CFB Greatest Of All Time Championship: 2001 Miami vs. 2012 Alabama

At long last, after 8 rounds of double-elimination bracket play, we’ve arrived at our championship in the Greatest of All Time College Football Simulation, pitting 2001 Miami vs. 2012 Alabama in a best-of-three series.

How We Got Here
2001 Miami emerged victorious from Bracket B, and there’s little complaints in that area. They trailed just once en route to the bracket championship and then engineered a game-winning drive on the strength of their backup quarterback in the Bracket B final. They roll into the championship series with an unblemished 5-0 record.

There was anger, shock, accusations of rigging, and everything else with the results of Bracket A. 7th-seeded 2012 Alabama stunned the field with an undefeated run. They went 5-0 in impressive fashion, toppling the 2019 LSU Tigers and 2018 Clemson Tigers twice. The Crimson Tide’s fearsome backfield trio of Kenny Drake, Eddie Lacy, and T.J. Yeldon has terrorized opponents throughout the tournament, and they’ll hope they can challenge Miami’s stout defense in the championship. 

Game 1 

Alabama 28 Miami 9

Wow. A stunner. The Miami team that has barely trailed all tournament long never even sniffed the lead in this one. That Alabama backfield was up to its usual tricks, with Lacy compiling 109 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown, and Yeldon tearing apart the ‘01 Miami defense to the tune of 117 yards on 15 touches. He notched his lone touchdown on a third-quarter 61-yard scamper, which gave the Tide a commanding 21-6 lead with 3:20 to play in the period. The Hurricanes notched just three field goals, racking up just 57 rushing yards on the game. Absolutely dominant effort from the Tide here in Game 1. Can they secure a sweep in Game 2?

Talk about lethal backfield duos – Lacy and Yeldon were also complemented by Kenny Drake

Game 2

Alabama 23 Miami 17

A miracle Cinderella run finds its happy ending, as the clock never quite strikes midnight on this 2012 Crimson Tide squad, which finishes the tournament 7-0. This one was a much tighter affair than the previous game, as the Crimson Tide clung to a 16-10 lead entering the final frame. However, Miami took the lead for the first time in the series on the strength of an 89-yard punt return touchdown with 10:47 to go. However, with plenty of time on the clock, Alabama was able to stick to their ground game. Lacy (87 yards) and Yeldon (106 yards) chewed up yards, while A.J. McCarron hooked up with Amari Cooper for 23 yards on a clutch third-down conversion. Ultimately, Lacy ran it in from 6 yards out with 6:19 to play. 

Miami still had a chance to claim victory, down six with plenty of game to be played, and they crawled down the field, struggling for every yard. Brock Berlin, who saved the Hurricanes in the Bracket B championship, assisted in a trick play, tossing a 22-yard completion to Ken Dorsey, who also found Daryl Jones for 25 yards on the drive. Beyond those chunk plays, Clinton Portis did the grunt work, grinding out 24 yards on 7 carries. The clock trickled down under 2 minutes as Miami reached the Alabama 11. However, Portis ran for just two yards, and Dorsey completed a 4-yard pass. After Dorsey scrambled for a yard on third down, the Hurricanes faced 4th and 3 at the 4-yard line. Needing a touchdown to win, Dorsey dropped back and lofted a pass towards the back corner of the end zone. Vinnie Sunseri of Alabama out jumped Ethenic Sands, snaring the pick and clinching the championship for Alabama.

CFB Greatest OF All Time Bracket: 2019 LSU and 2018 Clemson Clash in Quarterfinals

It’s been one heck of a ride so far, but by the time our initial field of 32 college football teams boiled down to 6, we have ourselves some of the greatest squads to ever step onto the gridiron left. Starting it off is a modern-day classic featuring the last two national champions – 2019 LSU and 2018 Clemson – battling for the right to face 2012 Alabama in the Bracket A final. In Bracket B, 2013 Florida State has slogged their way through the loser’s bracket, winning two straight overtime clashes, to set up a battle with 2009 Alabama. The winner of that will face the daunting task of having to defeat 2001 Miami – who has only trailed for a total of 3 minutes and 22 seconds in four games so far. Twice. They have to defeat them twice. It’s a tough road ahead, but let’s see what happens in our final pre-championship round.

Bracket A Semifinals
1. 2019 LSU vs. 2. 2018 Clemson
Clemson 34 LSU 33
This one lived up to the hype. LSU took the early edge, 23-21 at halftime, but Clemson rallied in front by a 31-30 margin at the end of the third quarter. Joe Burrow hit Ja’Marr Chase for a 39-yard gain, and Clyde Edwards-Hillaire broke off a 15-yard run, as LSU snuck into the red zone near the halfway mark of the final quarter. However, Clemson’s defense stiffened, and Burrow’s 6-yard scramble on 3rd and 8 left the Tigers two yards short at the Clemson 8-yard line. Cade York drilled a 25-yard field goal, but with 4:49 to play, Clemson only trailed by two. 

Clemson’s drive looked destined to stall, but an 18-yard scramble from Lawrence extended the drive on 3rd down, and Etienne ripped off a 41-yard run to bring Clemson to the red zone with 1:53 to play. LSU had just one timeout, which was burned on an Etienne run, and Clemson worked the clock down under a minute before kicking a field goal to take the lead. Burrow was left with 47 seconds and no timeouts and couldn’t make any magic happen, getting to the Clemson 49 before heaving up a Hail Mary that fell to the ground. And with that Hail Mary ended the infallible 2019 season of LSU, who dropped two straight games after dancing dangerously through three one-score victories. 

Bracket A Championship

7. 2012 Alabama vs. 2. 2018 Clemson 
Alabama 23 Clemson 21 
Another great game, but 2012 Alabama stays undefeated. The 7th-seeded darkhorse Crimson Tide have rolled their way through bracket A and into the championship, behind the strength of their ferocious backfield, headlinged by Eddie Lacy, Kenny Drake, and T.J. Yeldon. Lacy did the damage in this one, leading the way with 92 rushing yards and a touchdown, while quarterback A.J. McCarron was his usually efficient himself, limiting mistakes and throwing for 174 yards and a score. Clemson got 105 rushing yards from Travis Etienne, but they rarely had the ball, holding possession for just 21 minutes and 35 seconds of game time. 

Bracket B Semifinals

3. 2009 Alabama vs. 4. 2013 Florida State
Alabama 37 Florida State 28
After crawling past two consecutive opponents in overtime, Florida State’s magic ran out. The Seminoles jumped out to a halftime lead, but they quite simply ran out of gas. In typical Nick Saban and Alabama fashion, the Crimson Tide controlled the contest with a ground-and-pound attack, racking up over 350 yards, led by 180 from Mark Ingram, who also found the end zone three times. Trent Richardson chipped in with 92 yards and a touchdown for the Tide, who trailed 28-27 entering the fourth quarter before completing their comeback. 

Bracket B Championship

1. 2001 Miami vs. 3. 2009 Alabama
Miami 24 Alabama 23 
This was an excruciating loss for the Crimson Tide. Not only because of their elimination, but because of how it went down. Miami trailed 23-17 with 2:17 to play, but Ken Dorsey connected with Ethenic Sands for 28 yards on the opening play of their drive, bringing them to the Alabama 47. However, Dorsey was hit hard on the play and was unable to return. The Hurricanes summoned backup quarterback Brock Berlin in, who proceeded to dice the Crimson Tide defense, going 5-5 for 31 yards. With 17 seconds to play and a timeout to burn, Berlin handed off to Clinton Portis from the 5-yard line, and the legendary Miami running back did the rest, breaking a tackle at the 2 and extending the ball over the line for a game-winning touchdown. The Hurricanes are 5-0 and into the championship round, where they will have to take down another Alabama team – the 2012 version – in a best-of-three series.

CFB Greatest Of All Time Tournament – Round 5 and 6: 2014 National Championship Rematch?

