How come the hoops junkies get to have all the fun in March?
Yeah, we have spring football to keep us from going into complete withdrawal, but that’s not the same as the real thing.
So we’re going to take a page out of Washington State coach Mike Leach’s playbook and create our own version of March Madness in football. Leach has suggested that college football should reduce the number of regular-season games to 10 and use a 64-team field to decide the national championship.
We’ve heeded his call and, using ESPN’s preseason FPI rankings as a guide, we’ve seeded the teams from 1 to 64 and will play out the 2017 postseason round by round, just as they do in hoops.
Yesterday, we cut it down to the Sweet 16, and today we’ll get it down to the top four teams in the country.
(1) Ohio State 31, (4) Miami 16: The acquisition of offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson pays off big in this game, as the Buckeyes’ passing game comes alive. QB J.T. Barrett keeps the Miami defense guessing with 230 passing yards. Yes, the same Barrett who didn’t pass for more than 127 yards in any of Ohio State’s final three games in 2016.
(3) USC 42, (2) Penn State 35: In a rematch of a memorable 2017 Rose Bowl Game by Northwestern Mutual, these two teams play another game for the ages. But whereas the Trojans had to overcome a 14-point deficit in the second half to win in the Rose Bowl, this time they have to hold off a furious comeback from the Nittany Lions to advance.
(3) USC 37, (1) Ohio State 34: Two of college football’s blue bloods leave us breathless in one of those classics that evokes memories of Christian Laettner’s last-second shot to beat Kentucky in 1992. Only this time, it’s a tackle-breaking touchdown run by Ronald Jones II that wins it for the Trojans in the waning seconds.
How we got here:
First round: (1) Ohio State over (16) Colorado State, (2) Penn State over (15) Boise State, (3) USC over (14) West Virginia, (4) Miami over (13) BYU, (12) Duke over (5) Tennessee, (6) Texas over (11) Missouri, (10) Georgia Tech over (7) Baylor, (8) Kansas State over (9) Mississippi State
Second round: (1) Ohio State over (8) Kansas State, (2) Penn State over (10) Georgia Tech, (3) USC over (6) Texas, (4) Miami over (12) Duke
(1) Florida State 32, (4) Georgia 21: The Bulldogs muscled their way through the first two rounds thanks to their two-pronged running attack, but the Seminoles’ speed and athleticism on defense force Georgia to throw the ball more than it wants to, paving the way for FSU to score twice on defense and pull away for the win.
(7) Washington State 31, (11) Pittsburgh 24: Mike Leach and the Cougars give the Palouse a reason to party a little bit longer. Washington State surpasses 30 points for the third straight tournament game, but it’s Alex Grinch’s defense that keeps the Panthers out of the end zone late to clinch the win.
(1) Florida State 38, (7) Washington State 23: Nobody was able to slow down the Cougars’ passing game in the first three rounds, but none of those teams had Derwin James on their roster, either. The Seminoles’ star safety makes one game-changing play after another to send FSU motoring into the Final Four.
How we got here:
First round: (1) Florida State over (16) Minnesota, (2) Auburn over (15) Indiana, (3) Washington over (14) Nebraska, (4) Georgia over (13) Oregon State, (12) Texas Tech over (5) Notre Dame, (11) Pitt over (6) Oregon, (7) Washington State over (10) Iowa, (8) Northwestern over (9) Arkansas
Second round: (1) Florida State over (8) Northwestern, (7) Washington State over (2) Auburn, (11) Pitt over (3) Washington, (4) Georgia over (12) Texas Tech
(1) Alabama 30, (4) Florida 14: At this rate, the Gators have to be getting sick of seeing the Crimson Tide in the postseason. Alabama won back-to-back SEC championship games over Florida in 2015 and 2016 and makes it three in a row in the postseason over the Gators. Bama holds its third straight tournament opponent to 14 or fewer points.
(2) Clemson 26, (3) Stanford 23: When you start listing the top college football coaches in the country, Dabo Swinney belongs right at the top. The Tigers recruit great players, lose great players, but keep reloading. They put the Cardinal away after defensive lineman Christian Wilkins thwarts a late drive with back-to-back sacks.
(1) Alabama 30, (2) Clemson 27: For the third year in a row, the Crimson Tide and Tigers meet in the postseason, and for the third year in a row, they remind us why college football is as good as it gets. Tide QB Jalen Hurts breaks free for a late touchdown run, and this time the Alabama defense holds.
How we got here:
First round: (1) Alabama over (16) San Diego State, (2) Clemson over (15) Michigan State, (3) Stanford over (14) Wake Forest, (4) Florida over (13) Utah, (5) TCU over (12) Syracuse, (6) UCLA over (11) Memphis, (10) Arizona State over (7) Texas A&M, (8) Virginia Tech over (9) Kentucky
Second round: (1) Alabama over (8) Virginia Tech, (2) Clemson over (10) Arizona State, (3) Stanford over (6) UCLA, (4) Florida over (5) TCU
(5) Michigan 28, (1) Oklahoma 27: Sooners QB Baker Mayfield makes it dicey for the Wolverines with his ability to scramble and make plays. But Michigan’s front four begins to exert itself in the second half, and with the imposing twosome of Rashan Gary and Maurice Hurst taking over, the Sooners run into a maize and blue wall on every key possession down the stretch.
(7) Oklahoma State 31, (11) Colorado 20: After pitching one defensive gem after another in the tournament, the Buffaloes can’t corral the Cowboys and red-hot quarterback Mason Rudolph, who reaches the 1,200-yard passing mark in three games and leads the Pokes into the Elite Eight.
(5) Michigan 35, (7) Oklahoma State 28: Coach Jim Harbaugh goes a third straight year without beating Ohio State, which never goes over real well in Ann Arbor, but he steers the Wolverines into the national semifinals. QB Wilton Speight plays his best game of the season and engineers an 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to win it.
How we got here:
First round: (1) Oklahoma over (16) California, (2) LSU over (15) Houston, (3) Wisconsin over (14) Arizona, (13) South Florida over (4) Louisville, (5) Michigan over (12) Vanderbilt, (11) Colorado over (6) N.C. State, (7) Oklahoma State over (10) Ole Miss, (8) South Carolina over (9) North Carolina
Second round: (1) Oklahoma over (8) South Carolina, (7) Oklahoma State over (2) LSU, (11) Colorado over (3) Wisconsin, (5) Michigan over (13) South Florida