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1
16
Oklahoma
Troy
49
13
8
9
Penn State
Boise State
20
17
4
13
Alabama
Virginia Tech
20
14
5
12
USC
Cincinnati
27
17
3
14
Texas
East Carolina
34
10
6
11
Utah
TCU
16
18
7
10
Texas Tech
Ohio State
31
21
2
15
Florida
Buffalo
43
16
1
8
Oklahoma
Penn State
4
5
Alabama
USC
3
11
Texas
TCU
7
2
Texas Tech
Florida

Over the next four weeks, the top 16 teams (11 conference champions and five at-large) in the nation will compete for the ultimate title in the December Madness playoff.

The results of each round will be revealed here (Fieldof16.com) on Tuesdays December 16th, 23rd, 30th and January 6th when a true national champion is crowned.

An updated bracket with scores, recaps and example boxscores with play-by-play are below. To determine who wins and advances, WhatIfSports uses its award-winning simulation software to "play" each game 1,001 times.... More >

1
16
Oklahoma
Troy
49
13
The 2008 December Madness tournament opens with a statement game as top-seeded Oklahoma crushes the Sun Belt Conference champion, Troy, 49-13. The Sooners win 93% of the 1,001 simulations against a Trojans team that led LSU 31-3 in the third quarter of a game earlier this year. There was no lead to be had against the #1 team in the country, as two touchdowns from a healthy sophomore running back DeMarco Murray carry Oklahoma to a 26-0 first half lead.

They were not able to stretch their NCAA record to six straight games with 60+ points, yet this Sooner offense is still very scary. In cruising to the 36 point playoff win, Big 12 Championship hero Mossis Madu comes in as the OU’s third RB, scoring a touchdown in garbage time. Murray, Madu and Chris Brown combine for 334 total yards and three touchdowns, while Heisman-trophy winning, sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford completes 70% of his passes for 321 yards for this balanced-attack.

Along with the moral victory of keeping Oklahoma under 60 points, Troy can feel confident they will return to the December Madness playoff in 2009. Standout DuJuan Harris who averaged 5.4 ypc during the regular season and puts up 102 yards against the Sooners is just a sophomore and the 6’3”, 215 pound starting QB who threw for 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions over the final eight games of the year is a junior.

The Sooners will move forward to play the winner of the game between Big Ten Champion #8 Penn State and undefeated #9 Boise State, a team against whom Oklahoma lost in a similar situation in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

Player of the game: DeMarco Murray (163 total yards, 2 TDs)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Oklahoma 93% - Troy 7%
8
9
Penn State
Boise State
20
17
With the winner earning a chance to take on top-seeded Oklahoma in the quarterfinals of the 2008 December Madness tournament, the closest game by seed in the first round features teams with contrasting styles in a game that lives up to its billing. Evan Royster is listed as the Player of the Game below, and with ample reason, but that award is at least as deserving as going to the Nittany Lions’ four-year starting kicker Kevin Kelly, who atones for two missed 40+ yard field goals with two crucial second half field goals, including the game-winner from 25 yards out as time expires.

In the first half, after a touchdown pass from Broncos’ freshman sensation Kellen Moore puts Boise State up 10-0, the sophomore Royster, follows Rimington Award winner A.Q. Shipley through a hole up the middle that he bursts through for a 67 yard score to get Penn State on the board. Late in the fourth quarter, Royster scores again, this time from 14 yards out, and Kelly follows that up with a 26 yard field goal to pull ahead 17-10.

Boise State, which struggles to score for over 36 minutes against a very good Nittany Lions defense, responds to that field goal by taking the ensuing kickoff and driving 87 yards in 1:38, featuring an 84 yard pass from Moore to Jeremy Childs and culminating in a one-yard grab by Ian Johnson, the 58th touchdown of his illustrious career, but just his second career receiving TD.