We’re into Round 5 and 6 of our Greatest of all time College Football simulation, and by the end of this article, we will be down to our final six teams. A few teams will play twice in this piece, as we narrow it down to the final three teams from each bracket. As a reminder of where we stand currently: 2012 Alabama (Bracket A) and 2001 Miami (Bracket B) are the only remaining undefeated teams and must be defeated twice in the bracket championship. 2019 LSU and 2009 Alabama fell victim to each of those teams respectively and have earned their spot in the final six participants. Four teams in each bracket are left to duke it out for the final two entries into the seventh round. In Bracket A, 2018 Clemson, 2008 Florida, 2008 Oklahoma, and 2000 Miami fight for survival. On the other side of things, 2013 Florida State, 2003 LSU, 2014 Ohio State, and 2014 Oregon will clash for that sixth and final spot. Let’s get into it. 

Bracket A Loser’s Bracket

6. 2008 Florida vs. 2. 2018 Clemson
Clemson 37 Florida 27
Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers are moving on, as Travis Etienne ran for 147 yards and a touchdown, while Lawrence tossed a pair of scores on 24-36 passing and 293 yards. Clemson opened up a touchdown lead at halftime and never trailed, as Tim Tebow and his 2008 Gators could not seal the deal against Dabo Swinney’s 15-0 championship team. 

13. 2000 Miami vs. 9. 2008 Oklahoma
Oklahoma 45 Miami 27
Miami’s hopes now lie in their unbeaten ‘01 squad, after the 2008 Sooners torched the Hurricanes through the air and on the ground, dominating start to finish in a 45-27 victory. Chris Brown ran for 104 yards on 21 carries while finding the end zone twice. Bradford threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns, as Oklahoma led by double digits by the end of the first quarter and never let Miami come within a touchdown. 

Bracket A Loser’s Bracket – Round 6

2018 Clemson vs. 2008 Oklahoma
Clemson 52 Oklahoma 31
This one was never close from the start. Trevor Lawrence threw two first half touchdowns to open up a 14-point halftime lead, while Travis Etienne racked up 186 yard and three touchdowns on just 20 carries, as 2018 Clemson cruised to a 52-31 victory, moving on to the final three in Bracket A and earning a much anticipated clash with 2019 LSU. 

Bracket B Loser’s Bracket – Round 5

7. 2003 LSU vs. 4. 2013 Florida State
Florida State 41 LSU 38 OT
In a game largely dominated by running backs, Florida State’s Jameis Winston came in clutch down the stretch, rescuing the Seminoles from a 7-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. Karlos Williams ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns to keep Florida State in it, and Winston threw for 325 yards – coming up with 132 in the fourth quarter and a pair of touchdown passes to force overtime. There, FSU got the ball second after an LSU field goal. Williams ran for eight yards, Winston scrambled for one, and on 3rd and short, Winston found Kelvin Benjamin for a 16-yard, game-winning touchdown to secure the victory in an instant classic.

12. 2014 Oregon vs. 9. Ohio State
Ohio State 54 Oregon 27
In a rematch of the 2014 national championship, Ohio State beat down Oregon once more, doubling up the ducks on the strength of an efficient performance from J.T. Barrett and a fearsome rushing attack. Ezekiel Elliot ran 25 times for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns, Barrett went 20 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing for another 293 yards and a score. The Buckeyes only led 23-20 at halftime, but they absolutely dominated the Ducks in the final two quarters to seal the deal. 

Bracket B Loser’s Bracket – Round 6

4. 2013 Florida State vs. 9. 2014 Ohio State
Florida State 37 Ohio State 34 2OT
In a clash of the final BCS champion and the first ever CFP champion, the 2013 BCS-winning Florida State Seminoles won their second straight overtime battle over the Buckeyes. A blocked punt and pick-6 were major factors in FSU engineering another comeback. While Jameis Winston did throw for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns, it was Lamarcus Joyne’s interception return for a touchdown that tied the game at 28 points apiece with 5:54 to play in the game. After trading off field goals in overtime, Florida State got the ball down three, needing a touchdown to win. Winston scrambled right for 7 yards and then hit Devonta Freeman for a 9-yard gain and a first down. There, the redshirt freshman Heisman winner once again found Kelvin Benjamin open in the end zone, firing a 9-yard dart for a game-sealing touchdown. 

Round 7 and 8 Schedule

Bracket A
1. 2019 LSU vs. 2. 2018 Clemson

Winner vs. 7. 2012 Alabama

Bracket B
3. 2009 Alabama vs. 4. 2013 Florida State

Winner vs. 1. 2001 Miami

Greatest Of All Time CFB Tournament: Round 4

Three rounds in, and we have four undefeated teams left. Both 2012 and 2009 Alabama will test their unbeaten marks against 2019 LSU and 2001 Miami respectively, both of whom have held serve as their top seed. 2001 Miami is yet to trail in any game so far. On the loser’s bracket side, both entrants from Oregon, Clemson, and Florida State have survived thus far, and Miami and LSU’s second teams also remain. 2008 Oklahoma, 2008 Florida, 2017 UCF (!), and 2014 Ohio State round out the 12 teams currently fighting for survival. Let’s see what round 4 brought. 

Round 4 Schedule

Bracket A Winner’s Bracket

1. 2019 LSU vs. 7. 2012 Alabama
Alabama 37 LSU 31 
For the fourth straight game, LSU fell behind at halftime, trailing 20-17 after 30 minutes, but for the first time, the Tigers could not quite rally. Facing one of the most lethal backfields of all time, LSU surrendered 130 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns to Eddie Lacy, and Joe Burrow only found the end zone once. 2019 LSU has finally met their match and fall into the loser’s bracket – can they rally back?

Loser’s Bracket

 2. 2018 Clemson vs. 4. 1999 Florida State
Clemson 30 Florida State 27
Trailing 27-17 entering the fourth quarter, Clemson turned off their defensive efforts, and the offense rallied the Tigers to victory, as Lawrence threw for 274 yards and a game-tying touchdown with 2:48 remaining on the clock. They would get the ball back – tied 27-27 – with just 72 seconds to work with at their own 12-yard line, but Etienne (141 yards, 1 TD) took a short pass 49 yards to set B.T. Potter up for an eventual game-winning 41-yard field goal with 13 seconds left on the clock. Clemson survives once more.

8. 2008 Oklahoma vs. 11. 2010 Oregon
Oklahoma 34 Oregon 31
Oklahoma got off to a slow start, but their defense tightened up, giving their lethal offense some time to engineer a comeback. Sam Bradford tossed three touchdowns and no picks on a 23-30, 386 yard performance, as the Sooners took the lead at the end of the third quarter and never relinquished it. 

BYE: 13. 2000 Miami, 6. 2008 Florida

Bracket B Winner’s Bracket

1. 2001 Miami vs. 3. 2009 Alabama
Miami 24 Alabama 13
Miami was losing! And then they weren’t. After Mark Ingram ran in a touchdown at the end of the first half, the Hurricanes trailed 10-7, but that was as good as it got for Alabama. Miami seized control in the third quarter, as Clinton Portis ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, toppling the Crimson Tide 24-13 en route to securing a spot in the Bracket B championship, where they’ll have to be defeated twice by the same team. 

Loser’s Bracket

4. 2013 Florida State vs. 16. 2017 UCF
Florida State 35 UCF 23
Jameis Winston threw for 300 yards and a pair of scores, while Devontae Freeman grinded out 74 yards and a score on the grounds. After engineering a shocking upset of 2005 Texas, UCF could not sustain the momentum, as the Seminoles led wire-to-wire in a clean 35-23 victory.

9. 2014 Ohio State vs. 11. 2016 Clemson
Ohio State 29 Clemson 28
What a game! After falling behind 20-7 at halftime, Ohio State stuck to their guns and got 185 rushing yards from Ezekiel Elliot, and 103 more from J.T. Barrett. The Buckeyes took a 21-20 lead, but Clemson scored with 2:08 remaining and notched the two-point conversion to take a 28-21 lead. However, Elliot broke off a 58 yard run to set up the Buckeyes for a touchdown. Rather than go for overtime, Ohio State went for 2, and Barrett handed it off to Curtis Samuel on a reverse for the 29-28 win. What a finish, and 2016 Clemson bows out of the tournament. 

