2011 College Football Playoff: December Madness

Results from the 2011 College Football Playoff Simulation

1
16
LSU
Louisiana Tech
39
16
8
9
West Virginia
Alabama
22
31
4
13
Wisconsin
Kansas State
34
26
5
12
Clemson
Boise State
28
33
3
14
Oregon
Arkansas State
39
19
6
11
TCU
Arkansas
30
33
7
10
So. Miss
Stanford
27
40
2
15
Oklahoma St.
N. Illinois
40
25
1
8
LSU
Alabama
4
12
Wisconsin
Boise State
3
11
Oregon
Arkansas
10
2
Stanford
Oklahoma St.

For the 8th consecutive season WhatIfSports.com is proud to present the ultimate college football playoff in a tournament we refer to as December Madness 2011.

Over the next three weeks, the top 16 college football teams (11 conference champions and five at-large programs based on BCS rating) will compete for the December Madness title.

Utilizing our award-winning college football simulation engine, we "play" each match-up 1,001 times.

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1
16
LSU
Louisiana Tech
39
16
Top-seeded LSU ran the regular-season table and beat eight teams ranked in the Top 25. This included a Southeastern Conference victory at second-ranked Alabama. With Jordan Jefferson suspended to begin the season, Jarrett Lee started the first nine games at quarterback but lost his gig after tossing two interceptions against the Crimson Tide. In the Tigers' final four games, including the SEC championship game, they averaged 284.3 yards a game on the ground and had 14 rushing touchdowns.

The LSU defense, led by Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu, remains the team's backbone. The Tigers finished second in the nation in scoring defense, at 10.5 points allowed per game. Opposing offenses managed to score more than 10 points only four times, and that includes Florida's 11-point effort.

Louisiana Tech was predicted to finish fourth in the Western Athletic Conference this season. Instead, with four starters back on each side of the ball, the Bulldogs finished the regular season on a seven-game winning streak and took the WAC title. Two of their four losses were to Southern Miss (11-2) and Houston (12-1) by a combined three points. Punter Ryan Allen (46.3 yards per punt) recently took home the Ray Guy Award for excelling at the position.

Game recap

Full of swagger and ready to roll over the lowly Bulldogs, LSU came out flat in its first-round matchup.

Louisiana Tech marched down the field and picked up 59 yards on its first three plays from scrimmage. Colby Cameron hit Hunter Lee to cap the four-play, 62-yard drive and give the underdog a 7-0 lead.

It was fun while it lasted -- 51 seconds. That's how long it took LSU to tie the game via a 47-yard screen pass from Jefferson to Deangelo Peterson. Later in the quarter, Jefferson called his own number and ran it in from 10 yards out. The 14 points were all the Tigers needed.

After racking up 63 yards on their first drive, the Bulldogs were held to 160 yards the rest of the game.

Michael Ford led LSU with 85 yards on 15 carries, with two touchdowns.

The Tigers advance to the second round with their 34-7 win.

Player of the game: Michael Ford (85 yards - 2 TDs)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: LSU 96.1% - Louisiana Tech 3.9%
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8
9
West Virginia
Alabama
22
31
After a 38-35 loss to Louisville, Dana Holgersen's bunch needed to win its final three games in order to have a chance at a BCS bowl. The Mountaineers hit the trifecta with victories over Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and South Florida and earned an invitation to the Orange Bowl, but West Virginia had to rally in the fourth quarter in each of those games to do it. Not pretty, but effective.

Led by quarterback Geno Smith, the Mountaineers rank seventh in the nation in passing yards per game, at 341.8, and 19th in scoring, at 34.9 points per game. Smith completed 65 percent of his passes, with 25 touchdowns and only seven picks.

The SEC sells, but sometimes it's a curse playing in the Western Division. Just ask Alabama. The Crimson Tide's sole loss came against division foe LSU in a meeting coined the "Game of the Century." It has been well documented and regurgitated on sports talk radio that the two teams combined for 15 points in a game that went to overtime. What probably kept Nick Saban up at night were the four missed field-goal attempts.

Heisman finalist Trent Richardson truly carried (no pun) the offense. Following in the footsteps of Mark Ingram, the junior running back plowed his way to over 1,583 yards (6.0 yards per rush) and 20 touchdowns. The Tide rank 15th in rushing offense and 72nd in passing. The defense, which ranks first in the country in points allowed at 8.8, is their bread and butter.

