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
24
17
4
5
Stanford
Florida State
16
23
3
11
Kansas State
Georgia
25
28
10
2
Oregon
Alabama
10
16
1
5
Notre Dame
Florida State
11
2
Georgia
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
8
Notre Dame
Ohio State
24
17
Braxton Miller completed a season-low four passes on a season-low nine attempts as the Ohio State offense became uber-one-dimensional in the quarterfinals of the December Madness playoff.

Miller and running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 277 yards on 44 carries, but the more balanced and efficient (Notre Dame 8-18 on third downs) Irish outscored the Buckeyes 10-0 in the fourth quarter to rally back from three points down to win 24-17. Cierre Wood's second touchdown of the game put Notre Dame up for good.

The Irish scored on their first possession of the game when Wood took the ball in from 17 yards out. The score tied a bow on a six-play, 88-yard drive.

Ohio State's kicker, Drew Basil, would cut into the lead with a 42-yard field goal in the second quarter, but Notre Dame would come back and milk well over five minutes off the clock with a 13-play, 86-yard drive that culminated in a Theo Riddick touchdown to push the Irish lead to 11 points.

With the clock ticking toward halftime, Hyde carried the team on his back. He broke free on a 62-yard run that moved Ohio State inside Notre Dame's 10 yard line. Three plays later, he scored on a five-yard pass from Miller.

Hyde was not done.

In the third quarter, he broke off one of his three runs of over 20 yards when he took the ball to the house from 46 yards out. Up 17-14 in the third quarter, it would mark the only time the Buckeyes led the entire game.

Brian Kelly and his Irish advance to the December Madness semifinals.

Player of the game: Cierre Wood (98 rushing yards, 2 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Notre Dame 57.1% - Ohio State 42.9%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Notre Dame 24.6 - Ohio State 22.3%
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4
5
Stanford
Florida State
16
23
It shouldn't come as a surprise, in a game featuring two of the nation's best defenses, that the two kickers were the offensive stars of the game. Florida State's Dustin Hopkins and Stanford's Jordan Williamson were a combined 6-6 on field goal attempts, with both knocking three kicks through the uprights. Their 18 points outscored the Seminoles' and Cardinal's offenses in regulation (14 points).

We pick up the narrative with Florida State trailing 10-3 at the start of the fourth quarter. Quarterback E.J. Manuel managed to work the ball inside Hopkins' comfort zone and he booted a 47-yard field goal to cut the deficit to four points. However, Stanford rolled right back down the field, stalled inside FSU's 10-yard line and settled for Williamson's 25-yard three pointer to extend the Cardinal lead back to seven. The inability to find the end zone on that drive cost Stanford as the Seminoles broke a string of field goals when James Wilder gashed the Cardinal defense for a game-long 58-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 13.

The two teams would again exchange field goals before the clock struck triple zeroes and we headed to overtime.

After four quarters of field goal after field goal, it only took Florida State three plays to score a touchdown on their first possession of overtime. Manuel scrambled nine yards to the zone to hand FSU the 23-16 lead. Stanford managed to work the ball down to the Seminoles' seven-yard line, but the offense tried to get tricky on an end-around flip and lost three yards on first down. That was the beginning of the end as they couldn't score to tie the game on the three plays that followed.

Florida State advances to the December Madness semifinals with the 23-16 overtime win.

Player of the game: James Wilder (118 rushing yards, TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Florida State 53.2% - Stanford 46.8%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Florida State 22.1 - Stanford 21.6
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3
11
Kansas State
Georgia
25
28
Though they notched a win over a BCS-bowl opponent, the jury is still out regarding Georgia's temerity against top-rated competition. After all, it's almost universally assumed the Louisville Cardinals would not have received an invite to the December Madness proceedings had the Cards played in a respected conference like the ACC, Big Ten, or even MAC. (Yes, we said. Check the results this season between the Big East and MAC. Paints a pretty clear picture on how the "Big Least" moniker came to pass.) Taking down Kansas State, a team that was penciled in for the national title game as late as November, would erase any doubt that the Bulldogs have what it takes to dance with the big boys.

No such reservation resides with the Wildcats, as Kansas State handled one of the country's toughest schedules with relative ease, most notably, striking down the Sooners in Norman. Yet the shellacking handed out by Baylor remains fresh in the minds of Manhattan, left wondering what could have been. The Wildcats were able to focus on the task at hand in their first-round battle with Utah State, disposing of the Aggies 34-23. Though armed with Colin Klein and one of the more explosive offenses in the land, Kansas State may be in for a rude awakening versus the speed and tenacity of an SEC defense.