BYE: 12. 2014 Oregon, 7. 2003 LSU

Round 5 Schedule

Bracket A Loser’s Bracket
Bye: 2019 LSU
6. 2008 Florida vs. 2. 2018 Clemson
13. 2000 Miami vs. 9. 2008 Oklahoma

Bracket B Loser’s Bracket
Bye:
2009 Alabama
7. 2003 LSU vs. 4. Florida State
12. 2014 Oregon vs. 9. 2014 Ohio State

CFB Greatest Of All Time Tournament – Round 3: Clemson Faces Two Elimination Games

After a thrilling and surprising Round 2, we’re back with Round 3 of our college football Greatest of All Time bracket. Here’s where we are at regarding our original bracket. Each 16-team bracket is double-elimination with the winner on each side clashing in the championship. The eliminated teams are marked with the red strike-through, while unbeaten teams are highlighted in green.

12019 LSU2001 Miami
22018 Clemson2005 Texas
32004 USC2009 Alabama
41999 Florida State2013 Florida State
52010 Auburn2004 Auburn
62008 Florida2005 USC
72012 Alabama2003 LSU
82010 TCU2009 Florida 
92008 Oklahoma2014 Ohio State
102009 Texas2000 Oklahoma
112010 Oregon2016 Clemson
121997 Michigan2014 Oregon
132000 Miami1998 Tennessee
141999 Virginia Tech1997 Nebraska
151998 Ohio State1996 Arizona State
162009 Boise State2017 UCF

Round 3

Bracket A Winner’s Bracket

1. 2019 LSU vs. 13. 2000 Miami
LSU 45 Miami 41
In their third straight one-possession game, 2019 LSU once again got a lethal offensive performance to bail out a struggling defense. Joe Burrow threw for 361 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Clyde Edwards-Hillaire pounded the Miami defense for 167 yards and two touchdowns, as the Tigers improved to 3-0 with a 45-41 victory.

6. 2008 Florida vs. 7. 2012 Alabama
Alabama 28 Florida 27
After Kenny Drake starred in game 1, and Eddie Lacy put on a show in Game 2, it was TJ Yeldon’s time to shine in 2012 Alabama’s third game. The third back of the Tide’s 3-headed monster piled up 116 yards and two touchdowns, while AJ McCarron tossed his lone TD of the game with 4:23 left in the game to edge Alabama past 2008 Florida.

Bracket A Loser’s Bracket

2. 2018 Clemson vs. 16. 2009 Boise State
Clemson 44 Boise State 14
They don’t make backs like Travis Etienne in the Mountain West Conference. Clemson’s star back roared his way to 179 yards on just 18 carries, finding the end zone three times, as the Tigers eliminated the Broncos in thoroughly convincing fashion, 44-14.

3. 2004 USC vs. 4. 1999 Florida State
Florida State 30 USC 28
A nailbiter start to finish, Florida State held their breath as USC’s 55-yard field goal as time expired hooked wide left. The ‘04 Trojans crashed to elimination in Round 3, as Travis Minor ran for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and the Seminoles’ knocked through a game-winning field goal with 2:03 left in the game. 

5. 2010 Auburn vs. 11. 2010 Oregon
Oregon 31 Auburn 23
In a rematch of the 2010 BCS National Championship, LaMichael James made sure Oregon’s chance at revenge didn’t go to waste. James torched the Auburn defense for 185 yards and 3 touchdowns on a 33-carry workload, as Oregon rallied to take down Cam Newton and the 2010 Tigers.

8. 2008 Oklahoma vs. 15. 1998 Ohio State
Oklahoma 24 Ohio State 21  OT
The 1998 Ohio State defense helped the Buckeyes play above their seed, and they limited the lethal 2008 Oklahoma offense to 24 points in Round 3. Unfortunately for Ohio State, the 312-yard, 2-touchdown effort by Sam Bradford was just enough to lift the Sooners to a 24-21 victory in overtime, as Ohio State’s game-tying 45-yard effort faded wide right. 

Bracket B Winner’s Bracket

1. 2001 Miami vs. 12. 2014 Oregon
Miami 33 Oregon 24
Three games in, and the 2001 Miami machine has yet to trail in a game. Oregon stayed within striking distance, trailing 23-17 entering the fourth quarter, but Clinton Portis roared for 126 yards, including a 27-yard game-sealing touchdown with 4:06 remaining in the game, while Ken Dorsey threw for 375 yards and two scores.

3. 2009 Alabama vs. 7. 2003 LSU
Alabama 37 LSU 10
– This one was absolutely no contest from the get-go. After engineering an upset over 2005 Texas, ‘03 LSU had very little in the tank, giving up 136 rushing yards and two touchdowns to Mark Ingram, as 2009 Alabama rolled, 37-10.

Bracket B Loser’s Bracket

2. 2005 Texas vs. 16. 2017 UCF
UCF 44 Texas 34
– Can someone spell shocker?!?! In a thrilling game, UCF rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to slow down Vince Young and stun the ‘05 Longhorns 44-34. Adrian Killins ran for 103 yards and a touchdown,  McKenzie Milton threw for 270 yards and a pair of scores, and Knights outscored the Longhorns 37-17 in a shootout of a second half. 

6. 2005 USC vs. 4. 2013 Florida State
Florida State 38 USC 35
In a battle of two quarterbacks who barely ever lost in college, Jameis Winston and his 27-1 collegiate record held strong, as he threw for 280 yards and 4 touchdowns in Florida State’s 38-35 victory over 2005 USC. The Trojans got a 104 yards and two TDs from Reggie Bush, but it wasn’t enough to pull the mini-upset in round 3.

13. 1998 Tennessee vs. 11. 2016 Clemson
Clemson 28 Tennessee 23
13th-seeded Tennessee couldn’t quite pick up a second victory in bracket play, as 2016 Clemson (11th seed) turned a 20-14 deficit into a 28-23 victory in Round 3 to stay alive. Deshaun Watson completed 20 of 27 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns, two to Mike Williams (93 receiving yards).

9. 2014 Ohio State vs. 10. 2000 Oklahoma
Ohio State 27 Oklahoma 17
Ezekiel Elliot ran for 119 yards, Vonn Bell picked off Josh Heupel twice, and Ohio State led wire-to-wire in a clean 27-17 victory. The ‘14 Buckeyes, known for their red-hot tear to win the national championship six years ago, stay alive into Round 4. 

Round 4 Schedule

Bracket A Winner’s Bracket

1. 2019 LSU vs. 7. 2012 Alabama

Loser’s Bracket

 2. 2018 Clemson vs. 4. 1999 Florida State
8. 2008 Oklahoma vs. 11. 2010 Oregon

BYE: 13. 2000 Miami, 6. 2008 Florida

Bracket B Winner’s Bracket

1. 2001 Miami vs. 3. 2009 Alabama

Loser’s Bracket

4. 2013 Florida State vs. 16. 2017 UCF
9. 2014 Ohio State vs. 11. 2016 Clemson

BYE: 12. 2014 Oregon, 7. 2003 LSU

Greatest Of All Time CFB Tournament: Round 2 – Upsets Abound As 8 Teams Eliminated

We’re back with Round 2 of our GOAT college football tournament. Joe Burrow continues to lead the 2019 LSU team as the top seed, while Ed Reed leads the charge of the 2001 Miami defense. Florida State, who saw both their entrants suffer upsets in the first round, will be fighting for elimination. Elsewhere, Andy Dalton and the 2010 TCU Horned Frogs duel with Kellen Moore and the 2009 Boise State Broncos in an elimination battle, while Michael Vick’s 1999 Virginia Tech squad. Lots of legends are clashing on the gridiron, but let’s see which 8 teams got the ax in this round.

