2012 College Football Playoff: December Madness

Results from the 2012 College Football Playoff Simulation

1
16
Notre Dame
Arkansas State
31
14
8
9
Ohio State
Florida
23
20
4
13
Stanford
Boise State
34
33
5
12
Florida State
N. Illinois
29
20
3
14
Kansas State
Utah State
34
23
6
11
Louisville
Georgia
19
28
7
10
Wisconsin
Oregon
33
40
2
15
Alabama
Tulsa
26
6
1
8
Notre Dame
Ohio State
4
5
Stanford
Florida State
3
11
Kansas State
Georgia
10
2
Oregon
Alabama

WhatIfSports.com proudly presents the ninth edition of our 16-team college football playoff: December Madness 2012. During the next two weeks, the top 16 college football teams (11 conference champions, Notre Dame and four at-large programs based on BCS ranking) will compete for the December Madness title.

Utilizing our award-winning college football simulation engine that accurately predicted 78.8 percent of all 2012 FBS games, we're "playing" each match-up 1,001 times.

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1
16
Notre Dame
Arkansas State
31
14
The boys from South Bend, Indiana began the season ranked 26th in the Associated Press Poll, 1,328 points behind Alabama. Wins over two teams ranked inside the Top 20 shot the Irish up the rankings and back into the national conversation. Notre Dame finished first in scoring defense (10.3 points allowed per game), fourth against the rush and 21st against the pass. As for their offensive national rankings (75th in scoring, 28th in rushing and 75th in passing), they won't knock you off your feet as the Irish score "just enough" for their defense.

Gus Mahlzan was one and done as head coach of the Red Wolves. In his first and only season at Arkansas State, coach led his team to a Sun Belt title with the top offense, his area of expertise, in the conference. The Red Wolves averaged 36.4 points per game, which ranked 21st in the country. Quarterback Ryan Aplin finished with over 3,100 yards with 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions. The running attack finished 21st in the country with David Oku totaling 1,024 yards with 15 touchdowns and 4.6 yards per carry. The defense, led by interim head coach John Thompson, was tops in the Sun Belt in scoring defense at 25.4 ppg. (50th in country).

Game recap

The top defense in the Sun Belt managed to contain Notre Dame in the first quarter. The Red Wolves held the Irish to two, three-and-outs and one, four-play drive. Aplin and Oku helped moved the chains during a 14-play drive that actually handed Arkansas State a 7-0 lead after the first 15 minutes.

The score would remain 7-0 late into the second quarter before Tyler Eifert sparked the Irish. Everett Golson swung a pass out to the Irish's tight end and 61 yards later, the game was tied at seven. Notre Dame's defense would hold the Wolves on the ensuing possession and provided the offense a little over a minute to move the ball 62 yards. With 25 seconds on the clock before the half, Golson hit Eifert for his second touchdown of the game. "What in the world of Kyle Rudolph is going on here?" somebody screamed from the stands.

The Irish, up 14-7 at the half, would never trail again as they added a field goal and touchdown to build their lead to 17. Golson passed for over 250 yards for only the third time this season (265 yards vs. Ark. St.). Irish advance with the 31-14 win.

Player of the game: Everett Golson (265 passing yards, 2 TDs)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Notre Dame 81.0% - Arkansas State 19.0%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Notre Dame 31.4 - Arkansas State 19.3
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8
9
Ohio State
Florida
23
20
The what-if world affords us the luxury of inviting the Buckeyes, currently banned from postseason play, to partake in our 16-team playoff. By earning one of five at-large berths, Urban Meyer's undefeated Bucks settled for the No. 8 seed. The offense was centered around two players: quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde. Miller moved the chains via his legs (227 carries) nearly as often as his arm (254 attempts). He finished with over 1,200 rush yards with 13 touchdowns, while Hyde racked up 970 yards with 16 scores. Unlike in seasons' past, the Buckeyes' defense wasn't as stubborn. The unit finished 36th in total defense and 33rd in points allowed per game at 22.8 points per game.

Side effects of rooting for the 2012 Florida Gators may include, but not be limited to, scratching of the head. Their offense begins and ends, for all intents and purposes, with Mike Gillislee. The running back ran the ball 235 times for 1,104 yards with 10 touchdowns. The defense finished third in the country in points allowed at 12.9 points per game. Still, the head-scratching moments popped up throughout the season beginning when Will Muschamp's crew allowed Bowling Green to hang around in the season opener. They survived and won their first seven, including wins over LSU and South Carolina. Still, look at their last three games where they allowed Louisiana-Lafayette to score 20 points, shutout Jacksonville State before outscoring Florida State 37-26. Those 26 points were the most allowed in a game by the Gators this season.