Or perhaps it's the ‘Dawgs that were in for a wake-up call. A 56-yard house call by Kansas State running back John Hubert gave the Wildcats an early 7-0 advantage. After an unstable first quarter, Georgia was able to right the ship in the second, with two touchdowns in the period's first four minutes. The first came off a five-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Rantavious Wooten, capping off a drive set up by a beautiful 35-yard catch-and-run by receiver Jay Rome. The second score was all Todd Gurley, as the bruising Bulldogs back went the distance for a 75-yard run, giving Georgia a 14-7 lead. The Wildcats failed to muster much in the second, putting the Big 12 champs behind the eight ball heading into the break.

The third quarter seemed like one without fanfare, with only the Wildcats' Anthony Cantele's 35-yard field goal providing fireworks. Yet in the quarter's final minute, Rhett McGowan was the beneficiary of a 26-yard strike from Murray to augment Georgia's lead to 21-10.

However, just as Georgia appeared to open the floodgates, Klein engineered a masterful drive, finished by a four-yard scamper by Angelo Please to pay dirt, and a Klein bull-rush into the end zone for a two-point conversion cut the deficit to three. Alas, that's as close as the Wildcats would get, as Georgia's Murray found Rantavious Wooten for his third touchdown of the day, putting Georgia back on top for good. Kansas State would score in the final minutes but failed to seriously threaten after that, vaulting the ‘Dawgs into the semi-finals.

For Georgia, Murray finished with 275 passing yards and three touchdowns, earning Player of the Game honors. In the losing effort, Hubert racked up 111 rushing yards for the Wildcats, while Klein was held in check with just 93 passing yards and 37 more on the ground.

Player of the game: Aaron Murray (275 passing yards, 3 TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Georgia 51.4% - Kansas State 48.6%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Georgia 23.2 - Kansas State 22.3
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10
2
Oregon
Alabama
10
16
Many in the Eugene area feel like their beloved Ducks were left out of the national championship conversation due to SEC bias. In some respects, the Oregon faithful have a point, as the only loss suffered by Chip Kelly's crew came against conference champion Stanford in overtime, whereas Alabama's miscue was to a Texas A&M team that, while dangerous, had to settle for the Cotton Bowl as their postseason destination. Unfortunately, Oregon's non-conference slate turned out to be their undoing, as matchups versus Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech failed to provide the firepower to overcome the Ducks' Pac-12 shortcomings. With a win over Wisconsin in the first round of December Madness, the Ducks are seeking revenge for their exclusion.

Though this isn't Alabama's first rodeo, the Crimson Tide can relate to this retribution, as the school was bounced in the second round of last year's WhatIfSports.com tournament. As reigning national champs, ‘Bama might have their most complete squad in the Nick Saban era, but without a December Madness trophy to their name, Alabama's season will be incomplete. The Tide seems to be aware of these stakes, thrashing Tulsa in the competition's opener 26-6. Moreover, this showdown with Oregon provides the answer of who rightfully belongs in this year's national championship tilt.

Alabama wasted little time in staking their claim as the Irish's worthy adversary in South Beach, with running back Eddie Lacy going 66 yards for six to put the Crimson Tide on top just 22 seconds into the game. Oregon, known for their high-octane offensive attack , would have an answer of their own, going 80 yards in just seven plays, capped off by an Ayele Forde 11-yard foray into the end zone to even things up at seven. Jeremy Shelley contributed a 22-yard field goal on the next drive for Alabama to put the Tide back atop, as the SEC champs finished the first quarter with a 10-7 advantage.

And…that was about it.

Sure, Shelly added two more successive field goals, and Oregon booter Rob Beard put one through the uprights, but the scoring was kaput after that. Alabama's vaunted defense imposed a bend-but-don't-break mantra on the Ducks' Kenjon Barner, while Oregon's resistance stepped up their game to give A.J. McCarron all kinds of trouble. Yet in the end, it was the Tide who tallied more points on the scoreboard, emerging victorious from a defensive combat 16-10 and moving on to the Final Four of December Madness.

Lacy paced the Crimson Tide for 184 yards off 19 attempts, offsetting McCarron's rough outing (8-for-15, 118 yards, interception). In defeat, Barner posted 193 rushing yards and another 46 in the receiving arena. Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota was held in check with just 137 passing yards on the day.

With their W, Alabama is set for an SEC Championship rematch with Georgia.

Player of the game: Eddie Lacy (184 rushing yards, TD)

Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Alabama 57.1% - Oregon 42.9%

Average Score of 1,001 Simulations: Alabama 25.2 - Oregon 22.3
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