 55.
No. 7 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 West Virginia: Gonzaga is only known for basketball, not football. Meanwhile, Dana Holgorsen showed what might be in the future for West Virginia as the Mountaineers stomped all over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Geno Smith will lead the offense and have his best running back and receivers back for another run at glory.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga will try to show off on the basketball court. But this is football, and in football, this is a one-round knockout. West Virginia wins by 63.
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 St. Bonaventure: The second-round games are so spicy in this football-school-laden region that it seems like a shame to waste any more time on first-round blowouts. Florida State is another top-10 team against a club level competition.
Florida State wins by 70.
No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Texas: And now, a really legitimate first-round showdown between the Longhorns and the Bearcats.
Butch Jones turned Cincinnati back on the winning track in season two, helped in large part by returning QB Zach Collaros and RB Isaiah Pead. Pead will be gone this year, which means Texas will be able to force the Bearcats into one-dimensional football.
Texas should be better than the offensive train wreck of 2011, although the same quarterback and running back battles will be taking place in 2012. Texas is likely a top-25 type of team, but Cincinnati could be there by the end of 2012. This will be a minor upset as the Bearcats win by one.
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 10 West Virginia: A border rivalry that does not happen often enough and likely will not start up anytime soon thanks to WVU moving to the Big 12. The Urban Meyer party will become real serious when Holgorsen brings his elite offense to try and knock off the Silver Bullets.
Ohio State had so many problems on offense in 2011 that it is hard to imagine those going away in the first season under Meyer. One year from now might be a different story, but West Virginia is just too much better on offense to lose this game. Mountaineers by 14.
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 6 Cincinnati: The Bearcats will pull one upset, but the second will be far tougher. The Seminoles have boatloads of talent, and the results are beginning to show on the field for Jimbo Fisher. The only question mark is the offense, which is still incredibly young in 2012.
Nonetheless, Florida State will shut down the Bearcats' offense better than Texas did. As a result, FSU wins by 21 and advances to the next round.
No. 10 West Virginia vs. No. 3 Florida State: The end of a great bracket of football teams wraps up with a memorable showdown between two likely top-10 teams for 2012. West Virginia will relish the challenge of going up against the Seminoles' defensive front, which could be one of the best in the country.
The difference in this game will be defense. Florida State has far more playmakers than West Virginia currently, and that will lead the Seminoles to a surprising 10 point victory over the Mountaineers.
Midwest Region Top Half
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Lamar or No. 16 Vermont: The play-in game might actually be a good one between Lamar and Vermont, but the result is the same as in basketball—a sacrifice to the hands of the Tar Heels. Although UNC is not the elite force on the gridiron that it is on the court, the Tar Heels will still roll against FCS level competition.
North Carolina wins by 31.
No. 8 Creighton vs. No. 9 Alabama: This might be a close game on the court, but it will be anything but in football. Alabama could be a serious contender for yet another national title despite being so dominant last year, while Creighton does not play Division I football.
Alabama wins by mercy rule (100).
No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 13 Ohio: Brady Hoke has brought excitement back to Ann Arbor in just one year, and now he is luring top-level recruiting classes back to the Big Ten. He will finally get his dream of playing "Ohio," although these bobcats wear green instead of scarlet and gray.
The Bobcats have a solid coach in Frank Solich, but the level of athletes struggle to dominate the MAC let alone a Big Ten team. Michigan rolls with a 17-point win.
No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 California or No. 12 South Florida: Surprisingly, this bracket of three teams includes all FBS level football teams. Temple will have an uphill battle despite being one of the better teams in the MAC after losing their coach to Miami last season.
California and South Florida have hotbed recruiting areas in the back yard, although the results on the field do not always reflect that.
It is a real toss up between the Bulls and the Bears, but we'll go with a Bull market and say that USF plays Temple. Temple plays the Bulls tough, but the Owls eventually submit to the better defense that USF fields. Bulls advance with a 10-point win.
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Alabama: Then the competition arrives for both these teams after first-round yawners. However, Alabama will reload on defense while North Carolina will take some time to get back to the elite levels of two years ago. Plus, the Alabama offense will be better than a year ago, when the Tide was good enough to win a national championship.
North Carolina will play tough, but the Tar Heels cannot compete with Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide. The Tide keep rolling through the bracket with a 21-point win.
No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 12 South Florida: Michigan now plays defense again, and that is bad news for South Florida, who also relies on defense to stay close enough to win games. Michigan has far more talent on offense, and Denard Robinson will have a field day mixing up the Bulls' defenders.
Too much offense makes this one a blowout, thanks to the shutout that the Wolverines are likely to throw. Michigan wins by 31.
No. 9 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan: Two of the BCS bowl champions meet in this battle that will actually kick off the season in Dallas in 2012. An early preview of that game comes in March, and the Wolverines need all of those months to be ready for the challenge of facing the Crimson Tide.
Michigan is good enough to make Alabama sweat this one into the second half, but AJ McCarron will find some small openings in the Michigan defense. That will be just enough to grind out a win on a late field goal. Alabama advances with a three-point win.
Midwest Region Bottom Half
No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Detroit: Kansas has a new sheriff in town, and his name is Charlie Weis. Weis will look to bring some serious offensive excitement to a team that suddenly is missing most of the teams that carried them into the Big 12. Detroit does not play football on a serious basis, so Kansas will be easily through to the next round.
Kansas wins by 41.