Game recap

In a rematch of the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, nobody impersonated Ted Ginn, Jr. by housing the opening kickoff, but then again, by avoiding the early score, no Buckeyes were injured and forced to miss the rest of the game.

The Gators' fifth-ranked defense in the country held the Buckeyes scoreless in the first half, while the offense mustered up only nine points.

As they have so many times this season, Ohio State received the spark they needed via the run on their first possession of the second half. With the ball resting on the Gators' 30 yard line, Rod Smith barreled his way through the defensive line and broke free to the house to get OSU on the board. Urban Meyer's defense played inspired ball the rest of the third quarter as they held Florida to three consecutive three-and-outs and created another opportunity for the OSU offense. Miller helped engineer a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended with the quarterback calling his own number and running seven yards for the go-ahead score.

The Gators would answer back with a touchdown and two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter to retake the lead, 17-14. Ohio State's kicker, Drew Basil, booted a game-tying field goal a few minutes later.

As the fourth-quarter clock ticked down to zero, the Gators and Buckeyes remained tied at 17.

Florida managed to work the ball inside the 10 yard line during the first overtime, but a costly penalty forced them back and the Gators had to settle for a go-ahead field goal.

With their season on the line, the Buckeyes ran the ball with Hyde on first down.

He gained three yards.

On second down, the line got a better push and Hyde found the hole he needed on a 22-yard draw play that ended the 2007 BCS rematch, this time in favor of the Buckeyes.

Player of the game: Carlos Hyde (124 rushing yards, TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Ohio State 51.2% - Florida 48.8%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Ohio State 21.9 - Florida 21.5
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4
13
Stanford
Boise State
34
33
Andrew Luck may be gone, but the Cardinal managed to win their first conference title since 1999. The team's only losses came at Washington and in overtime at Notre Dame. Stanford continued a balanced offense with Stepfan Taylor leading the charge with a career-high 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, it's on defense where David Shaw's team separates themselves from the rest of the country. They finished third in the country against the rush (87.6 yards allowed per game) and 14th in scoring defense, allowing less than 18 points per game this season. Shaw's efforts as leader of the Cardinal just earned him a contract extension.

There are 124 college football programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Boise State averages 30.4 points per game and finished 55th in scoring. Does that strike anybody else as odd? Most would think 30-plus points on the scoreboard would be among the nation's top offenses. The Broncos' defense finished with two losses (Michigan St. and San Diego St.) thanks in large part to their defense that allowed 14.9 points per game, sixth-best in the country. D.J. Harper paced the offense with 212 carries for 1,065 yards with 15 scores.

Game recap

This first-round matchup boiled down to a simple cliché: it was a tale of two quarters with some activity resembling football taking place in the second and third quarters.

After Boise State found the end zone on the first possession of the game, Stanford retaliated with slot-machine action by hanging 7-7-7 on the board before the first quarter ended. The Cardinal would lead 21-6 at the break.

The Broncos scored early in the third quarter to close the gap to eight, but then, in the fourth quarter, Chris Petersen and Boise began to find gaps in the stout Stanford defense. D.J. Harper broke off a 16-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the fourth (missed 2-pt. conversion). On the next Boise State possession, Joe Southwick hit Matt Miller for a 72-yard touchdown strike and pushed the Broncos ahead by five.

Later in the fourth, with Stanford's heels on their own goal line, quarterback Josh Nunes was picked off by the Broncos. It took three plays from inside the five, but Boise's Jay Ajayi punched his way through the line and into paydirt. The Broncos rattled off a 27-0 second-half run on offense and led 33-21.

With a little over four minutes to go, the Cardinal began to mount their comeback. Before a minute had past, Nunes had led a five-play drive, highlighted by a 37-yard touchdown run by Stepfan Taylor. Stanford booted the ball back to Boise and forced them to punt following a three-and-out. With great field position, starting from their own 44-yard line, the Cardinal picked up 20 yards on two plays. This set up the game-winning 36-yard run by Taylor who broke free a designed draw.

The Cardinal survive and advance, 34-33.