Bracket A Winner’s Bracket

2019 LSU vs. 2008 Oklahoma
LSU 58 Oklahoma 52
2018 Clemson vs. 2012 Alabama
Alabama 35 Clemson 20
2004 USC vs. 2008 Florida
Florida 45 USC 33
2010 Auburn vs. 2000 Miami
Miami 51 Auburn 28
Loser’s Bracket
2010 TCU vs. 2009 Boise State
Boise State 33 TCU 17
2009 Texas vs. 1998 Ohio State
Ohio State 23 Texas 13
2010 Oregon vs. 1999 Virginia Tech
Oregon 30 Virginia Tech 21
1999 Florida State vs. 1997 Michigan
Florida State 38 Michigan 13

Bracket A’s 3 Stars
1.
Joe Burrow, 2019 LSU: 28-31, 423 yards, 5 TD
2. Eddie Lacy, 2012 Alabama: 23 carries, 149 yards, 2 TD
3. LaMichael James, 2010 Oregon, 32 carries, 138 yards, 1 TD

Eddie Lacy has the 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide into the third round with a 2-0 record.

Game of the Day

Once again, 2019 LSU was engaged in a thrilling battle. Their defense was plenty good enough during their championship season, but it’s struggled to get stops against elite offenses in this bracket. Can Burrow continue to lift the Tigers? We’ll see. He rallied the Tigers from a halftime deficit in this one. With 1:33 remaining, Burrow hit a streaking Ja’Marr Chase down the sideline for the game-winning TD. Chase finished with 101 yards and three scores. Sam Bradford tossed five TDs for 2008 Oklahoma, but the 8th-seeded Sooners dropped into the loser’s bracket. 

Other Games
Bracket A saw the lone entries from TCU, Virginia Tech, and Michigan all crash and burn, dropping out of the tournament with an 0-2 record. Boise State kept the Group of 5 alive in the bracket with a dominant victory. 2010 Oregon survived outlasted Michael Vick’s Hokies, and the 1999 Florida State squad, after suffering a first-round upset, brutalized the Wolverines 38-13. 2009 Texas also bid adieu, suffering an upset to 1998 Ohio State’s throttling defense. 

In the winner’s bracket side of things, besides LSU’s thrilling victory, we saw three straight upsets. 7th seeded 2012 Alabama got a combined 279 rushing yards from Kenny Drake and Eddie Lacy to topple 2018 Clemson. #6 2008 Florida handled 2004 USC, and 2000 Miami showed they may have been dreadfully underseeded; the 13th seed dismantled Auburn’s 2010 national championship squad 51-28, as quarterback Ken Dorsey threw for five touchdowns and 340 yards.
 
Bracket B Winner’s Bracket
2001 Miami vs. 2014 Ohio State
Miami 48 Ohio State 21
2005 Texas vs. 2003 LSU
LSU 38 Texas 33
2009 Alabama vs. 2005 USC
Alabama 40 USC 31
2014 Oregon vs. 1998 Tennessee
Oregon 30 Tennessee 28
Loser’s Bracket
2009 Florida vs. 2017 UCF
UCF 42 Florida 30
2000 Oklahoma vs. 1996 Arizona State
Oklahoma 28 Arizona State 14
2016 Clemson vs. 1997 Nebraska
Clemson 34 Nebraska 14
2013 Florida State vs. 2004 Auburn
Florida State 44 Auburn 24

Bracket B’s 3 Stars
1. Clinton Portis, 2001 Miami: 18 carries, 178 yards, 3 TDs
2. Mark Ingram, 2009 Alabama: 26 carries, 149 yards, 1 TD
3. Deshaun Watson, 2016 Clemson: 20-28, 238 yards, 3 TD

Game of the Day

The game of the day was an easy pick on this side of the bracket. In a battle of underdogs, the 12-seeded 2014 Oregon Ducks took on the 13th-seed – the 1998 Tennessee Volunteers. Battling to improve their record to a surprising 2-0, the Vols had Marcus Mariota and the Ducks on the ropes, after a touchdown put them up 28-27 with 1:04 to play. However, Mariota hit Royce Freeman for 34 yards on a screen pass on the first play of the drive to immediately but the Ducks in Tennessee territory. After another 10-yard completion, Oregon utilized their two timeouts, as Freeman ran twice for 16 yards to bring it to the Tennessee 15-yard line with 9 seconds to play. Matt Wogan drilled the 32-yarder for his 3rd field goal of the day and a game-winner, and Oregon moved on in the winner’s bracket. 

Other Games

After a 19-point win in Round 1, 2001 Miami continued to showcase their dominance, winning 48-21 in Round 2 over 2014 Ohio State. Clinton Portis ran for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns in the pounding. 2003 LSU kept the Tigers undefeated as a program in this bracket, toppling Texas 38-33 behind 143 receiving yards and a touchdown from Michael Clayton, and 2009 Alabama utilized a 149-yard rushing effort from Mark Ingram to torch 2005 USC’s defense in a 40-31 victory. 

Over on the loser’s bracket side, UCF gave the Group of 5 another victory as the self-declared national champions handled the Gators 42-30. No other game was decided by less than 14 points. 2000 Oklahoma took down the 1996 Arizona State squad, 28-14, 2016 Clemson dismantled 1997 Nebraska, and Jameis Winston and the 2013 FSU Seminoles destroyed Auburn’s undefeated 2004 team. 

Round 3 Schedule

Bracket A Winner’s Bracket
1. 2019 LSU vs. 13. 2000 Miami
6. 2008 Florida vs. 7. 2012 Alabama

Bracket A Loser’s Bracket
2. 2018 Clemson vs. 16. 2009 Boise State
3. 2004 USC vs. 4. 2013 Florida State
5. 2010 Auburn vs. 11. 2010 Oregon
8. 2008 Oklahoma vs. 15. 1998 Ohio State

Bracket B Winner’s Bracket
1. 2001 Miami vs. 12. 2014 Oregon
3. 2009 Alabama vs. 7. 2003 LSU

Bracket B Loser’s Bracket
2. 2005 Texas vs. 16. 2017 UCF
6. 2005 USC vs. 4. 2013 Florida State
13. 1998 Tennessee vs. 11. 2016 Clemson
9. 2014 Ohio State vs. 10. 2000 Oklahoma

The Greatest Of All Time CFB Tournament: Round 1

It’s our latest simulation, and this one is coming in several stages. Using our WhatIfSports Simulator, we created a 32-team bracket (shown below). No program was allowed more than two entries, but the bracket filled up quickly. Historic teams like 2019 LSU and 2001 Miami headlined the bracket, while teams from the Alabama and USC dynasties both entered the field. We also reserved two spots – one in each bracket – for some of the best Group-of-Five programs in modern-era history. The 32-team field was divided into 16-team double-elimination brackets, the winners of each will clash in a championship game. Here’s the field and Round 1:

12019 LSU2001 Miami
22018 Clemson2005 Texas
32004 USC2009 Alabama
41999 Florida State2013 Florida State
52010 Auburn2004 Auburn
62008 Florida2005 USC
72012 Alabama2003 LSU
82010 TCU2009 Florida 
92008 Oklahoma2014 Ohio State
102009 Texas2000 Oklahoma
112010 Oregon2016 Clemson
121997 Michigan2014 Oregon
132000 Miami1998 Tennessee
141999 Virginia Tech1997 Nebraska
151998 Ohio State1996 Arizona State
162009 Boise State2017 UCF

Bracket A 

Round 1

2019 LSU vs. 2009 Boise State
LSU 49 Boise State 45
2018 Clemson vs. 1998 Ohio State
Clemson 21 Ohio State 14
2004 USC vs. 1999 Virginia Tech
USC 35  Virginia Tech 17
1999 Florida State vs. 2000 Miami
Miami 38 Florida State 21
2010 Auburn vs. 1997 Michigan
Auburn 23 Michigan 20
2008 Florida vs. 2010 Oregon
Florida 37 Oregon 23 
2012 Alabama vs. 2009 Texas
Alabama 44 Texas 14 
2010 TCU vs. 2008 Oklahoma
Oklahoma 37 TCU 24
Bracket-A 3 Stars
1. Cam Newton, 2010 Auburn: 25 carries, 154 yards, 2 TDs
2. Joe Burrow, 2019 LSU: 31-36, 405 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT
3. Eddie Lacy, 2012 Alabama: 22 carries, 104 yards, 2 TD


Game of the Round

Somewhat surprisingly the best game in Bracket A came in the LSU vs. Boise State 1 v. 16 match-up. The Broncos no doubt had a stellar offense that year under Kellen Moore, and while they couldn’t stop the LSU offense, they put up their fair share of points. Joe Burrow did Joe Burrow things, throwing for 405 yards and 5 touchdowns, and Boise State had to settle for a field goal inside the ten-yard line, which spelt doom on their upset hopes.