The teams trade inept drives that quickly end in punts, giving Penn State the ball on their own 33 with 1:27 left and the game tied at 17. Three plays into the drive, on third and 7, Penn State tries some trickery that looks like an end-around pass-run option for dynamic senior WR Derrick Williams. He decides to play it safe and run, probably with the goal of heading to overtime. 46 yards later, PSU is in field goal range, setting up Kelly’s last-second heroics.

Royster finishes with 161 yards rushing on 22 carries to lead Penn State, while Moore leads the way for the now one-loss Broncos with 268 yards passing. The eighth-seeded Penn State Nittany Lions will move forward to play #1 Oklahoma in the December Madness quarterfinals.

Player of the game: Evan Royster (194 total yards, 2 TDs)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Penn State 58% - Boise State 42%
4
13
Alabama
Virginia Tech
20
14
With two of the nation’s better defenses squaring off in this first round playoff game, few expected the game to be pretty. It’s not. Fourth-seeded Alabama bounces back from a loss in the SEC Championship by taking out the 13th-seeded, ACC Champion Virginia Tech Hokies in a very physical, 20-14 game. Just 24 passes attempted, with only 12 of those completed, this contest is fought in the trenches by guys like Andre Smith and Terrence Cody for Alabama and Sergio Render and Jason Worilds for the Hokies.

Crimson Tide running back Glen Coffee gets the scoring started in the second quarter by following the Outland Trophy winner Smith for a 46 yards touchdown. Tech answers in true Frank Beamer fashion with a safety and two field goals. Alabama’s other running back, freshman Mark Ingram, scores from four yards to put the team up for good. Leigh Tiffiin tacks on two field goals for the Crimson Tide and sophomore Darren Evans makes a one-yard touchdown plunge for Virginia Tech to finish off the scoring.

Despite the fact that the Hokies close within three points with 7:24 left in the game, this game lacks real punch and drama and is marred by kicking woes including two missed field goals and a missed extra point by Virginia Tech kicker Dustin Keys.

Coffee and Ingram combine for 298 yards on the ground in an impressive performance that is answered by Evans and Tech QB Tyrod Taylor’s 217 rushing yards. Even with the win, Tide fans have to be concerned after the team gives up so many yards to an inferior team, allows a sack, interception or incomplete pass on 50% of its drop-backs and only wins by six.

Facing a much better pass defense that loves to get after the quarterback in either USC or Cincinnati, Alabama is going to need an even bigger day out of the running game (almost impossible to do) or a much better day from John Parker Wilson and the passing attack if stands a chance of getting to the December Madness final four.

Player of the game: Glen Coffee (201 rushing yards, 1 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Alabama 75% - Virginia Tech 25%
5
12
USC
Cincinnati
27
17
Welcome to the national spotlight Isaiah Pead. The Bearcats do not win this game and Pead does not even win Player of the Game honors, but it is because of the freshman future star that Cincinnati proves it has a stable of running backs to match USC and actually holds a substantial lead at halftime of the latest "biggest game in school history."

After one of the Trojans myriad of playmaking RBs, Joe McKnight, the eventual Player of the Game, jukes and scampers his way to a 26-yard TD in the first quarter, Pead answers with two rushing touchdowns – one for 12 yards and another for 68 - to pull UC ahead 14-6. The Bearcats and their stellar defense, led by former tight end and basketball player Connor Barwin and a healthy Mike Mickens, give up a late third-quarter touchdown to Marc Tyler, but still hold their lead until 8:40 to go in the final quarter.

USC just has too much talent and too much depth. The Trojans get TD runs from McKnight and another RB C.J. Gable to end the game with 15 unanswered points and prevent the first upset of the December Madness playoff. Pead finishes with 86 yards and two scores on just seven carries in his breakout performance.

Tony Pike, the heralded junior quarterback from Cincinnati who rebounded from a broken arm earlier in the year to lead the team to the Big East title, has one of the worst games of his career against one of the greatest pass defenses in college football history. In the regular season, USC only allowed 4.3 yards per pass and just four passing touchdowns in 12 games.