Player of the game: Stepfan Taylor (182 rushing yards, 3 TD, 64 receiving yards, TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Stanford 60.9% - Boise State 39.1%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Stanford 25.1 - Boise State 21.8
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5
12
Florida State
N. Illinois
29
20
The December Madness (painstaking) seeding process just so happened to pair the Seminoles up against their Orange Bowl foe, Northern Illinois. You can't make this stuff up! Wait…yes you can!

Jimbo Fisher heads into the postseason without his defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who bounced to take the head coaching position at Kentucky. Florida State ranks second in the nation in total defense at 253.4 yards allowed per game and seventh in scoring defense at 15.1 point per pop. On offense, quarterback E.J. Manuel finished with 3,101 passing yards and 22 touchdowns to go with 284 rushing yards in an offense that averaged 39.9 points per game.

Northern Illinois has won 21 out of their last 22 games and has two straight Mid-American Conference titles on their resume. The Huskies are the first MAC school to crash the BCS party with their seven predecessors (non-BCS members) boasting a 5-2 record in past BCS bowl appearances. Non-BCS member schools have won three straight BCS bowls. NIU finished the regular season ninth in points per game at 40.8. Quarterback Jordan Lynch dominated the season with his arm and his legs. The second-team All-American currently sits at 1,771 rushing yards and 4,733 total yards, the most in the nation. The Achilles' heel of the Huskies is against the rush. They allow 139.0 yards per game on the ground.

Game recap

When Florida State jumped out to 10-0, first-quarter lead on the Huskies, most expected the Seminoles to end this game by halftime.

O, ye' of little Mid-American Conference faith.

Off a Manuel interception at the start of the second quarter, NIU's Lynch finished off a seven-play drive with a five-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to a measly three points. Both teams would exchange field goals later in the quarter to make it 13-10 FSU at the break.

The Seminoles would kick another field goal on the opening possession of the third quarter. Later in the third, the Huskies' Akeem Daniels broke free on a 43-yard rush that moved the ball down to the Seminoles' two-yard line. On the next play, Lynch scored the go-ahead touchdown. Northern Illinois led 17-16 mid-way through the third quarter. The lead was short lived as Florida State finished off a nine-play drive with Dustin Hopkins' fourth field goal of the game.

The two teams headed to the fourth quarter with FSU leading 19-17.

Lynch managed to move the ball down inside the red zone, but had to settle for three points off the foot of Mathew Sims. Still, it allowed the Huskies to retake the lead, 20-19. As had been the story throughout the game, no NIU lead was safe for long, Manuel and the Seminoles milked four minutes off the clock and Hopkins' kicked his fifth field goal to put the Seminoles ahead for good.

Lynch and his Huskies went three-and-out on the next possession. Manuel then led another long drive that culminated in a touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Seminoles win and advance 29-20.

Player of the game: James Wilder (210 rushing yards)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Florida State 72.2% - Northern Illinois 27.8%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Florida State 27.0 - Northern Illinois 19.0
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3
14
Kansas State
Utah State
34
23
There's a sentiment that this year's Cotton Bowl contest between Oklahoma and Texas A&M will crown the nation's top two-loss team. This notion may be somewhat of a misnomer, as the Aggies of Utah State can make a case for inclusion. A 41-15 takedown of Toledo in the, ahem, "Famous" Idaho Potato Bowl capped off a 11-2 campaign for Gary Andersen's club, with the only defeats coming by a combined 10 points to Wisconsin (27-20 in OT) and BYU (6-3). Couple plays go in a different direction and perhaps the Aggies are in the BCS conversation rather than rocking a trophy decorated in spuds. But hey, a berth in December Madness is just as prestigious, right?

While the Aggies come to the tournament to validate their stature, the Wildcats are seeking retribution. With 10 wins under their belt in mid-November, only a 5-5 Baylor squad and an underperforming Texas team stood in the way of a Kansas State perfect season, which in all likelihood would have correlate to a championship appearance. Alas, this undefeated venture vanished before the K-State faithful's eyes, as a 52-24 whoopin' in Waco knocked the Wildcats out of a trip to Miami and championship glory. However, thanks to our hypothetical playoffs, Bill Snyder and Kansas State still have a shot at that No. 1 spot.

Game recap

The Wildcats' thirst for revenge may have jaded their short-term sight, as Utah State was the first to strike on a 51-yard run by Kerwynn Williams in the first quarter. The end-zone excursion must have woken Kansas State from their slumber, as Heisman finalist Collin Klein led the ‘Cats on four consecutive scoring drives, including a 20-yard scamper for six and 35-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett from Klein, to give the Purple and Silver a 24-7 lead. Utah State added a 34-yard field goal before the break, cutting the deficient to 14.