No. 7 Saint Mary's vs. No. 10 Purdue: Another mismatch on the football field stems from what should be a close and competitive game on the hardwood. Purdue plays tough in the Big Ten despite some recruiting disadvantages, while Saint Mary's does not play competitive football.
Purdue wins by 35.
No. 3 Georgetown vs. No. 14 Belmont: The Hoyas might only be in the Big East for basketball, but they do play FCS football as well. Belmont is not a Division I school, so the Hoyas are heavily favored despite not being an FBS school.
Georgetown wins by 24.
No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 NC State: An interesting battle finishes out this half of the first-round games, as the Aztecs and Wolfpack both are capable of winning some games in FBS play. NC State will be favored by association and many more games against elite or good teams in the ACC, while the Aztecs have to pick and choose the rare elite opponent to test their mettle against.
Without Brady Hoke, San Diego State will fall just short of winning a game like this. NC State wins by 14.
No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 10 Purdue: This could be a good battle on the hard court thanks to Robbie Hummel, and Purdue also has some experience advantages in football. Danny Hope had Purdue in position to perhaps take advantage of an opening created by Ohio State and a reloading Wisconsin in 2012.
Kansas is also reloading, except from ground zero with a new head coach. It will take some time for Charlie Weis to get things going, and the Boilermakers will take it out on them. Purdue wins by 20.
No. 3 Georgetown vs. No. 11 NC State: NC State draws another easy game in the second round as the FCS Hoyas come to play the Wolfpack. Look for NC State to jump out to an early lead and extend it in the second half.
NC State wins by 27.
No. 10 Purdue vs. No. 11 NC State: Last season in the NCAA tournament a 10th seed played against an 11th seed in the Sweet 16, so it is possible if unlikely. On the football field, Purdue will hold the advantage in this weak battle, although NC State certainly has enough talent to make it interesting.
Assuming Purdue can get good quarterback play from one of the three possible options, the Boilermakers will move into the Elite Eight of the football March Madness. A good draw to be sure—Boilermakers win by seven.
Elite Eight and Beyond
No. 8 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Notre Dame: The regional final in the South brings Iowa State down to Atlanta to take on the highly motivated Notre Dame squad. Brian Kelly will have his team aware of what happened to a similarly talented Oklahoma State team late last year against the Cyclones.
Thus, the upset will not happen again. A good run ends for Iowa State right here as the Irish roll to a 17-point win.
No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 7 Florida: Will Muschamp had a chance to knock off one Big Ten team in the Gator Bowl and took full advantage. But the Buckeyes opened the door with bad special teams play and bad offense, while the Spartans will have a better offense and solid special teams. In addition, the Spartans will lock down the struggling Gators offense.
Michigan State wins by 10.
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 Florida State: This could be the Rose Bowl revisited, as Wisconsin will go toe-to-toe with another solid team with playmakers on offense and defense.
Oregon had more speed on defense than Florida State, and that came into play late in stopping the Wisconsin comeback. In this game, Montee Ball will have his way and the pace will be wherever Wisconsin wants it to be.
However, the Seminoles will do just enough to slow the Badgers passing offense, getting just enough opportunities for their own offense to win the game. Florida State wins by three.
No. 9 Alabama vs. No. 10 Purdue: A shocking mismatch here as Alabama is the only top-tier national championship contender in the NCAA basketball tournament field, while Purdue is probably only the third- or fourth-best team in a six-team division.
Danny Hope will enjoy the ride that brought him to the Midwest Region final, but the good times and the easy draw ends in a heartbeat.
The Crimson Tide will roll easier against the Boilermakers than against the Wolverines, which will be a nice break before the important final games. Alabama wins by 28.
No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 1 Michigan State: When the going gets tough, the defenses step up and make it tougher. That is what will happen in this slugfest of two top-25 teams and top defensive units. Which offense will make more mistakes? Michigan State can rely on Le'Veon Bell to hold the ball, but eventually they will have to pass.
And when they do, the Notre Dame defense will be all over whichever first year quarterback takes over for Kirk Cousins. Notre Dame wins by seven.
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 9 Alabama: The country will be riveted to see this battle of top 10 teams playing for the right to advance to the national championship game. Both teams have all the talent in the world, although Alabama is playing with more young talent while Florida State has slightly more experience, especially on defense.
Alabama will be ready to defend the title, but this is just a bit too soon for the nine new defensive starters to reload and stop a team like Florida State. Jimbo Fisher will have all of Seminoles nation behind him as he knocks off Nick Saban for a chance at the championship.
Florida State wins by four.
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 7 Notre Dame: A quick rematch of a great bowl game from 2011 will decide the national championship. Both teams are many years removed from glory days, although it has been a lot longer for Notre Dame since being on this stage. Brian Kelly and Jimbo Fisher will each try to prove themselves as the coaches of the future, with trick plays and bold maneuvers throughout the contest.
Notre Dame will find some openings early, but Florida State's talented defense will adjust and have the Irish shut down in the second half. That will give the Seminoles all the opportunity in the world to make a comeback and put the game out of reach with two fourth quarter touchdowns. Another late game disappointment brings the Irish back to earth and propels Florida State back to the promised land.
Florida State wins by 13.
Thanks for reading, and if this simulation comes anywhere close to the results in the basketball tournament, then perhaps I should start picking my brackets based on football results. Until next time, enjoy the basketball madness and spring football!