Game recap

The three quarterbacks involved in this game combined for more than 700 passing yards. Yes, three quarterbacks. Alabama's AJ McCarron had to leave the game early in the fourth quarter, presumably because of an injury. (He returned briefly and threw an interception.) Phillip Sims came off the bench and led a crucial drive that pushed the Tide's lead to 10 with 6-1/2 minutes to go.

The Mountaineers hung with Alabama the first 42 minutes. Tyler Bitancurt's second field goal of the game tied the game 13-13 with five minutes and change remaining in the third quarter. McCarron answered back with a six-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in a 40-yard touchdown strike to Michael Williams.

The Tide kicked a field goal early in the fourth and led 23-13. On the ensuing possession, Smith (395 passing yards) swung a pass out to Ivan McCartney, who sprinted 38 yards to trim the lead to three before Sims' knockout drive.

Richardson finished with 85 yards on 24 carries as the Tide roll into round two with a 30-20 victory.

Player of the game: Geno Smith (395 passing yards, 1 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Alabama 75.8% - West Virginia 24.2%
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4
13
Wisconsin
Kansas State
34
26
Six games into the regular season, sixth-ranked Wisconsin was flying under the radar as a team ready to crash the BCS Championship Game party. Then came a Hail Mary, a tip and a Michigan State touchdown to squash those dreams. Hungover from the loss to Sparty, the Badgers traveled to Columbus and allowed the Buckeyes' inept offense to pull the same stunt in the last minute.

But every valley needs a peak, and the Badgers finished the season on a five-game winning streak that included a Big Ten championship game victory over Michigan State to avenge the last-second loss. Heisman finalist Montee Ball is sitting at 1,759 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns (six receiving). He is the motor behind the Badgers' offense, along with everybody's favorite transfer quarterback, Russell Wilson (72.5 completion percentage). Wilson finished with 31 touchdowns and only three interceptions this season.

Bill Snyder's Kansas State team lasted seven games before its Achilles' heel cost it. Ranked eighth in the national polls, ahead of Oklahoma, Kansas State allowed the Sooners to run up 58 points. Oklahoma State followed with a 52-point barrage to give the Wildcats back-to-back losses. The Wildcats finished 71st in the nation in scoring defense, at 27.8 points allowed per game.

As bad as the defense performed, versatile quarterback Collin Klein shined in his junior season. He may have finished with less than 1,800 yards passing (with 12 touchdowns and five picks), but his feet did most of the work. Klein's 26 rushing touchdowns (1,099 yards) are one shy of the FBS record for quarterbacks, set by Navy's Ricky Dobbs in 2009.

Game recap

Wilson nearly threw a perfect game and Ball rushed for 181 yards, and still it came down to the wire for Wisconsin.

With the game tied 27-27 and 6:20 remaining, Wilson engineered an 11-play drive that chewed more than four minutes off the clock. He hit sophomore tight end Jacob Pedersen on third-and-goal for the go-ahead score.

The Badgers' forced a four-and-out on the Wildcats' next possession and ran out the clock for a 34-27 victory.

Wilson, finished 22 of 27 for 342 yards and three touchdowns. K-State's Klein rushed 30 times for 105 yards with a touchdown in the loss.

Player of the game: Montee Ball (181 rushing yards, 1 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Wisconsin 72.7% - Kansas State 27.3%
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5
12
Clemson
Boise State
28
33
Not one to mince words, Dabo Swinney is proud of his Clemson offense and excited about the team's bowl game against West Virginia.

The coach told the Associated Press: "I don't think it'll be a 6-3 ballgame, you know, like maybe some of the other games around. This one should be an exciting game for fans."

Taking shots at Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa! Wow.

Clemson rose to sixth in the polls after an 8-0 start, but a 14-point loss to Georgia Tech put the skids on any BCS title aspirations. The Tigers followed that up by losing two of their final three regular-season games. Still, a 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference record was enough to sneak them into the conference title game, where they pounded Virginia Tech 38-10.

Quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 3,578 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Sammy Watkins was one of the nation's best receivers, with 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Boise State will enjoy a two-season layover in the Mountain West Conference before it tackles a newly renovated Big East come 2013 in a fun test of geographical logistics.