An 87-yard house call from Wildcats punt returner Tramaine Thompson in the middle of the third quarter seemed to put the contest on ice. But the Aggies would not bow out without a fight, with Utah State signal caller Chuckie Keeton engineering two touchdown drives in the final period. Alas, Kansas State would put the game out of reach with a chip shot between the uprights in the final minutes, as the Wildcats breathe a sigh of relief in reaching the second round of the tournament with a 34-23 win.

Klein was suffocated by the Utah State defense most of the night, impeding the K-State leader from his usual video-game numbers, although his 150 yards through the air and two scores paced the Wildcats. In the losing effort, Williams posted over 190 yards on the terrain, with Keeton going 10-for-18 for 217 yards and two touchdowns.

Player of the game: Kerwynn Williams (191 rushing yards, TD, 10 receiving yards, TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Kansas State 69.1% - Utah State 30.9%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Kansas State 27.7 - Utah State 21.0
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6
11
Louisville
Georgia
19
28
The Cardinals enter tournament play with a chip on their shoulder, thanks to the unwanted moniker of "Best of the Worst." To their credit, Louisville's 10 wins are the program's most since 2006. Unfortunately, their schedule leaves much to be desired, as their biggest victory came against a Rutgers squad that had losses to Kent State and a 6-6 Pittsburgh crew. Worse, the Cardinals' two defeats were to less-than-formidable foes in Syracuse (7-5) and Connecticut (5-7). Departing the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference may seem like greener pastures for those in the ‘Ville, but some have wondered if the jump in competition spells a reality check for the Red and Black. Charlie Strong and his staff are looking toward December Madness as a platform to prove their merits on college football's elite level.

The Cards aren't the only ones in search of validation. The Georgia Bulldogs were a play away from winning the SEC Championship Game and earning a trip to South Beach to take on Notre Dame, and their triumph over Florida was one of the more impressive W's of the season. Yet, while quarterback Aaron Murray and coach Mark Richt have encountered their share of success the past three seasons, there's a belief that the duo lacks the chops to conquer in the clutch. With a chance to face the nation's best, Georgia can dispel that negative connotation with four wins in our tournament.

Game recap

Georgia certainly didn't showcase a sense of urgency to dismiss these claims against the Cardinals. Bulldogs back Todd Gurley found himself in the end zone after a three-yard dash in the first, giving Georgia an early 7-0 lead, but Louisville answered, and answered with vigor. A 12-0 run by the Cardinals, highlighted by a safety and a Jeremy Wright sprint for six with just a minute to go in the first half, seemingly had the ‘Dawgs about to enter halftime behind a team many expected Georgia to blow out of the water. Fortuitously for coach Richt, a couple flight forays from the arm of Murray brought Georgia into enemy territory, where rusher Ken Malcome finished the job with a four-yard touchdown to put the Bulldogs up at the break.

Unlike past shortcomings, Georgia did not cede the spotlight, as two short Gurley dives into the Promised Land would be enough firepower for the Bulldogs. Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did his best in guiding a comeback, but the attempt came up short, as Georgia advances with a 28-19 win.

A balanced run assault proved to be the difference for the ‘Dawgs, as Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for 110 yards on 33 carries. Bridgewater racked up impressive numbers of his own, throwing for nearly 340 yards, yet was undone by finding the end zone just once.

Player of the game: Todd Gurley (50 rushing yards, 3 TD, 43 receiving yards)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Georgia 68.5% - Louisville 31.5%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Georgia 26.4 - Louisville 20.2
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7
10
Wisconsin
Oregon
33
40
Ah, Wisconsin. To amend a quote from Dodgeball, "Congratulations on your victory by disqualification." The Badgers by far have the worst resume of the December Madness roster, with five losses to their name, three of which came in their last four regular-season contests. However, as Penn State and Ohio State were banned from postseason play, Wisconsin represented the Leaders division in the Big Ten Conference Championship. To their credit, the Badgers made the most of their opportunity, soundly knocking off Nebraska 70-31 thanks to 539 yards on the ground. But with head coach Bret Bielema fleeing Camp Randall for Fayetteville, how will the Badgers respond to venerable Barry Alvarez back at the helm?