Eerily reminiscent to the UConn loss where the running game was working, but the team stuck to the pass, Brian Kelly has Pike attempt to throw 34 times, totaling a feeble 95 yards on 17 completions. Five players run the ball and seven catch passes from Mark Sanchez the Trojans’ victory. #5 USC will advance to face #4 Alabama, another team that struggled mightily in its first round game.

Player of the game: Joe McKnight (117 total yards, 2 TDs)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: USC 86% - Cincinnati 14%
3
14
Texas
East Carolina
34
10
In the most dominant and impressive performance of the first round, Texas blows out the wildly inconsistent East Carolina Pirates 35-10. In the 1,001 simulations, the Longhorns win 95% of the time – the highest percentage of any of the initial eight games. East Carolina, which defeated Virginia Tech and West Virginia to open the year, holds Texas scoreless for the first quarter, but quickly finds itself behind 20-0 early in the second half.

The story of this game has much more to do with the all-around dominance and overall amount of talent on the field for Texas. Colt McCoy, the unquestioned leader of that talent and a Heisman Finalist, proves he belongs in the conversation of the top players in the nation with 223 passing yards and three passing touchdowns on just 19 pass attempts. He adds a score on the ground with a late four yard, naked bootleg to put the game out of reach.

Similar to the outing we just discussed for USC, five different players tally over 20 yards rushing for Texas, with none of them more than 72 yards. Likewise, seven players catch passes, but no one grabs more than four balls or notches more than 92 receiving yards. The defensive output is just as notable. Five different Longhorns get at least a sack on Patrick Pinkney – and that does not include Lombardi Award winner Brian Orakpo who fights double and even triple teams all game.

Still, coming off this big win, questions abound regarding this team that many thought should have played for the Big 12 Championship in lieu of Oklahoma. Are the Longhorns really this good? Is their running going to hold up against a great defense? Do they need a running game? Can they avoid the clutch mistakes in the passing defense like they had at Texas Tech? Are the Longhorns better than Oklahoma (or Florida, or USC, or Alabama)? More questions will be answered as Texas will move forward to face the victor of the Utah-TCU first round rematch.

Player of the game: Colt McCoy (223 passing yards, 4 TDs)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Texas 95% - East Carolina 5%
6
11
Utah
TCU
16
18
In a rematch of a game in Salt Lake City on November 8th, where the home Utes won 13-10, TCU gets a dramatic 18-16 victory when it matters most. Lost in the story about this game between the offensive machine of Utah and the exceptional defense of TCU was the remarkable special teams of both squads – primarily from the kickers. With 21 field goals on 23 attempts, 52 of 52 extra points and a 41.7 yards per punt average, senior Utah kicker/punter Louie Sakoda was a finalist for both the Lou Groza and Ray Guy awards.

On the other side, the Horned Frogs’ freshman kicker Ross Evans hit 15 of 19 field goals, including a 50 yard field goal in his first ever collegiate game. Unfortunately for TCU, he also had two of those four misses in the original contest against Utah. In the latest biggest game of his life, Evans tops his career high and atones for his previous gaffes, outshining his elder counterpart in the process.

Trailing 16-15 with 32 seconds left in regulation and having already hit three field goals of more than 35 yards, Evans lines up for a 51 yard attempt. Snap, hold, kick, good! Even with all three timeouts remaining and a return to its 41 yard line, Utah has no response, failing to get Sakoda on the field for his rebuttal. Just like the first time they played, the first 59:28 are hard-hitting and hard-fought on all sides.

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson completes just 50% of his passes and combines for only 122 yards of total offense on 25 plays. Impressively, Johnson and the Utah line keep the Horned Frogs from recording a sack for the first time all year. TCU’s QB, Andy Dalton, fares a little better, but not much. He completes 11 of 15 passes for 107 yards and runs ten times for 34 yards.

The clean, defensive battle features just five penalties, one turnover and one sack, while neither team tops 3.5 ypc or 7.5 yards per pass. TCU and its gritty style could be a tough matchup for any team. The 11th-seeded Horned Frogs will face in-state rival #3 Texas in the second round.

