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A 64 Team College Football Tournament: The Simulation 🏈

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Even in 2020, the year of COVID, we can’t escape this conversation. The committee will place 4 teams in the playoff; more than likely ‘Bama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Notre Dame. Several teams who many feel deserved a shot… this year the likes of Texas A&M, Iowa State, and Cincinnati, will be left out. And people will complain, especially if one or two of those final four participants makes a crap showing. And folks will scream for a bigger playoff.

It’s not a new argument; it’s been happening annually since college football was college football. Before the BCS, there was only a “mythical” championship. (Google it if you don’t know) Teams went to bowls based on conference affiliation, and #1 vs. #2 was uncommon.

Then came the BCS Championship game, and most years we had the problem we see every year now. There was always a third or fourth team screaming from the sideline that they belonged. Sometimes they were right. And so the final two became the final four. And yet… we have the same problem, only now it’s those teams in that #5 to #7 zone making noise. Many yell now that we need an 8 team playoff, but that won’t solve the problem; instead of #’s 5-7 complaining, it will be 9-12. So we could go to 16, and then 17-20…. and etc.

Unless… what if college football decided to go all March Madness and just have a huge 64 team tournament?

Of course the idea itself is dumb. The semantics would be impossible. 8 teams will no doubt become a thing eventually, because money. But it’s hard to imagine them going beyond that. And 8 team mini tournament will take no less than 3 weeks. Three weeks of wear and tear on players, 3 more weeks for them to get hurt. It’s not just unrealistic, it’s fantasy.

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But imagine if they did. What would it look like?

We decided to find out.

And how exactly are we going to do that? First step was to figure out which teams would get in. We could have formed a committee, weighed out all of those details we hear so much about… quality wins and losses, strength of schedule, blah blah.

Fortunately, we didn’t need to. For the last few months of COVID, my kids and I have been publishing power rankings. Every team, from 1-127. And they’re very accurate. They have to be; they’re official. It says so right in the title. So we had our 64 entrants. And if you look, it’s probably a similar list to what a real one would look like.

Next we had to seed our 64 teams; not a chore at all, really. There are literally calculators on the internet that do it for you. Hell, there are calculators that do everything now; if you’ve helped your kids with homework in recent years, you’ll know what I mean. Last week one of my kids used an “English verb conjugation calculator”. No sh@t…. it’s a thing.

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So we found one that we liked, plugged in our 64 teams, along with our helmet graphics (if you’ve encountered anything we’ve done you know we won’t do an article about kittens unless we can put them in helmets) And out popped the bracket you see below. Standard 1-64 seeding, broken down into 4 groups. #1 plays #64, #2 plays #63, etc.

That was as far as we had intended to take this thing, but as we looked over our bracket, we realized that there were some incredibly intriguing matchups in there. So the question then became… how the hell would this thing play out? In for a dime, in for a buck… so we decided to play it out.

We could have just done a bit of research and basically made our picks; in doing our Power Rankings, we’ve become pretty familiar with most of the teams in the country. We probably would have done pretty well in this imaginary endeavor. But we wanted to at least pretend there was some element of science here, so we wondered… are there calculators for that?

And man… are there ever. Simulators galore. And so we simulated. After playing with them for a night, we settled on the 3 that seemed most accurate. (We would run games that have already occurred in 2020 between teams we’re most familiar with) We ran each game 3 times on each one, and averaged out all of the results. Once we had a final score, we’d do a bit more research, number crunching, test that score against the Sagarin rankings, and out came our final answer.

Are our results sound? Who the hell knows? Like the Power Rankings, it’s all really just speculation and guess work. But like those PR’s, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. So take a look. The Brackets are below, and the results are beneath that. We followed it through to the end, and I promise you’ll find some surprises… some things to argue about, and of course some reasons to think we have absolutely no idea what we’re talking about. Which we probably don’t. But, as the name says… What the hell.

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Region 1

After a near historically bad start to 2020 for PSU, the Lions pulled it together just enough to serve as sacrificial lambs to the tournament’s top seeded Tide, who did indeed roll.

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Alabama 52 Penn State 13

The Bearcats come into this field looking to prove that they belong in the conversation with the big boys. Purdue does little to disprove their theory.