Other Games

Elsewhere, Clemson continued to have Ohio State’s number in a low-scoring 21-14 battle between their 2018 championship squad and 1998 Ohio State. 2004 USC slapped Michael Vick’s 1999 Hokies around in a blowout, while 2000 Miami, led by two interceptions from Ed Reed, pulled the first upset of the bracket, taking down the #4 Seminoles 38-21.
Auburn and Michigan played an instant classic, but ultimately, Cam Newton was simply too much. Despite constant pressure from Sam Sword (2 sacks) and the Michigan defense, Newton ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Tigers edge out the Wolverines with a game-winning drive. 

The remainder of the first round games were not particularly close. A two-headed rushing monster in Chris Rainey and Percy Harvin led Florida over Oregon with ease. 2009 Texas got another shot at an Alabama team with a healthy Colt McCoy, but they stood no chance against the Tide’s fearsome ground game, headlined by Eddie Lacy’s two touchdowns and 104 yards. In the final contest of the round, 2008 Oklahoma pulled a mini upset, winning as the ninth seed over #8 TCU with relative ease, 37-24. Bradford tossed a pair of scores, and Chris Brown ran in another two for the Sooners, who defeated TCU’s undefeated and Rose Bowl-winning 2010 squad. 

Bracket A Winner’s Bracket

2019 LSU vs. 2008 Oklahoma
2018 Clemson vs. 2012 Alabama
2004 USC vs. 2008 Florida
2010 Auburn vs. 2000 Miami
Loser’s Bracket
2010 TCU vs. 2009 Boise State
2009 Texas vs. 1998 Ohio State
2010 Oregon vs. 1999 Virginia Tech
1999 Florida State vs. 1997 Michigan

Bracket B 

Round 1

2001 Miami vs. 2017 UCF
Miami 49 UCF 30 
2005 Texas vs. 1996 Arizona State
Texas 30 Arizona State 23
2009 Alabama vs. 1997 Nebraska
Alabama 34 Nebraska 9
2013 Florida State vs. 1998 Tennessee
Tennessee 35 Florida State 31
2004 Auburn vs. 2014 Oregon
Oregon 34 Auburn 31 (OT)
2005 USC vs. 2016 Clemson
USC 49 Clemson 23
2003 LSU vs. 2000 Oklahoma
LSU 34 Oklahoma 13

2009 Florida vs. 2014 Ohio State
Ohio State 31 Florida 28 (OT)

Bracket-B 3 Stars
1. Matt Leinart, 2005 USC: 30-36, 451 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT
2. Travis Henry, 1998 Tennessee: 21 carries, 151 yards, 2 TD
3. Ken Dorsey, 2001 Miami: 26-39, 412 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT

Game of the Day

Marcus Mariota’s 12th-seeded 2014 Oregon Ducks took on the 2004 Auburn Tigers and and fell behind early, but Mariota displayed the poise that made him one of the best collegiate quarterbacks of the decade, tossing three touchdowns and 304 yards to rally the Ducks and force overtime, tied 28-28. There, Mariota did it with his legs, running in the game-winning touchdown from nine yards out to pull the 12-over-5 upset.

Other Games

Elsewhere, top-seeded 2001 Miami curb stomped the 2017 “national champion” UCF Knights 49-30 behind 412 passing yards from Ken Dorsey and 168 rushing yards from Clinton Portis.
#2 2005 Texas held off 1996 Arizona State, while 2005 USC, 2003 LSU and 2009 Alabama took care of business in blowout fashion to advance into the winner’s bracket. #13 1998 Tennessee swung the upset to push into the winner’s bracket, and the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes won in another overtime thriller against 2009 Florida.

Bracket B Winner’s Bracket
2001 Miami vs. 2014 Ohio State
2005 Texas vs. 2003 LSU
2009 Alabama vs. 2005 USC
2014 Oregon vs. 1998 Tennessee
Loser’s Bracket
2009 Florida vs. 2017 UCF
2000 Oklahoma vs. 1996 Arizona State
2016 Clemson vs. 1997 Nebraska
2013 Florida State vs. 2004 Auburn

We Simulated A Group of Five College Football Playoff

In our recent simulation, we took a look at the results at an expanded College Football Playoff, which included a Group-of-5 bid, but who is the best small-name program out there? We simulated a CFP – Group-of-5 edition – and pitted the winner against the real CFP field, starting with the semifinal losers and progressing to the champion until they were defeated or triumphed over the field. Teams were selected by the final CFP rankings of that year, and if there were not four teams in those rankings, we went to the AP Poll, utilizing the “Also Receiving Votes” section if necessary. Here were our results:

2014

  1. Boise State
  2. Marshall
  3. Memphis
  4. Colorado State

4. Colorado State def. 1. Boise State 33-31
2. Marshall def. 3. Memphis 28-23

Championship

4. Colorado State def. 2. Marshall 31-23

Against the CFP…
Def. Florida State 34-31 (OT)
LOST to Alabama 44-28\

Summary

Led by the exploits of quarterback Garrett Grayson, Colorado State embarked on a stunning run in our initial year of the Group of 5 simulation. The Rams were 10-2 in 2014 with a bad loss in the Las Vegas Bowl, but in this simulation, they rallied over Boise State with a game-winning field goal at the buzzer, before staving off Marshall in the championship. Grayson tossed seven touchdowns and no picks between the two highly efficient performances. In a stunning effort, the Rams edged out Jameis Winston and the Seminoles, but they fell well short against Alabama, although Grayson threw for another four scores, but the Tide racked up 232 rushing yards between Derrick Henry and TJ Yeldon. Surprising stuff in Year 1, let’s see what 2015 has to offer. 

2015 

  1. Houston
  2. Navy
  3. Temple
  4. Western Kentucky


4. Western Kentucky def. 1. Houston 37-24
3. Temple def. 2. Navy 24-17

Championship

4. Western Kentucky def. 3. Temple 34-20

Against the CFP…

Def. Oklahoma 37-35
LOST to Michigan State 41-33

Summary

Two straight four-seeds? There appears to be very little difference among the top Group of 5 teams, so we’ll see if that trend continues. Western Kentucky bodyslammed both Houston and Temple by two touchdowns to claim the title. The Hilltoppers could score on virtually anyone in 2015, putting up at least 35 points on every defense except Vanderbilt and LSU. Oklahoma’s sieve-like defense posed little challenge, but the Spartans held WKU to enough field goals to edge out the upstart fourth-seed. 

2016

  1. Western Michigan
  2. Temple
  3. Navy
  4. South Florida


4. USF def. 1. Western Michigan 34-31
2. Temple def. 3. Navy 40-20

Championship

2. Temple def. 4. USF 34-30

Against the CFP…

LOST to Washington 42-23

Summary

Finally, someone took down a four-seed in this simulation, as Temple took down Navy in what is quickly developing into a virtual rivalry, and edged out South Florida in the final. However, they had zero luck against Power-5 competition, getting manhandled by fourth-seeded Washington, trailing by 29 points in the fourth quarter. Maybe the quality of play is a little worse, but you can’t deny this Playoff would be highly interesting – six of the nine games played in the Group of 5 portion of the simulation have been decided by one possession. 

