With some calling to expand college football’s four-team playoff, I say why not go whole hog and play an exact replica of this year’s March Madness bracket on the gridiron. I’ll be deciding these games by examining the 2016 resumes of the teams in the tournament, and close calls are my personal opinion. With none of the four College Football Playoff teams in this tournament field, it’s wide open for the taking.
The first round is a mess. Fourteen of the first round teams don’t even field a varsity football team, resulting in byes for a number of bad squads. For example, FCS Rhode Island went 2-9 including a 55-6 loss to Kansas, the laughing-stock of college football, but advances thanks to Creighton’s lack of a football program. In an odd twist of fate, neither VCU nor St. Mary’s has a team, so there’s a void in the 7-10 matchup of the West.
Adding to the mess, in the 2-15 matchup, Troy defeats Duke and North Dakota, which won a game in the FCS Playoff, and edges out a 3-9 Arizona team. For the first time ever, in this alternate universe a No. 16 seed upsets a No. 1 seed. In fact, it happens twice, as NC Central upsets the dumpster fire Kansas Jayhawks and South Dakota State beats Gonzaga, who doesn’t field a team, by default.
South Dakota State proves it isn’t a fluke by beating Northwestern in the second round, becoming the first ever No. 16 seed to win a pair of games. Somehow, in the weak Midwest Region, 5-7 Nevada and 4-8 Oregon both advance to the Sweet 16 with wins over Purdue and Rhode Island, respectively. The second round has its first batch of very tough decisions, as Michigan barely edges past Louisville. I also gave 9-2 FCS Dayton a win over 7-6 Kentucky, giving precedence to winning your small conference over getting beat down in the media-biased SEC.
In the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, some true contenders begin to appear. Wisconsin and USC meet in the Elite 8 in the West Region, both teams having won a New Year’s Six game, with the Badgers’ conference championship appearance as the tiebreaker. Michigan tops Miami in the Elite 8 of the Midwest after both teams demolish their opponents, Oregon and Nevada, in the Sweet 16. In the South, Minnesota defeats North Carolina in a tight contest, but the Golden Gophers’ Cinderella slipper is smashed in the Elite 8 by a Kansas State squad that had a quietly solid year. Lastly, in the West, Florida State jumps out as a possible championship contender as they blow by North Dakota and West Virginia.
In the Final Four, the Badgers finally fall to the Seminoles in the tightest contest of the tournament so far. Both teams won New Year’s Six bowls, but the Seminoles’ win in the Orange Bowl was more impressive than Wisconsin’s win over Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl. On the other side of the bracket, Michigan defeats Kansas State handily.
Now onto the Championship Game: Florida State against Michigan. Fittingly, two teams did duke it out in football in the Orange Bowl. The two programs appear about as evenly matched on the gridiron as they are here in this hypothetical basketball-football hybrid. Florida State topped Michigan 33-32 in that game, so I’ll predict they win by the same margin in this one. Congratulations to the 2017 NCAA Football Tournament Champion Florida State Seminoles.
Check out the Daily Cardinal's full NCAA Tournament Preview package here.