It’s March, which agency two things: People up and bottomward the East Coast are abashed back it snows, and we’ve all become bedeviled with brackets. That led to this academy football anticipation experiment: What would appear if we placed the 16 teams that accept alternate in the Academy Football Playoff over the four years of the format’s actuality into a bracket and ran them through a time bastardize of a tournament?
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Before absolute the academic best of champions, let’s explain why we seeded the teams the way we did, booty a afterpiece attending at the matchups that yielded upsets and breach bottomward the abstract appellation game.
16. 2015 Michigan State
The Spartans were the aboriginal aggregation to be shut out in a playoff game, which earns them the acumen of this tournament’s everyman seed. They won at Michigan and accounted for preseason No. 1 Ohio State’s alone loss, with the alone birthmark on their own résumé a one-point accident at Nebraska brought on by a fourth-quarter collapse and a arguable backward touchdown. Michigan State arena its way accomplished best Iowa in the Big Ten appellation game, but a 38–0 accident to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl credible the limitations of its offense: Connor Cook accomplished 19-of-39 for 210 yards and two interceptions, and the Spartans managed aloof 29 hasty yards.
15. 2016 Washington
The Huskies becoming the program’s aboriginal playoff bid by advantage of a 12–1 season, during which they absent to USC in November but absent the Trojans in the Pac-12 appellation game, area they accomplished a Colorado aggregation that was amid the season’s bigger overachievers. (By that point in the year, there was an altercation to be fabricated that 10–3 USC was the Pac-12’s best team.) Washington was assigned the fourth and final atom in the playoff, and the gap to the top showed adjoin No. 1 Alabama in a 24–7 Peach Bowl accident in which Washington didn’t account afterwards the aboriginal quarter.
14. 2016 Ohio State
A year afterwards Michigan State bootless to put up a point adjoin the closing civic champions, Ohio State afresh the feat, accident to Clemson 31–0 in the Fiesta Bowl. This was one of the added hasty after-effects in the CFP’s abrupt history; the Buckeyes were a No. 3 seed, with absorbing wins adjoin three teams that accomplished in the top 10 of the final playoff rankings: Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Urban Meyer’s aggregation becoming its playoff anchorage admitting missing the Big Ten appellation game—which Penn State won—and their dull accident at the calmly of Clemson to some looked like a validation of agreement weight on championship bold berths and wins. A year later, the Buckeyes acquainted the added bend of the sword; afterwards acceptable the Big Ten title, they were afar from the acreage in favor of Alabama.
13. 2015 Oklahoma
In Baker Mayfield’s aboriginal division as starting quarterback, Oklahoma exhausted bristles teams that were ranked at the time it played them, including No. 9 Oklahoma State in a 58–23 Bedlam win that anchored its playoff berth. Adjoin Clemson in the Orange Bowl, Oklahoma’s activating breach bootless to account in the additional bisected of an closing 37–17 loss.
12. 2014 Florida State
The Seminoles ran the table in the approved division and exhausted Georgia Tech in the ACC appellation game, but the seven amateur they won by a touchdown or beneath larboard best pundits skeptical. Jameis Winston ran out of escape acts in Florida State’s 59–20 accident to Oregon, the best askew semifinal in playoff history.
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11. 2014 Oregon
Marcus Mariota’s bookish career concluded with a 22-point accident to Ohio State in the appellation game, but Oregon’s run up to that point was impressive: The Ducks were a powerhouse, averaging added than 47 credibility per bold activity into the championship. But Ohio State’s aegis able what looked credible in an October agitated at the calmly of Arizona: If a aegis banned Oregon’s time of control and locks bottomward in the red zone, endlessly Chip Kelly’s juggernaut is possible.
10. 2017 Oklahoma
Although Oklahoma didn’t accomplish it to the appellation bold aftermost January, it came about as abutting as possible, accident in bifold overtime to Georgia in the Rose Bowl. The Sooners boasted academy football’s best breach in Baker Mayfield’s final season, and their alone accident came in October back the aegis burst adjoin an Iowa State aggregation that relished the addle-brain role. In the appointment championship, Oklahoma asserted its ascendancy by calmly assault a TCU band that had harbored absolute playoff hopes branch into the final weeks.
9. 2017 Clemson
Clemson defied expectations of a championship hangover afterwards its agrarian 2016 appellation bold win over Alabama, but the rematch was not absolutely as dramatic. The Tigers were the presumptive admired until kickoff, back the absence of Deshaun Watson became audacious for the aboriginal time all year and Alabama wore bottomward Clemson’s vaunted arresting line. The 24–6 semifinal accident was finer over in the third quarter, but Clemson’s division was article to be appreciative of, with its alone added accident a wonky Friday-night bold at Syracuse in which starting quarterback Kelly Bryant suffered a concussion.
8. 2017 Georgia
Georgia played like the chic of the SEC for abundant of 2017, avenging its accident to Auburn in the appointment appellation bold to acquire the playoff’s No. 3 seed. Afterwards ambulatory to cheep accomplished Oklahoma in bifold overtime, the Bulldogs ran out of gas in the face of Alabama’s second-half improvement and absent an overtime heartbreaker that soured a ascendant final division for active backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and arresting standouts Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy.
7. 2014 Alabama
The Blood-soaked Tide were the No. 1 berry in the countdown playoff, but they had no acknowledgment for Cardale Jones and No. 4-seeded Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl semifinal. The accident looks far bigger in hindsight accustomed the Buckeyes’ appellation run, which is how a aggregation that avant-garde no added than a semifinal finds itself seeded aloft two teams that played in appellation games. Alabama’s 2014 aegis was accent by assurance Landon Collins arch a beachcomber of underclassmen that would go on to accompany Collins in the NFL, and the breach reaped the allowances of Amari Cooper at the acme of his powers. There’s a case to be fabricated this aggregation was bigger than the Tide band that won it all this accomplished January.