Cincinnati 38 Purdue 6

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Like CIncy, the Hoosiers are here to make some noise. They learn quickly that a 3-7 SEC team is better than most Big 10 teams in 2020. Indiana gets it done, but not in the emphatic way most 3/14 contests end.

Indiana 27 Arkansas 21

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After being exposed by Carolina for what they are.. a pretty good team that spent most of the season squeaking past other decent to average teams, the ‘Canes feast on a bad Rebels D in round one.

Miami 45 Ole Miss 27

If you thought Northwestern was Big Ten Title game bound before the season, raise your hand. Now put it down because you’re lying. They do it the old fashioned Big Ten way; solid D, run the ball, Don’t screw up. The inconsistent Hokies and no match for fundamental football.

Northwestern 27 Virginia Tech 13

Our first run in with a rematch; you don’t see many of these outside of conference title games normally. It’s hard to beat a team twice in the same year, and the Pokes can score, but the Frogs just match up well with this team and become the first lower seeded team to win in a (sort of) upset.

TCU 34 Oklahoma State 31

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BC was able to hang with some of the big boys in 2020, and SMU faltered down the stretch. But the Eagles D just couldn’t stop the Pony Express.

SMU 45 Boston College 28

Really the perfect 8/9 matchup; two solidly similar middle of the pack teams. The Mountaineers’ D won the day.

West Virginia 20 Missouri 16

Region 2

Once upon a time this was a near annual game that the college football world looked forward to. This is not that time.

Notre Dame 44 Michigan State 10

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Tua’s little brother has the Terps bordering on respectability again. Unfortunately, this Cyclone may be the hottest in college football at the moment.

Iowa State 41 Maryland 14

The Cougars picked up some doubters losing to Coastal, but folks lost sight of the fact that taking that game was one of the ballsiest decisions in recent memory. Pitt was no match for a team out to prove the world wrong.

BYU 38 Pitt 20

The Spartans were another surprise team in 2020, but that’s in the Mountain West.

Georgia 38 San Jose State 17

In out biggest upset so far, the Green Wave outlast the Wolfpack.

Tulane 45 NC State 42

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The Cajuns quietly stormed through the regular season, including their first win over App State. The roll continues against an average Wildcats team.

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Louisiana 35 Kansas State 24

The Huskies remind Boise State which conference wears the big boy pants out west.

Washington 38 Boise State 17

Another great 8/9 matchup; two teams with many doubters. The Flames left no doubt as to who the pretender was.

Liberty 52 Marshall 14

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Region 3

The Tigers missed Louisville in conference play; they didn’t miss here.

Clemson 56 Louisville 24

The Sooners may not do historically well against the SEC, but they got it out of their system here.

Oklahoma 42 Tennessee 20

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The Sun Devils keep it close for a half, but the Gators just overmatch them.

Florida 51 Arizona State 31

The Tar Heels are a team on the rise. The Buffs were no competition.

North Carolina 42 Colorado 14

The Hawkeys put together a nice roll to end the season, and Memphis was just another speed bump.

Iowa 31 Memphis 13

Yet another ACC school falls to a non Power 5 team as the Cavs simply couldn’t keep up with the high octane UCF O.

UCF 42 Virginia 31

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The Mountain West continues to show that they exist in the football world simply to feed bigger schools.

Tulsa 38 Nevada 16

These 8/9 games are even better in football! The Badgers are down this year, but they can still handle lesser teams. Barely.

Wisconsin 27 App State 24

Region 4

This looked more like a standard 1/16.

Ohio State 63 UAB 21

The Aggies needed something of a warm up game after struggling a bit down the stretch. Houston was just what the doctor ordered.

Texas A&M 52 Houston 14

The Chanticleers (Still waiting for someone to tell me what the hell one of those is) straggle a bit against the academy, still leaving the world to wonder if they’re actually good.

Coastal Carolina 28 Air Force 24

No last minute heroics needed for the Trojans this round.

USC 38 Kentucky 17

Yet another Mountain West team served up.

Texas 45 San Diego State 17

Two teams who had a disappointing 2020. The Tigers will have had an interim coach in our alternative reality, and he’s off to a good start.

Auburn 31 Utah 20

After a rough 2020, the Bayou Bengals found their feet against Florida. Momentum can be a powerful thing.

LSU 35 Oregon 31

The last of our 8/9 contests sees the Cadets pull out another defensive classic.

Army 13 Wake Forest 10

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