Player of the game: Matt Asiata (119 total yards, 1 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: TCU 54% - Utah 46%
7
10
Texas Tech
Ohio State
31
21
Sick of being ignored in the all of the conversation regarding which Big 12 South team deserved to represent the division in the conference championship, Texas Tech makes a statement in its first round battle with two-time defending BCS runner-up Ohio State.

In the first half, however, it was the Buckeyes who made the statement. Following a first quarter 13 yard TD run by Texas Tech’s Shannon Woods, Ohio State rattles off 21 unanswered points on two Chris "Beanie" Wells touchdown runs – 8 yards and 58 yards – and a 51 yard interception return by James Laurinaitis.

Mike Leach and the Red Raiders probably could not care less. In a late second quarter drive lasting 1:43, senior quarterback Graham Harrell picks apart the talented Buckeye defense, completing four of five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown to sophomore Red Raider running back Baron Batch. It does not improve from there for the Buckeyes. Tech quickly posts two more passing touchdowns to lead by seven and OSU’s offense, with freshman Terrelle Pryor, struggles to move the ball.

In what is the biggest disparity between team pass attempts in December Madness history, Harrell throws 54 balls to Pryor's nine. Furthermore, those 54 passes go for an astounding 473 yards – 261 of those going to the duo of Michael Crabtree and Detron Lewis - and three touchdowns, while Ohio State musters just 50 passing yards. On the other side, Texas Tech uses the running game effectively, averaging 3.9 ypc and getting one TD, while the Buckeyes rack up 259 rushing yards – 235 of those coming from the duo of Chris "Beanie" Wells and Daniel Herron – in the loss.

The seventh-seeded Red Raiders will advance to face the winner of SEC Champion Florida and MAC Champion Buffalo. With the mighty Gators looming, many Ohio State (and Big Ten) fans may actually be comfortable with this loss that prevents the Buckeyes from possibly losing to an SEC team in a critical game for the third straight year.

Player of the game: Graham Harrell (473 passing yards, 3 TDs)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Texas Tech 67% - Ohio State 33%
2
15
Florida
Buffalo
43
16
Just a ho-hum 43-16 win for the SEC Champion Florida Gators. The scary thing (for Texas Tech and the other teams in this playoff) is that this game proves the team can score in just about any way from anywhere on the field at any time. Five different Gators rush ten times as the team combines for 384 yards on the ground on 58 carries. Three of those rushes and one pass play amass 40 yards or more in the rout.

With runs of 73 and 51 yards, 5'8" freshman running back Jeffery Demps, is Florida’s biggest performer and Player of the Game (this time). Demps totals 185 yards from scrimmage and one score on only 12 touches. Next game, it could be Demps or junior burner Percy Harvin (78 yards, one touchdown on 11 touches), USC transfer Emmanuel Moody (86 yards, one TD on ten touches), leading receiver Louis Murphy (68 yards, one touchdown on three touches), strong safety Ahmad Black (one interception, one sack), former Heisman winner Tim Tebow (ever heard of him? 10/13 passing for 167 yards and one touchdown, 30 rushing yards) or any of the other standouts who have made big plays for the Gators on the season.

Buffalo is definitely not a bad team and is actually in this game down just four (17-13) at halftime. Head coach Turner Gill needs more recognition for what he has done with this program. That being said, it’s hard not to focus on Florida and its awesome combination of speed and skill at just about every position. With so many young players, all recruited by Urban Meyer, the ceiling is very high for this team in this December Madness tournament and for many years to come.

Florida will get a test when it faces Texas Tech and Mike Leach’s proficient passing attack. The Gators have only faced two other teams in the top 20 in passing and one of those was Mississippi. Amazing games that mean something, like the December Madness second round matchups, Oklahoma-Penn State, Alabama-USC, Texas-TCU and Florida-Texas Tech, are why we play this tournament. Who would not want to see those played? And it’s only going to get better from there...

Player of the game: Jeffery Demps (173 rushing yards, 1 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Florida 88% - Buffalo 12%

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