Broncos coach Chris Petersen unleashed a solid rant about his frustration with the current BCS system after his team was presented the gift of playing 6-6 Arizona State (which fired its head coach) in the Las Vegas Bowl three days before Christmas. That's what one loss in the Mountain West Conference will get you, even though the Broncos finished seventh in the BCS standings.

Quarterback Kellen Moore capped an incredible career by passing for 3,507 yards with 41 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Doug Martin led the ground attack with 1,148 yards and 15 TDs.

Game recap

A sack and then a fumble recovery handed the Tigers the early momentum.

Troy Ware made a spectacular catch for the Broncos but fumbled the ball to Clemson. The Tigers proceeded to travel 79 yards on five plays for the first score of the game (extra point blocked).

Up 9-0 in the second quarter, Boyd led his offense on a six-minute, 14-play drive. On second-and-goal from the Boise 8-yard line, Boyd hit Mike Bellamy in the end zone to extend the Tigers' cushion to 16 points.

The Broncos trailed by 20 as the third quarter rolled around, and that's when Petersen's team went to work. Thanks, in part, to two monster catches by Tyler Shoemaker, the Smurf-turf warriors marched down to the Tigers' 1, where Doug Martin finished off the 10-play drive.

Boise State still trailed by 13 points early in the fourth quarter. But, as we've learned, the Broncos' offense loves to rally late. The "Moore and Martin Show" was incredible to witness as the duo began to carve up Clemson via the pass and run. Martin took a sweep left 13 yards to the house to cut the Tigers' lead to six with 5-1/2 minutes remaining.

The Broncos' defense then forced a three-and-out and handed the ball back to their high-powered offense. With two minutes and change on the clock, Moore connected on a home run pass to Matt Miller, who was brought down at the Clemson 13-yard line. On the next play, Moore hit Martin on a screen pass. The running back, showed a little athleticism and took it home for the go-ahead and, eventually, game-winning touchdown.

The Broncos outscored Clemson 24-3 in the second half and advanced to the second round with a 27-26 victory.

Player of the game: Doug Martin (97 rush yds, 2 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Boise State 67.3% - Clemson 32.7%
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3
14
Oregon
Arkansas State
39
19
Coming of the school's first national championship appearance and returning most of their playmakers, Chip Kelly and his Ducks figured to be back in the BCS dialogue in 2011. A season-opening defeat to the LSU Tigers seemed to sidetrack this ambition, and suddenly a season with so much promise was on the brink of irrelevancy. Luckily for the Eugene faithful, Oregon was able to right the ship, winning nine straight contests, including an upset over the previously undefeated Stanford Cardinal. Not only did the Ducks command control of the Pac-12, but they had reinserted themselves into the national title conversation. This dream would not come to pass, as a week after their overthrow of Stanford, the USC Trojans came into Autzen Stadium and shocked the Ducks with a 38-35 win. Coach Kelly and company would still claim the conference championship, granting entrance into December Madness.

While the Oregon quartet of Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas is renown in the football world, the names Ryan Aplin, Derek Lawson, Dwayne Frampton and Josh Jarboe could easily be monikers used by the Witness Protection Program. That's due to the latter four suiting up for the Red Wolves of Arkansas State. Hailing from Jonesboro, the Red Wolves hung tough with Illinois and Virginia Tech in early-September defeats and proceeded to win the last nine games on their slate. Aplin is a duel threat for Arkansas State, passing for over 3,200 yards and amassing another 600 on foot. Rarely featured in the early going, Lawson has turned into a dependable back for the Red Wolves, while Frampton and Jarboe are Aplin's primary targets in the passing game. Head coach Hugh Freeze may have departed to Ole Miss, but Arkansas State got a steal in former Auburn coordinator and offensive guru Gus Malzahn as their new leader.

Game recap

The genius of Malzahn may come to fruition next season, but his virtuoso was not enough for David to beat Goliath. The Ducks hit the Red Wolves in the mouth in the first quarter with three touchdowns from Darron Thomas (two passing, one rushing), while the Oregon defense kept the adversarial offense at bay, surrendering just two field goals in the first half as the Ducks jumped out to a 35-6 lead. Coach Kelly pumped the breaks in the second half, and the Red Wolves were able to find the end zone in the third quarter. However, it was too little, too late for Arkansas State, as the Ducks move to the second round of the tournament with a 35-16 victory. Darron Thomas accounted for four touchdowns for the Ducks, while Anthony Wallace and Terrance Mitchell both collected interceptions in the winning effort.