2017

  1. UCF
  2. Memphis
  3. Boise State
  4. South Florida
  1. UCF def. 4. USF 45-13
  2. Memphis def. 3. Boise State 37-27

Championship

1. UCF def. 2. Memphis 41-31

Against the CFP…
LOST to Oklahoma 42-37
Summary

This simulation has produced some wild results, so to see chalk in Year 4 was actually pretty shocking. 2017 UCF can definitely stake a claim to being the best Group of 5 team in recent history, and they dominated the Playoff simulation here, taking the title in convincing fashion. However, a very strong Playoff field made it tough to advance further, as Baker Mayfield and the Sooners edged the Knights. McKenzie Milton was a joy to watch on the gridiron, so here’s to hoping he makes it back soon – college football is better when guys like him are playing. 

2018

  1. UCF
  2. Fresno State
  3. Boise State
  4. Utah State

    4. Utah State def. 1. UCF 35-23
    2. Fresno State def. 3. Boise State 35-21

Championship

4. Utah State def. 2. Fresno State 37-34 (OT)

Against the CFP…

LOST to Oklahoma 52-33

Summary

Top-seeded UCF had to play without McKenzie Milton and fell victim to Jordan Love’s rocket arm. Meanwhile, Boise State falls to 0-3 in three separate appearances, and the Aggies triumph in an overtime classic over Fresno State, tying the game on a late field goal and winning on Love’s 26-yard TD toss. Utah State clashed with Heisman winner Kyler Murray and simply did not have the firepower to stay with the Sooners. Love had a pair of TDs, but Oklahoma grabbed a 10-point halftime lead and cruised to victory. 

2019

  1. Memphis
  2. Boise State
  3. Appalachian State
  4. Cincinnati 

    1. Memphis def. 4. Cincinnati 41-28

2. Boise State def. 3. Appalachian State 37-14

Championship

2. Boise State def. 1. Memphis 35-30

Against the CFP…

LOST to Oklahoma 34-28
Summary

Boise State breaks through! I’m really glad, because I would have had to deal with a throng of rabid Broncos’ fans if they didn’t even get a win in the Group of 5 CFP. The Broncos manhandled Appalachian State in one of the biggest blowouts of our 6-year simulation before edging out a very good Memphis squad. However, their magic ran out against the Sooners – no ‘Statue of Liberty’ stunner in this one, as the Broncos dropped a 6-point contest to Jalen Hurts, CeeDee Lamb and Co. 

Final Thoughts

A Group-of-5 playoff will never happen, because it will require the NCAA to admit that their current system excludes half the teams in the nation from even competing for a Playoff spot. However, I am still enthralled by the idea; exciting small-name programs can be exciting to watch, and this system pits some of the best teams in the nation against each other, largely producing thrilling results. Four-seeds combined for an insane 7-3 record, as upsets raged throughout the years, while teams like UCF proved their utter dominance with convincing victories. 

Ultimately, Boise State led with four Playoff appearances, although it took them until that fourth try to snatch a win. Memphis went 2-3 in three appearances, and nobody else had more than two Playoff berths. Against CFP teams, our Group-of-5 champions went 2-6, but no victories were seen in the final four years. 

Ultimately, I think four appearances in six years is a decent statement as to Boise State’s consistency, regardless of their schedule, but the three tournament victories by fourth-seeds also showed that there is plenty of parity between the best Group-of-5 teams. Again, this won’t happen, but imagine if this event was a precursor to the CFP, making it four straight weekends of premier college football. One can dream.

We Simulated Every CFP – But With An 8-Team Field

Every year, as the College Football Playoff committee controversially selects four teams for the Playoff, there are outraged cries for expansion, as many feel that to many elite teams get shafted by the Committee due to one unfortunate result. The four-team CFP has been around for six seasons now, so we decided to look into how much an expanded field would have changed the results we’ve watched play out on the gridiron.

We expanded the playoff in each season to 8 teams. The Power-5 conference champions and top-ranked Group of 5 team were guaranteed a spot, and the other two slots went to at-large teams. We determined the field by the final CFP rankings of each season, seeding them as they were ranked by the Committee. Here’s what we got:

2014:
The Field

  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. Florida State
  4. Ohio State
  5. Baylor
  6. TCU
  7. Mississippi State
  8. Boise State

Quarterfinals

1. Alabama def. 8. Boise State 42-13 
2. Oregon def. 7. Mississippi State 37-17
3. Florida State def. 6. TCU 34-31 (OT)
4. Ohio State def. 5. Baylor 42-24
Semifinals
4. Ohio State def. 1. Alabama 38-35
3. Florida State def. 2. Oregon 40-24

Championship

3. Florida State def. 4. Ohio State 35-30

The Summary

We do get a new champion in our first year with an 8-team playoff, and I really see a distinct reason for that happening. Jameis Winston and his defending champion Seminoles seemed to really coast through an undefeated season and were simply unprepared for Oregon in the semifinals. In this simulation, they get their wakeup call in the quarterfinals, where they are still talented enough to escape with a come-from-behind OT victory. TCU awakens the beast that is FSU, and they thump Oregon in the semis to reach the championship against Ohio State, who replicated their underdog run with Cardale Jones under center. FSU wins a classic, with Winston throwing for three touchdowns and Dalvin Cook rushing for two, leading the Seminoles to back-to-back titles. 

2015

The Field

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Michigan State
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Iowa
  6. Stanford
  7. Ohio State
  8. Houston

Quarterfinals
1. Clemson def. 8. Houston 27-18
2. Alabama def. 7. Ohio State 24-20
6. Stanford def. 3. Michigan State 28-27
4. Oklahoma def. 5. Iowa 28-13

Semifinals

1. Clemson def. 4. Oklahoma 37-28
2. Alabama def. 6. Stanford 35-16

Championship

2. Alabama def. 1. Clemson 30-13

The Summary

Despite the same champion, this was an interesting plug for an expanded playoff. Eighth-seeded Houston led Clemson at halftime and pushed the Tigers for most of the game, while Alabama and Ohio State played an instant-classic in the 2 v. 7 match-up. We also saw our first quarterfinal upset, courtesy of Christian McCaffrey and the Stanford Cardinal, which gave us a different look in the semis, but ultimately, Alabama vs. Clemson (Episode 1) was not to be denied. The championship game was definitely less close than the championship, although the game was actually 16-13 entering the fourth quarter, but Deshaun Watson didn’t have the fourth quarter touch, allowing Jake Coker and the Tide to seal the deal. 

2016

The Field

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Ohio State
  4. Washington
  5. Penn State
  6. Michigan
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Western Michigan

Quarterfinals
1. Alabama def. 8. Western Michigan 45-17
7. Oklahoma def. 2. Clemson 42-31
6. Michigan def. 3. Ohio State 33-24
4. Washington def. 5. Penn State 40-21

Semifinals
1. Alabama def. 4. Washington 37-34 (OT)
6. Michigan def. 7. Oklahoma 30-24

Championship
6. Michigan def. 1. Alabama 29-28 (OT)

The Summary

Wow. What a stunning result in the 2016 simulation. If you remember, Michigan was left out of the CFP due to their gut-wrenching loss to Ohio State that involved the infamous “J.T was short” play. With the extended field, the Wolverines get a rematch of The Game in the quarterfinals, and they break their losing streak against Ohio State. Meanwhile, Oklahoma stuns Clemson in the quarterfinals, ending Deshaun Watson’s championship run before it started, as Baker Mayfield simply torched the Tigers. Alabama returned to the championship game, but even with Clemson out of the way, they couldn’t rise to the top, as Michigan took them to OT, and then shocked the world and went for two and the win after their overtime touchdown – “It’s Speights, rolling right, fires to Chesson and it’s caught! Michigan wins!” (My electric play-by-play call that I had in my head as I typed this article). Michigan stuns everyone and grabs the national championship. 

