So inspired by Adam’s post on the 16 team playoff, I went to www.whatifsports.com and put his 16 teams through a playoff. Notre Dame and Alabama came out to be playing in the National Championship Game. I decided to take the time to work from 2011-12 season going backwards and show what a playoff system would have done to change the landscape of the NCAA. I am going to try to get back to the 1998 season, when the BCS first showed up, but bear with me as I do have a massive vacation planned for end of Dec. and most of Jan.
So let’s start with the format. My playoffs will consist of 12 teams. Round 1 will be the Mountain West Champions vs. the Big East Champions. The winner plays in the Sugar Bowl against the SEC Champion. The ACC Champion will take on the highest ranked WAC/MAC Champion, with the winner gaining a bid to the Rose Bowl to take on the PAC 12(10) Champion. Conference USA will face the highest ranked Independent and the winner gains a bid to the Cotton Bowl to face the Big 12 Champion. Finally two At-Large schools face off to play the Big 10 Champion in the Outback Bowl. Semi-finals would consist of the Orange and Fiesta Bowls. Outside of the 1st round, every game is played on a neutral field. Higher rank is the host team.
So let’s get started. The 2011 NCAA football season was what put the final nail in the coffin when it came to the playoff system. The finals saw two SEC schools, Alabama and LSU, playing for the National Championship. Alabama’s only loss on the year was to the SEC Champion LSU. Many were disgruntled about the decision because Alabama’s win made them the BCS Champions but they weren’t the champions of their own conference.
TCU vs. West Virginia
-Winner plays LSU
Clemson vs. Northern Illinois
-Winner plays Oregon
Southern Miss vs. BYU
-Winner plays Oklahoma State
Alabama vs. Stanford
-Winner plays Wisconsin
West Virginia travels to TCU for their first game and defeats them 41-40 in overtime by a blocked field goal. Geno Smith is named MVP by going 26-40, 323 yards and 3 scores. West Virginia’s high power offense now gets to travel to the Sugar Bowl and face LSU.
In the first shocker of the playoffs, Clemson hosts Northern Illinois. After watching Northern Illinois jump out to a 21 point start, Clemson rallies back but falls short. Northern Illinois collects a bid to the Rose Bowl with a 24-16 win over Clemson. Chandler Harnish is named MVP going 11-17, 142 yards and 1 touchdown. He also rushes 22 times for 98 yards and a score.
In the next match, BYU travels to Southern Mississippi and, as usual with Riley Nelson, we got stuck in a big hole. Entering the 4th, we was down 7-26. But Nelson connected with 3 touchdown passes, 2 to Hoffman, and we stormed back to a 29-26 win. The game winner came with :08 left on the clock. Most Valuable Player was Cody Hoffman with 5 catches for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. BYU now travels to the Cotton Bowl to face Oklahoma State.
Just what everybody wanted to see? How would Andrew Luck hold up against an SEC school? Well not too bad, but couldn’t beat Alabama. Until the final 4 minutes, Stanford held their own and then allowed 2 touchdowns by Alabama to lose 34-41. Trent Richardson hit beast mode and won MVP with 25 rushing attempts for 136 yards and 1 touchdown. He also caught 3 balls for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns. They now face Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.
West Virginia vs. LSU
Northern Illinois vs. Oregon
BYU vs. Oklahoma State
Alabama vs. Wisconsin
And we are down to 8 schools now. West Virginia survives a shootout to face the SEC Champion, LSU Tigers. Northern Illinois pulls off an upset of the tournament and gets to face the PAC 12 Champion Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl. BYU climbs back into the tournament to now travel to Dallas and play Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. And Alabama plays 4 minutes longer than Stanford to get Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.
It took the entire 60 minutes and at the end, a last second field goal by LSU allows them to survive to the semi-finals. LSU holds off West Virginia by the score of 27-24. This is after West Virginia came from behind to tie it all up at 24 after being down 10 with 8 minutes left. MVP goes to Spencer Ware with 22 rushing attempts, 77 yards and 2 scores.