Player of the game: Darron Thomas (204 passing yards, 3 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Oregon 94.7% - Arkansas State 5.3%
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6
11
TCU
Arkansas
30
33
With the graduation of Andy Dalton to the NFL, Gary Patterson's team was predicted to hit a few road bumps this season. That forecast came to fruition in the opening week, with the Horned Frogs losing a heartbreaker to the Baylor Bears 50-48. TCU would suffer another impediment just weeks later with an overtime loss to SMU. At 3-2, the Frogs looked nothing like last season's squad that knocked off Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

Yet rather than submarining their season, the setback to Southern Methodist served as a catalyst for TCU. Led by sophomore signal caller Casey Pachall, the Horned Frogs reeled off seven straight wins to end their season, including a 36-35 upset of previously undefeated Boise State on the Broncos' blue turf. The late-season run gave TCU a 10-2 record, the Mountain West crown and, most importantly, clinched a bid into the prestigious December Madness.

Arkansas also enters with a mark of 10-2, although their admission is not without suspicion. Granted, the Razorbacks have some impressive wins under the belt by conquering Texas A&M and South Carolina. Yet in two previous games under the national spotlight, the Razorbacks fell flat on their face, succumbing to Alabama 38-14 and LSU 41-17. Forget about the travesty of the Crimson Tide playing in the BCS Championship; how did Arkansas gain entry into December Madness with a third place finish in their own division?

Not to say the Razorbacks aren't a formidable foe. With the departure of Ryan Mallet and season-ending injury to Knile Davis, expectations for the Arkansas offense were tempered. The brilliant play of junior Tyler Wilson alleviated any apprehensions of a stagnant attack, leading the SEC with 3,422 yards and throwing for 22 touchdowns. And aside from their mishaps against LSU and Alabama, the Arkansas defense was relatively stout, holding opponents to 22.8 points per contest.

Game recap

That said, the Razorback defense did not display this resolve early on against TCU, as the Horned Frogs scored 19 unanswered points from three Pachall touchdown passes to open the game. This deficit would have been 21, but kicker Ross Evans missed two of the three PAT attempts.

However, the Razorbacks would not go quietly into the night. Arkansas took the momentum heading into halftime with two touchdowns in the second quarter thanks to a goal-line plunge from Broderick Green and a touchdown pass from Wilson to Javontee Herndon, bringing the score to 19-14 at the break. Arkansas would score the first 14 points of the second half off two more Wilson throws, giving the Razorbacks 28 unanswered to take the lead.

TCU would mount a comeback, commencing the fourth quarter with a 48-yard bomb from Pachall to Brandon Carter. Regrettably, the Horned Frogs were undone by their special teams, as Evans again missed a PAT. Zach Hocker added a field goal for Arkansas, as the Razorbacks squeaked by with a 31-25 win.

Player of the game: Tyler Wilson (248 passing yards, 3 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Arkansas 59.4% - TCU 40.6%
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7
10
So. Miss
Stanford
27
40
Stanford arrives to December Madness as somewhat of a wild card. The Cardinal, coming off a win in last year's Orange Bowl and ignited by the return of Andrew Luck, entered the 2011 campaign with high expectations. Void of any early-season competition, Luck and company obliterated their out-of-conference adversaries and Pac-12 competition, with the only test coming in Los Angeles versus a frisky Trojans team. After surviving a triple-overtime scare from Southern Cal, a date with Oregon appeared to be the only thing in Stanford's way of a BCS Championship berth. Alas, David Shaw's crew was dealt a beatdown at the hands of the Ducks, quickly dousing the flames on any National Championship aspirations. The Cardinal admirably bounced back with wins against rivals California and Notre Dame, earning them a berth to our postseason tournament.

You may be acquainted with this Luck fellow, but two names unfamiliar to most of America are receiver Griff Whalen and running back Stepfan Taylor. Whalen, a former walk-on senior, is leading the team in receiving with 664 yards off 49 receptions, while Taylor has accumulated 1,153 yards for the Cardinal. It's this surrounding skill that has facilitated the awe-inspiring figures from Luck this season.

The Golden Eagles were a late-addition to the competition, as many pigskin pundits had the undefeated Houston Cougars penciled into our hypothetical event as the C-USA representative heading into the conference's championship game. Apparently Southern Mississippi missed this memo, as the team delivered a thumping on the Cougars by a count of 49-28, earning their invite to December Madness.