2017 

The Field

  1. Clemson
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Georgia
  4. Alabama
  5. Ohio State
  6. Wisconsin
  7. USC
  8. UCF


Quarterfinals

8. UCF def. 1. Clemson 37-27
7. USC def. 2. Oklahoma 49-34
3. Georgia def. 6. Wisconsin 30-21
5. Ohio State def. 4. Alabama 24-14

Semifinals
5. Ohio State def. 8. UCF 34-20
3. Georgia def. 7. USC 33-30

Championship
5. Ohio State def. 3. Georgia 31-27

The Summary

Another year, another wild result with our expanded playoff simulation. 2017 Clemson was probably the weakest of their ongoing dynasty, and they ran into probably the best Group of 5 qualifier of the CFP era in unbeaten UCF, resulting in our first 8 over 1 upset. Sam Darnold put seventh-seeded USC into the semifinals, and #5 Ohio State rolled the Tide in the first round to set up a wild second round. A little bit of normalcy was restored in the semis, with #3 Georgia edging USC, and Ohio State thumping UCF to set up a more traditional championship, where the Buckeyes rallied in the fourth quarter to pull out a national championship, their first in the CFP era after they lost the 2014 title game. For the second straight year, our national champion is a team that didn’t even qualify for the CFP in reality. 

2018

The Field

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Georgia
  6. Ohio State
  7. UCF
  8. Washington

Quarterfinals

1. Alabama def. 8. Washington 38-23
2. Clemson def. 7. UCF 66-24
3. Notre Dame def. 6. Ohio State 28-24
4. Oklahoma def. 5. Georgia 41-35

Semifinals

1. Alabama def. 4. Oklahoma 42-37
2. Clemson def. 3. Notre Dame 45-23

Championship

2. Clemson def. 1. Alabama 40-34

The Summary

There were a few notable storylines, but ultimately there were no upsets and nothing changed from the actual CFP in 2018. We got to see Notre Dame prove they were worthy of a semifinal spot by edging Ohio State, giving the Irish a needed win in a big game. We finally saw a Group-of-5 team get better than an eight seed, only to watch Clemson absolutely unload on UCF in a revenge game, and an instant-classic in the Oklahoma-Georgia quarterfinal. Once we got to the semis, it was pretty much a familiar story; Tua and the Tide edged out Kyler Murray and Oklahoma (by a slightly smaller margin than in reality) and Clemson thumped the Irish. The title game was closer than it was two years ago, but Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers emerged victorious and take home their first title of the CFP era. 

2019

The Field

  1. LSU
  2. Clemson
  3. Ohio State
  4. Oklahoma 
  5. Georgia
  6. Oregon
  7. Baylor
  8. Memphis

Quarterfinals

1. LSU def. 8. Memphis 42-33
2. Clemson def. 7. Baylor 42-20
3. Ohio State def. 6. Oregon 30-23
5. Georgia def. 4. Oklahoma 35-20

Semifinals

1. LSU def. 5. Georgia 38-31
2. Clemson def. 3. Ohio State 24-20

Championship

1.  LSU def. 2. Clemson 30-27

The Summary

2019 LSU continued to be a machine, although they survived a few scares in this expanded playoff. They dealt with a feisty Memphis offense that, last season, posted 39 points on Penn State’s elite defense. They had to beat Georgia for a second time, and the Bulldogs proved far more competent, particularly with their second crack at LSU’s defense, but Burrow and Co. still emerged victorious. Ultimately, the only changed result was Georgia walloping Oklahoma in the quarterfinals to keep the lackluster Sooners out of the semis, while we also saw an Ohio State-Oregon thriller in the first round. Clemson edged out the Buckeyes in the semis once again, and they pushed LSU to the edge, leading into the fourth quarter, but Burrow put the Tigers on his shoulders and grinded out the victory. 

The 6-year Recap

Ultimately, with six years of an 8-team playoff, we saw three different champions crowned (in 2014,2016, and 2017).We saw just two editions of the Bama-Clemson rivalry and a few shocking quarterfinal upsets, including UCF’s stunner over Clemson, and a pair of victories from the #7 seeds. We witnessed a miracle championship run from #6 Michigan in 2016, before ending our simulation with two of the greatest teams of all time triumphing over expanded fields in 2018 and 2019. 

The initial results of the addition of quarterfinals to the Playoff seemed not great on the surface as only 25% (6/24) first-round contests were decided by one possession. However, even if the quarterfinal clashes were somewhat lopsided at times, they led to more competitive semifinals, as 7 of our 12 semifinal games were decided by 8 points or less. To this date, only three of 12 actual CFP semifinals have been decided by a single score. This note, plus the fact that two of our simulated champions were teams that were actually left out of the Playoff, serves as yet another plug for the Playoff to be expanded in the near future.

We Simulated 5 CFB Seasons – With Clemson in the SEC

Last week we ran one of our most popular articles we’ve ever published on this site, simulating Clemson’s 2019 season with LSU’s schedule. One of the main responses we got to the simulation was that Clemson would be very good in the SEC, but the difficulty in becoming and staying the standard is extremely difficult, much more so than in the ACC. That much is evidently very true; beyond Alabama’s three-peat from 2014-2016, no SEC team has repeated as conference champion since Tennessee in ‘97-98. Clemson’s current five-year reign atop the ACC has not been matched by a SEC program since Alabama won eight of nine titles in the 1970s, including five straight from 1971-1975. So the question has to be asked: how would Clemson do in an extended stay in the SEC? As pointed out by certain readers, it’s impossible to completely mimic this situation, as it’s hard to tell if Clemson gets the same recruits, or even builds to their current powerhouse status if they had been playing in the SEC all along, but we are doing our best to simulate how Clemson would fare, if they played their past five seasons in the SEC. 

Now to do this, we decided to replace one SEC team with Clemson, so we utilized a process to decide on which team to choose. To fully mimic the SEC experience, we wanted Clemson to replace a truly middle-of-the road team. Replacing Alabama would take away from the brutally difficult SEC experience, but choosing Arkansas or Vanderbilt unfairly takes away the cupcake conference games that every SEC team gets each year. So we came up with three qualifications for selection our team:
1. No Division Titles in the past five years
2. No last-place finishes in the division in the last five years
3. Did not play Clemson in the last five years

This brought us down to two teams – Mississippi State and Kentucky. We chose Kentucky, simply because Kentucky is in the SEC East, which is where Clemson would likely reside if they actually played in the SEC. Also, the SEC West has a clear top three in Auburn, LSU, and ‘Bama, so adding Clemson to the East gives the conference some more balance. Other than Clemson replacing Kentucky’s games, all other SEC results from each season will hold in order to see where Clemson supposedly would have finished. Alright, enough setup and talk – let’s run the simulation and see how Clemson fares. 

2015
Vs. Louisiana  W 43-24    
@ South Carolina   W 28-21 
Vs. Florida       W 24-10                      
Vs. Missouri    W 27-9   
Vs. Eastern Kentucky W (FCS)
Vs. Auburn       L 24-21              
@ Mississippi State L 40-34
Vs. Tennessee  W 33-24
@ Georgia W 23-17
@ Vanderbilt W 30-10
Vs. Charlotte  W 47-3
Vs. Louisville   W 27-21

SEC Championship
Vs. Alabama L 37-17

Overall, not a bad first year in the SEC for Clemson, as they put up a 10-2 regular season, before getting dismantled by the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship. Beating Florida in Death Valley cements the Tigers’ spot as SEC East champions, but back to back losses to Auburn and Mississippi State kill any CFP hopes. This season probably is good enough for a NY6 bowl game. Solid start, but Clemson has bigger goals moving forward. 