Meanwhile, Oregon will be looking to demonstrate the wrong one-loss team is in the BCS Championship. With their lone slip-up coming in an epic overtime soiree versus Stanford, many in Eugene consider their caliber second to none in the nation. Armed with a high-octane offense that is averaging 50.8 points per contest, the argument could be made that the Ducks are the team no one wants to meet in December Madness. And don't confuse Oregon as a one-trick pony, as the Ducks defense held opponents to a meager 22 points per outing. The only thing really lacking on Oregon's rundown is a victory over a worthy adversary. Luckily, they'll get such an opportunity to oust this monkey from their back.

Game recap

This game provides an interesting dichotomy of football foundations, as Oregon's engine is powered by their ability to light the scoreboard, compared to Wisconsin's belief in keeping their opponents from such feats, evidenced by their concession of a miniscule 19.1 points per game. Nevertheless, the proceedings of the first quarter projected a game in favor of the Ducks, as a touchdown run from Kenjon Barner and 38-yard field goal from Rob Beard gave Oregon a 10-0 lead. Wisconsin was able to answer the bell in the second quarter, with the Badger field general finding the end zone twice, but the Ducks' multi-talented man De'Anthony Thomas hit pay dirt as well, putting Oregon up 17-14 at half.

Chip Kelly's company augmented this advantage in the third quarter thanks to two scores from quarterback Marcus Mariota, and a 25-yard sprint by Barner to start the fourth blew the doors on this bad boy. Wisconsin scored twice in the final 1:17, but the counter was too late, as Oregon sends the Badgers packing with a 40-33 upending.

The Ducks' Barner hauled in Player of the Game honors, amassing over 220 rushing yards with two scores. Curt Phillips threw for four scores, but hit just 15-of-31 passing attempts in defeat.

Player of the game: Kenjon Barner (222 rushing yards, 2 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Oregon 61.4% - Wisconsin 38.6%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Oregon 25.1 - Wisconsin 21.5
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2
15
Alabama
Tulsa
26
6
The Crimson Tide might be listed as a No. 2 seed, but in the eyes of many in the pigskin world, the SEC champs are the bunch to beat in this competition. Nick Saban is known for boasting a first-rate resistance, a conviction that holds true in 2012 as his squad is relinquishing a paltry 10.7 points per game. However, what makes this year's edition of the Crimson Tide more daunting than their predecessors is their offensive arsenal. Granted, Tuscaloosa has seen its fair share of studs in the backfield, with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson coming to mind, and this season is no different with the aptitude of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. Yet the competency from quarterback A.J. McCarron gives Alabama a duo dexterity in the air and on the ground. Throw in the best depth of any December Madness entrant and it's clear to see that beating ‘Bama will be no easy venture.

Tulsa may not be up for such an endeavor, but just getting an invite to this playoff duel may be reward in itself. The Golden Hurricane punched their ticket to the tournament by winning the Conference USA Championship in dramatic fashion with a 33-27 overtime W over the UCF Knights. The title game tilt gave Tulsa its 10th win in its last 12 ballgames, with the only two hiccups coming at Arkansas (15-19) and SMU (27-35). Though they lack some of the credentials of other Madness participants, if their opponents consider the Golden Hurricane a pushover, Tulsa might have some tricks up their sleeve.

Game recap

Blame it on Alabama's hubris, or perhaps Tulsa packed a bigger punch than believed. Whatever the case, what was supposed to be a decorated scrimmage turned into somewhat of a heated contest. The Crimson Tide offense appeared to be stuck in stall, failing to capitalize on prime field position in the first three quarters of the game, correlating to three field goals from Jeremy Shelley. The only bright spot for ‘Bama was a 73-yard burst from Lacy near the end of the first half, as the backfield struggled to get much going on the ground. A Tulsa touchdown from Ja'Terian Douglas near the end of the third quarter got some SEC backers worried, as the Golden Hurricane sat just 10 points back heading into the fourth.

Lacy decided to take matters into his own hands, adding a 15-yard touchdown run in the final period to put the game in safe hands. Another Shelley chip shot proved all the fireworks ‘Bama would need, as the reigning national champs advance with a 26-6 win.

Though Alabama's Yeldon failed to surmount much of a charge, the Tide were saved by Lacy's 199 yards on the day.

Player of the game: Eddie Lacy (213 rushing yards, 2 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Alabama 82.7% - Tulsa 17.3%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Alabama 31.7 - Tulsa 19.5
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