Despite winning nine of the final 10 contests heading into their conference title game, the Golden Eagles were largely ignored during college football's 2011 campaign after a disappointing early-season defeat to Marshall. A shame, too, as Southern Miss boasts one of the more balanced offensive attacks in football. Quarterback Austin Davis runs a ship that tossed for over 3,400 yards in the air and ran for 2,700 yards on the ground. This stability equated to 37.8 points per contest, 14th best in the country.

Game recap

It was this solidarity that allowed the Golden Eagles to be trailing by one point heading into the fourth quarter against the Cardinal. Kept alive by three field goals from kicker Danny Hrapmann in the first half, the Southern Miss offense awoke in the third quarter, with Davis making two excursions into the end zone off touchdown passes to Tracy Lampley and Ryan Harris.

Yet it was not to be for Southern Mississippi, as the Cardinal pulled away in the fourth thanks to a five-yard Taylor touchdown run and two-yard pass from Luck to Zach Ertz, giving Stanford a hard-fought 38-23 W. Luck was slightly off his game but still managed to be effective, hitting 19-of-32 intended targets for 214 yards and three scores. Taylor earns Player of the Game honors with 193 yards and two touchdowns off 22 carries, figures that were fueled by a 76-yard run in the first quarter.

Player of the game: Stepfan Taylor (193 rushing yards, 2 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Stanford 84.4% - Southern Methodist 15.6%
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2
15
Oklahoma St.
N. Illinois
40
25
There's a simmering sentiment stemming from Stillwater, as the Oklahoma State fan base is irate at their beloved Cowboys' championship-game rebuke in favor of a team that failed to win their division, let alone their conference title. Certainly there's validity to the Cowboys' claim. Oklahoma State knocked off respectable opponents in Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Missouri and rival Oklahoma, while Alabama's resume is lacking, save for wins over Arkansas and Penn State to hang their hats on. Fear not, Orange-and-Black backers. Thanks to December Madness, Mike Gundy's men get the opportunity to prove their mettle.

Brandon Weeden, a former baseball prospect, runs a Cowboys' aerial assault that averages 386.3 yards per outing, second-best passing game in college football. This proficiency in the passing game has correlated to a whopping 49.3 points-per-game figure, ranking right behind Baylor as tops in the land. Helping Weeden in this endeavor is wideout Justin Blackmon, an All-American that has brought in 113 receptions for 1,336 yards and 15 scores. Blackmon's dexterity and deep-threat ability makes the Oklahoma State offense almost impossible to defend. And while passing is the strategy of choice for the Cowboys, running back Joseph Randle is no slouch on the ground, racking up 1,193 yards and 23 touchdowns off 198 carries.

Oklahoma State's opening opponent, Northern Illinois, rests on the other side of the passing spectrum, coming in with a mark of 234.2 yards per outing. This stems from the fact that the Huskies prefer the rushing attack, leading the MAC with 247.6 yards per game. Spearheading this strike is quarterback Chandler Harnish (1,381 yards, 11 touchdowns) and rusher Jasmin Hopkins (932 yards, 15 scores).

Northern Illinois may seem outmatched, but the Huskies have won eight straight, including a dramatic, last-second victory over the Ohio Bobcats in the MAC Championship Game to earn inclusion into December Madness. Unfortunately, it looks like the magical run for Dave Doeren's squad is over, thanks in part to a porous defense that is surrendering 31.1 points a game.

Game recap

The Cowboys offense scored early and often, lighting up the scoreboard for 27 points in the first half. Weeden found the end zone four times in this span, hitting Isaiah Anderson, Justin Horton, Colton Chief and Josh Stewart for paydirt. For their part, Northern Illinois kept things close, scoring 16 points of their own in the first half thanks to a Hopkins' eight-yard scamper and a 12-yard touchdown pass from Harnish to Luke Eakes. However, Oklahoma State's arsenal was too loaded, scoring 17 points in the second half compared to Northern Illinois' seven, giving the Cowboys a 44-23 win. Although he failed to score, Blackmon led all receivers with 10 catches and 138 yards. Weeden posted 435 yards with four touchdowns off 36-for-49 passing, and Randle helped the Cowboys control the clock with 102 yards on the ground.

Player of the game: Brandon Weeden (435 passing yards, 4 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Oklahoma State 87.4% - Northern Illinois 12.6%
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