If you’re curious…
We simulated the 2015 CFP with the new field. A 2-loss Clemson team wasn’t a contender, so we bumped all other teams up a notch, bringing Iowa into the field as the #4 seed. We simulated the games the same ways (3 simulations per contest). Stunningly, the Hawkeyes ground and pound style was enough to squeak past the Crimson Tide monster, winning 27-24. Meanwhile, Michigan State didn’t have better luck with a new opponent, losing 40-21. In a bizarre Oklahoma-Iowa title game, Baker Mayfield got his national title, toppling the Hawkeyes 31-20.

2016
Vs. Southern Mississippi W 23-21
@ Florida   W 24-20
Vs. New Mexico State W 41-24
Vs. South Carolina W 37-27
@ Alabama L 41-21
Vs. Vanderbilt  W 33-24
Vs. Mississippi State W 33-23
@ Missouri L 37-20
Vs. Georgia W 37-14
@ Tennessee W 31-24
Vs. Austin Peay W (FCS)
@ Louisville W 34-24 

SEC Championship
Vs. Alabama L 28-20

Clemson won the national championship in 2016, but the SEC grind derails their season in this simulation. A 4-0 start is undone by a trip to Tuscalossa, and Clemson overlooks Missouri, ruining their Playoff hopes. A 10-2 (6-2) record is enough for another SEC Championship appearance, and although they give Alabama more of a game, the Tigers still fall short. It’s another 10-3 season in the SEC East for Clemson, and we’re on to Year 3. 

If you’re curious
With no Clemson in the playoff, it opened the door for our first ever two-loss team in the Playoff, as Penn State earned a match-up with Bama, and Ohio State takes on Washington in the other semifinal. Both games were close, but Alabama and Ohio State emerged victorious into a clash of traditional powerhouses. Alabama had no issues with the Buckeyes, as with no Deshaun Watson in the way, the Tide rolled, 33-17.

2017
@ Southern Miss W 40-20
Vs.  Eastern Kentucky W (FCS)
@ South Carolina W 31-14
Vs. Florida W 34-17
Vs. Eastern Michigan W 35-14
Vs. Missouri W 28-27
@ Mississippi State W 17-12
Vs. Tennessee W 33-14
Vs. Ole Miss W 28-23
@ Vanderbilt W 31-9
@ Georgia L 30-7
Vs. Louisville W 27-17 

A near perfect campaign from Clemson was derailed at the last minute by a trip to Sanford Stadium, where they were tripped up by the Georgia Bulldogs. The loss was a crushing one, as their 7-1 conference mark tied with Georgia, and Kirby Smart’s squad advanced to the SEC Championship on head-to-head tiebreaker. With Georgia and Alabama already in, there’s no chance the CFP committee puts three SEC teams in, so they’d probably go ahead and put the 2-loss Ohio State Buckeyes in the CFP instead. As far as SEC slates go, this was a pretty light one for Clemson, but we’re into the Trevor Lawrence era, with two more chances for the Tigers to make a run. 

If you’re curious…

The biggest benefactor of Clemson’s presence in the SEC may have been Baker Mayfield and the Sooners. Oklahoma became the top seed in the 2017 CFP, squeaking past Ohio State 37-35. Georgia held of an Alabama comeback in the semifinals, but the Sooners edged the Bulldogs for the title.

2018
Vs. Central Michigan W 59-0
@ Florida W 30-24
Vs. Murray State W (FCS)
Vs. Mississippi State W 33-21
Vs. South Carolina W 42-20
@ Texas A&M W 34-31 OT 
Vs. Vanderbilt W 61-13
@ Missouri W 37-23
Vs. Georgia W 43-20
@ Tennessee W 52-21
Vs. Middle Tennessee W 56-10
@ Louisville W 44-20
SEC Championship
Vs. Alabama W 35-31 

That 2018 team may really be one of the best ever. The SEC didn’t stop them in any way. Texas A&M pushed Clemson to overtime, but Georgia couldn’t hold a candle to the Tigers’ dominance, and Clemson capped it off with their first SEC title in Year 4 of our 5-year simulation. It’s time to head to the College Football Playoff. A 1-loss SEC champion is still in it, so we’ve made Alabama the 3 seed in this CFP, as Clemson jumps to #1. Unbeaten Notre Dame slots in at #2, and Oklahoma, per usual, rounds out the field at #4.
College Football Playoff

Clemson vs. Oklahoma L 42-41
And Clemson’s 2018 championship comes to a screeching halt! In my opinion, this goes to prove the genius of Nick Saban. He gameplanned just enough in 2018 to keep Kyler Murray at bay for a quarter and build a huge lead. Dabo couldn’t do that here, and the Heisman winner did what he did all year: put up points. That Oklahoma team was a lot better than people think, and Clemson just couldn’t quite keep up the steam after their undefeated SEC campaign. 

If you’re curious…

I went ahead and simulated the rest of the CFP…same rules – 3 simulations for each game to determine the result. Alabama defeated Notre Dame 38-28, setting up a Tua-Kyler rematch in the national championship. The simulation was an absolute classic, with two of the three games going to multiple overtimes, with each team scoring over 40 points in every game. Ultimately Tua picks up another natty, taking down the Sooners 59-56 (OT).

2019
Vs. Toledo W 49-10
Vs. Eastern Michigan W 49-13
Vs. Florida W 40-31
@ Mississippi State W 42-20
@ South Carolina W 37-27
Vs. Arkansas W 55-14
@ Georgia L 30-27
Vs. Missouri W 38-24
Vs. Tennessee W 41-17
@ Vanderbilt W 56-13
Vs. UT Martin W (FCS)
Vs. Louisville W 52-6 


Another great season for Clemson, but a heartbreaker at Sanford Stadium ends their campaign for another berth in the SEC Championship. However, the story isn’t ending there. Remember, LSU and Ohio State still finished the year undefeated, and Oklahoma was a 1-loss Big 12 champion, but there was nobody else with zero or one losses. So Clemson sneaks into the back door, and we are back in the CFP. LSU stays at #1, Ohio State and Oklahoma climb to 2 and 3, and Clemson checks in at #4. Trevor Lawrence vs. Joe Burrow once more – virtual edition. 

The College Football Playoff
LSU vs. Clemson L 33-28

It was closer this time around. Far more battle-tested than in their actual season, Clemson was more prepared for Burrow and the LSU offense, but the Tigers still emerged victorious, and Clemson head home. 

If you’re curious
Nobody stopped LSU.
Ohio State handled Oklahoma 35-24, setting up the Ohio State vs. LSU national title contest most everyone wanted to see. LSU had no issues with the Buckeyes either, manhandling the undefeated Big 10 champions 41-17 in a game that was never close. So there’s that question answered as well – nobody could beat Burrow and the Tigahs. 

Summary

SEC Record: 34-6
Regular Season Record: 54-6
SEC Championship Record: 1-2
CFP Record: 0-2

In reality, Clemson has gone 58-2 in the past five regular seasons in the ACC, going 5-0 in ACC Championship games and 6-3 in the CFP. Undoubtedly, five years in the SEC would have made it far tougher to attain this standing, and in this simulation, the Tigers are unable to bring home a national championship. There’s something to be said for reaching the CFP after the grind of an SEC season – even Clemson’s 2018 team didn’t have enough to reach the finish line. In the end, it can be concluded (to whatever degree you want to trust this simulation) that Clemson is undoubtedly an elite program – their 34-6 mark in SEC games over the past five seasons would have been second behind Alabama (36-4) in those years, making it clear that Clemson belongs near the top of the rankings every season. No they might not cruise like they do in the ACC, but stop spinning the “Clemson is a mediocre team in a bad conference” crap. It’s an overused mantra preached by the SEC that’s old and incorrect.

Also, let’s say thank you that this never happened. Can you imagine the absolutely ridiculous number of Baker Mayfield endorsements we’d have to see if he was a two-time national champion as well? Makes me shiver just thinking about it.

What simulation should we do next? Let us know your thoughts on this one at collegetalking@gmail.com