Who Would Win March Madness' Sweet 16 Games If Schools Played in Football?
We're down to just 16 teams in the NCAA tournament. If you're like me, the smoldering ashes of the piece of paper that was once your bracket have long since gone out. Meanwhile, that person in your office who thinks basketball is that nine-inning sport with Johnny Manziel is absolutely crushin—
You know what? Never mind. Reliving your bracket misfortune is only going to anger you, and we're here to make things more entertaining.
That's why we're taking this year's Sweet 16 games and putting them on a hypothetical gridiron. Why? Because secretly you would want to know what would happen if Baylor and Wisconsin played each other. And because Kentucky and Louisville have hatred for each other that transcends all sports.
Also, because you'd be sick enough to watch Stanford and Dayton. You know, just to see the carnage.
So, how would this year's college football Sweet 16 turn out? Our best guesses are ahead. Remember, games are based on 2013 teams, which would include players who have since declared for the NFL, graduated or transferred.
Also, be sure to check out Adam Kramer's hypothetical 64-team college football bracket. It's all kinds of awesome, and he is just salivating over the betting opportunities.
Florida vs. UCLA
Thursday's matchup between Florida and UCLA should be one of the more compelling games of the Sweet 16.
The same couldn't be said if the Gators and Bruins met on the football field. Florida (4-8) has nothing left in the tank at this point.
Florida's defense makes things interesting for a while, but with injuries taken into consideration, there's not enough offense to keep the game truly close. Bruins linebackers Myles Jack and Anthony Barr make life miserable for Gators quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, who has no run game to help him out.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley passes for a touchdown and runs for two more as a pair of Gators accidentally (intentionally?) block each other. It's a little closer than expected at halftime, but the Bruins eventually pull away.
Final Score: UCLA 31, Florida 10
Dayton vs. Stanford
Oh. My. God. The blood. It's everywhere.
Dayton and Stanford may be No. 11 and No. 10 seeds in the basketball tournament, respectively, but that's, shall we say, not quite the case on the football field.
Using Kramer's hypothetical bracket, the Cardinal, at 11-3, would be a No. 2 seed, while the Flyers, a respectable 7-4, are somehow winners of the Pioneer League.
Because lose-or-go-home tournaments often result in wacky happenings, Dayton gets on the board first with a touchdown. Anxious Stanford fans then begin to question whether head coach David Shaw will play it too conservative for the next 55 minutes and lose 7-0.
He sort of does, but it matters not.
The Cardinal's defense shuts Dayton out for the rest of the game. Stanford's power running scheme is simply too much, and running back Tyler Gaffney puts up 200 yards rushing for the first time all season to go along with two touchdowns. Wide receiver Kodi Whitfield makes another one-handed catch for a touchdown—in quadruple coverage, no less—from quarterback Kevin Hogan.
Final Score: Stanford 38, Dayton 7
Michigan State vs. Virginia
[Copy/paste: Oh. My. God. The blood. It's everywhere.]
Similar to Florida vs. UCLA, Michigan State vs, Virginia should be one of the most fascinating No. 4 seed vs. No. 1 seed games of the Sweet 16. However, because we're talking about football, this should be one of the most lopsided games in our hypothetical bracket.
You may wonder aloud how Virginia got into the football Sweet 16, but why ask the question you already know the answer to?
The Spartans defense, which is the best in the country, has no problem containing the Cavaliers. In fact, Michigan State scores all but two of its touchdowns on defense while holding UVA to minus-14 total yards.
The game is over as soon as the Spartans scores their first touchdown on a Darqueze Dennard pick-six. People begin questioning Michigan State's moral compass when defensive end Shilique Calhoun comes off the edge for a forced fumble/recovery return for another score.
As the sound of Mozart's "Requiem in D minor" reaches its crescendo, the final seconds tick off the game clock. Virginia is completely wasted. There is nothing left, and the bone-chilling "amen" comes to an end as the clock strikes zero.
Final Score: Michigan State 42, Virginia 0
Iowa State vs. UConn
If you needed any more proof that college football's hypothetical Sweet 16 is nothing more than a demented Wheel of Misfortune, we present the following: Iowa State vs. UConn.
