December Madness, College Football Playoff: Oklahoma State vs. N. Illinois

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IDecember 20, 2011

STILLWATER, OK - DECEMBER 03:  Brandon Weeden #3 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys runs the offense during play against the Oklahoma Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium on December 3, 2011 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

For the eighth consecutive season is proud to present the ultimate college football playoff in a tournament we refer to as December Madness 2011.

Over the next three weeks, the top 16 college football teams (11 conference champions and five at-large programs based on BCS rating) will compete for the December Madness title.

Utilizing our award-winning college football simulation engine, we "play" each matchup 1,001 times.

View the December Madness playoff bracket and complete boxscore here:

There's a simmering sentiment stemming from Stillwater, as the Oklahoma State fan base is irate at their beloved Cowboys' championship-game rebuke in favor of a team that failed to win their division, let alone their conference title.

Certainly there's validity to the Cowboys' claim. Oklahoma State knocked off respectable opponents in Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Missouri and rival Oklahoma, while Alabama's resume is lacking, save for wins over Arkansas and Penn State to hang their hats on. Fear not, Orange-and-Black backers. Thanks to December Madness, Mike Gundy's men get the opportunity to prove their mettle.

Brandon Weeden, a former baseball prospect, runs a Cowboys aerial assault that averages 386.3 yards per outing, the second-best passing game in college football. This proficiency in the passing game has correlated to a whopping 49.3 points-per-game figure, ranking right behind Baylor as tops in the land.

Helping Weeden in this endeavor is wideout Justin Blackmon, an All-American that has brought in 113 receptions for 1,336 yards and 15 scores. Blackmon's dexterity and deep-threat ability makes the Oklahoma State offense almost impossible to defend.

And while passing is the strategy of choice for the Cowboys, running back Joseph Randle is no slouch on the ground, racking up 1,193 yards and 23 touchdowns off 198 carries.

Oklahoma State's opening opponent, Northern Illinois, rests on the other side of the passing spectrum, coming in with a mark of 234.2 yards per outing. This stems from the fact that the Huskies prefer the rushing attack, leading the MAC with 247.6 yards per game. Spearheading this strike is quarterback Chandler Harnish (1,381 yards, 11 touchdowns) and rusher Jasmin Hopkins (932 yards, 15 scores).

Northern Illinois may seem outmatched, but the Huskies have won eight straight, including a dramatic, last-second victory over the Ohio Bobcats in the MAC Championship Game to earn inclusion into December Madness. Unfortunately, it looks like the magical run for Dave Doeren's squad is over, thanks in part to a porous defense that is surrendering 31.1 points a game.


Game recap

The Cowboys offense scored early and often, lighting up the scoreboard for 27 points in the first half. Weeden found the end zone four times in this span, hitting Isaiah Anderson, Justin Horton, Colton Chief and Josh Stewart for paydirt.

For their part, Northern Illinois kept things close, scoring 16 points of their own in the first half thanks to a Hopkins eight-yard scamper and a 12-yard touchdown pass from Harnish to Luke Eakes.

However, Oklahoma State's arsenal was too loaded, scoring 17 points in the second half compared to Northern Illinois' seven, giving the Cowboys a 44-23 win. Although he failed to score, Blackmon led all receivers with 10 catches and 138 yards. Weeden posted 435 yards with four touchdowns off 36-for-49 passing, and Randle helped the Cowboys control the clock with 102 yards on the ground.

Player of the game: Brandon Weeden (435 passing yards, 4 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Oklahoma State 87.4% - Northern Illinois 12.6%