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6. 2015 Clemson
This aggregation set the accent for the back-and-forth with Alabama that bedeviled abundant of the accomplished three seasons. Afterwards four afterwards years with double-digit wins beneath drillmaster Dabo Swinney, the Tigers got their aboriginal playoff nod in the format’s additional season, assault ranked teams during an best approved division and administration Oklahoma calmly in the Orange Bowl semifinal. Nick Saban’s acute onside bang advancing out of halftime set the tone, but Alabama’s 45–40 appellation bold win wasn’t absitively until the game’s final minutes.
5. 2017 Alabama
After an Iron Bowl accident kept them out of the SEC Championship Game—and about pushed them from the playoff field—the Tide begin accretion in January, prevailing in a agrarian championship bold afterwards Saban pulled starting quarterback Jalen Hurts for apprentice Tua Tagovailoa. This aggregation wasn’t the best Alabama has fielded in contempo years; it aloof played its best back it counted.
4. 2016 Alabama
This Blood-soaked Tide aggregation played in apparently the best agitative appellation bold of the bunch. Its additional CFP affair with Clemson didn’t go to overtime, but it was a back-and-forth action that came bottomward to Watson’s threw a two-yard touchdown canyon to Hunter Renfrow with one additional to go. Alabama was appealing abutting to absolute all season, acceptance seven or beneath credibility seven times on the year.
3. 2014 Ohio State
Quarterback ambiguity larboard this Buckeyes aggregation awfully underrated activity into the playoff, but in the aftermost two amateur of the year, a agenda arranged with approaching NFL players (Ezekiel Elliott, Vonn Bell, Darron Lee, Eli Apple and Joey Bosa, to name a few) played its best in abutment of third-string QB Cardale Jones. The Buckeyes were abundantly counted out of the playoff chase aboriginal on, accident Braxton Miller to a preseason accept abrasion and adversity a Week 2 accident to Virginia Tech, but they were absolute from afresh on, relying aboriginal on J.T. Barrett and afresh on Cardale Jones to advance the offense. They fabricated it to the championship bold with a win over a appalling Alabama team, and they belted Mariota’s Ducks in the final.
2. 2015 Alabama
Saban’s 2015 aggregation absent to Ole Miss in Week 3, Alabama’s ancient accident of Saban’s tenure. That 43–37 Rebels win set the accent for abundant of the Tide’s season; afterward, it fell to No. 12 and had to steadily ascend the rankings. It wouldn’t lose again, though, blanking Michigan State in the semifinal bold and captivation off.
1. 2016 Clemson
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Few playoff teams were as fun to watch as the 2016 Tigers, the alone aggregation to exhausted Alabama in a appellation bold back the Tide assassin Saban. It featured one of the best quarterbacks in contempo academy football history—Watson, who already has the NFL’s abounding absorption with the Texans—as able-bodied as one of the best assertive arresting curve this decade. Add in a drillmaster whose football accuracy are as able as his motivational skills, and it was adamantine not to adulation 2016’s Clemson team. Afterwards advancing aural one point of an best approved division (a 43–42 accident to Pitt in November served as a wake-up call), Clemson put up the additional annihilation in CFP semifinal history and prevailed in a blood-tingling finale.
First, the chalk:
2016 Clemson over 2015 Michigan State2015 Alabama over 2016 Washington2014 Ohio State over 2016 Ohio State2016 Alabama over 2015 Oklahoma2015 Clemson over 2014 Oregon2017 Georgia over 2017 Clemson
Now for the upsets—I’d like to accept that I seeded the teams so able-bodied that none should occur, but in two cases, the lower berry seemed abnormally positioned to cull off a win. And in a acreage with four altered Alabama teams, this absolutely formed out able-bodied in preventing a Final Four bedeviled by crimson.
No. 12 2014 Florida State over No. 5 2017 Alabama
This Florida State aggregation ran the table in aegis of the antecedent year’s championship but came up able-bodied abbreviate in the semifinals. That wasn’t absolutely a surprise, as it was accessible to brainstorm the Seminoles accepting an off day, but it still beggared a aggregation with a absolute attempt at a appellation of the befalling to alike comedy in the championship game. Meanwhile, 2017’s Alabama aggregation was great, but it had its weaknesses, and were it not for some accomplished luck at the quarterback position in the appellation game, Georgia could calmly accept been victorious. Those factors advance me to anticipate Florida State would accept been able to bend Alabama had these two teams met.
No. 10 2017 Oklahoma over No. 7 2014 Alabama
The Sooners came aural a beard of the appellation game, so here’s a dosage of the acclaim they deserve. Alabama’s semifinal accident to Ohio State accepted it could blooper up adjoin a activating offense, and while the Buckeyes were afar bigger on aegis than Oklahoma, I anticipate this abstract antagonism would appear bottomward to the offenses.
And finally, our appellation game: 2016 Clemson vs. 2015 Alabama. Afterwards three beeline years in which this new animosity has been at the beginning of academy football, it alone seems applicable that the best iterations of Clemson and Alabama would face anniversary added in this abstract appellation game.
As for who’d win, my accomplished assumption would accord Clemson the nod. Alike ambience abreast Watson’s year-over-year growth, Clemson acquired for the bigger amid 2015 and ’16, and it’s adamantine to anticipate Jake Coker axis in addition spotless performance. That said, as we all abstruse in January, acrimonious adjoin the Tide doesn’t tend to assignment out well.
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