With LSU getting the winner, Oregon and Northern Illinois were set to do battle in the Rose Bowl. Northern Illinois jumped out to at 17-0 lead on Oregon but the two headed rushing attack of Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James proved to be too much. Both men combined went almost a full 300 yards. LaMichael James wins MVP honors with 171 yards on 25 attempts for 1 score. Oregon wins 38-10
BYU travels to Dallas and takes on Oklahoma State. BYU’s defense has a huge task of shutting down Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. I would have more faith in this year’s defense but this is 2011’s squad. And sadly, we struggle against Oklahoma State. The game’s MVP is Brandon Weeden as he goes 32-49 for 436 yards with 5 touchdowns. This is after he recovers from 2 first quarter picks. Oklahoma State wins the right to face the Alabama/Wisconsin winner after beating BYU 30-63.
Alabama v Wisconsin has the makings to be legendary. Montee Ball is to be sure of that as he rushes he earns MVP honors on 208 yards on 31 carries and 5 touchdowns. Also he grabbed 3 receptions, taking one to the house. By the way, Wisconsin jumped out to a 27-0 lead, thanks to Montee Ball. Montee Ball scored every touchdown for Wisconsin as Alabama couldn’t keep up with Wisconsin. Wisconsin knocks off the BCS Champion Alabama by the final score of 44-47. If Oklahoma State wants a shoot-out, Wisconsin seems up to the task.
LSU vs. Oregon
Oklahoma State vs. Wisconsin
4 schools remain, and they are all automatic bid teams. The true BCS Champion of that year struggled with Wisconsin and attempted a comeback and fell short. The playoffs have already proven to put teams to the test, and some teams are showing cracks, while others exploit those weaknesses.
The Orange Bowl this year consists of the LSU Tigers and the Oregon Ducks. Oregon is crazy scary with the offense while LSU has the Heisman candidate in Tyrann Mathieu and 1st round NFL pick Morris Claiborne playing the corner positions. And defense proves to be the difference as LSU puts down the Ducks, 38-17 and earn a right to play in the Championship Game. Spencer Ware earns the MVP by going 131 yards on 23 carries and 2 touchdowns. By the way, the Honey Badger proves his worth with 1 touchdown off an interception. Not too shabby.
And the Fiesta Bowl gets to host Oklahoma State and Wisconsin. Defenses, please exit the field. Montee Ball decides that he is not finished here in the playoffs and tears off another 4 scores. Montee Ball gets 228 yards on 26 attempts for 3 rushes and collects 3 receptions for 46 yards and his 4th score. For those of you not keeping track at home, that is 9 scores in 2 games. Wisconsin wins a wild one, 41-51. How amazing would that be to see.
LSU vs. Wisconsin
Not going to lie, I didn’t expect this at the start of this. I was thinking of seeing Alabama tear through the At Large spots to make it. I was hoping for BYU to be there to get in. I was hoping for a non-AQ school to make a run. None the less, I love this match up. Montee Ball has 9 scores in 2 games. LSU is averaging to holding schools to 20 points a game. Something has to give. And something does.
Wisconsin does what it does best, jump out to a big lead and beats you down with a running game. The first quarter starts out Wisconsin jumping out to a 7-0 lead thanks to one Montee Ball. LSU finally finds the score board in the 2nd quarter with a field goal, but by then Montee Ball has collected another score and Russell Wilson has found Jeff Duckworth with a touchdown pass. All Wisconsin has to do now is run you down. Montee Ball wins the MVP award, with 32 carries for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns. Wisconsin wins, 10-38.
And there you have it. Wisconsin the NCAA College Football Champions. 2011-2012 had one of the most impressive playoff performances by Montee Ball. His stat line for the entire playoffs was crazy good. 89 rushes for 636 yards. He averaged just over 7 yards a carry! Plus 10 rushing touchdowns and 2 receiving touchdowns.
What might have been!