The Cyclones and Huskies are No. 3 and No. 7 seeds, respectively, in the tourney. On a football field, that could be the final score, as each team has a 3-9 record. And because the Polar Vortex is apparently still a thing, this game is being played in subfreezing weather with windy conditions.
There's no need to go through game details here; a simple glance at the stat sheet suffices.
Turnovers: 5 (combined)
Yards per play: 3.7 (Iowa State), minus-1.2 (UConn)
Special Teams Touchdowns: 1
Missed Extra Points: 2
How on God's beautiful, green Earth was this allowed to happen?
Final Score: Iowa State 16, UConn 11
Arizona vs. San Diego State
Once again, Arizona vs. San Diego State is an intriguing 1-4 matchup in the NCAA tourney. Unlike Florida vs. UCLA and Michigan State vs. Virginia, however, the Wildcats and Aztecs would make for an interesting game in football.
San Diego State jumps out to a surprising 14-0 lead, and the Wildcats are on their heels. Arizona is able to collect itself and counters with a couple of scores of its own but trails 20-14 at the half.
In the locker room, Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne tells head coach Rich Rodriguez that, if he wins, his team will play Bret Bielema's Arkansas in the Elite 8. This is a lie, of course, but the chance to run 100 plays on Bielema, who stumps for a slower pace-of-play in college football, ignites a fire in Rodriguez's eyes.
Arizona surges in the second half, and running back Ka'Deem Carey rushes for 300 yards, touching the ball on every single snap. It's too much, too fast for San Diego State.
Rodriguez will get his wish (not really).
Final Score: Arizona 35, San Diego State 27
Baylor vs. Wisconsin
Had Bret Bielema not left Wisconsin to become the head coach at Arkansas, this too would be a fascinating clash of tempos sure to excite the masses.
Still, Baylor (No. 6) and Wisconsin (No. 2) piques a lot of interest. Both teams enjoy running the ball, but the Bears enjoy doing it at mach speed.
The Badgers defense, led by linebacker Chris Borland, is able to keep the Bears' running game under wraps for a while. With offensive lineman Spencer Drango still sidelined with a bad back, Baylor's offense isn't quite the same as it was to start the year.
Still, the return of receiver Tevin Reese from a wrist injury gives Baylor just enough of a boost to make a decisive play or two. With 30 seconds remaining and Wisconsin driving, quarterback Joel Stave spikes the ball to stop the clock. Magically, the officials run all 30 seconds off the clock before setting the ball.
The Badgers can't get another play off. Game over.
And Baylor edges Wisconsin in a close and entertaining—albeit confusing—game.
Final Score: Baylor 38, Wisconsin 34
Kentucky vs. Louisville
This is a rematch from a Week 3 game in Lexington, a 27-13 win by Louisville.
Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater hasn't declared for the NFL draft, and head coach Charlie Strong hasn't taken the job at Texas yet. That gives No. 4 seed Louisville an advantage over the No. 8 seed Wildcats that it otherwise wouldn't have.
Because it can be tough to beat the same team twice in a season and because rivalry games do weird things to sports, this isn't a blowout.
Kentucky's defense gets to Bridgewater more than often than Strong would like, and the Cardinals offense is slow to get going. However, Bridgewater throws a miraculous touchdown pass on the run while being simultaneously tackled by a real, live Wildcat. Still, message board critics are unimpressed because "LOL do it against a real team #ROLLTIDE!"
The game is never really in doubt, but it's never a runaway, either.
Final Score: Louisville 30, Kentucky 20
Michigan vs. Tennessee
Ah, yes. Michigan Men vs. Vols For Life.
Both teams had disappointing seasons in 2013 and faded down the stretch. Since the laws of the past apply, Al Borges is still the Wolverines' offensive coordinator.
Likewise for Tennessee, quarterback Justin Worley remains sidelined with a thumb injury, so Joshua Dobbs is the starter.
Offenses struggle in what quickly turns into one of the least interesting games of this hypothetical Sweet 16—even though the name recognition here is the strongest of any matchup.
There's really no other reason for picking Tennessee other than all other selections have gone chalk. So, #VFL it is. Oh, and S-E-C!
Final Score: Tennessee 24, Michigan 20
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report.
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