NCAA bracket predictions: Picks based on college football

College football editor Jason Kirk picks the NCAA Tournament based on nothing but each school's college football team. We're sorry, Florida.

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SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

South region

Round of 64

While Florida went 0-1 against FCS teams in 2013, Albany is an especially bad FCS team.

Pitt, UCLA, Ohio State, Syracuse, and Stanford are obvious picks over Colorado, Tulsa, Dayton, Western Michigan, and New Mexico. And Stephen F. Austin over VCU, considering VCU doesn't have a football team.

This region also contains a Kansas game.

Round of 32

Florida plays Pitt, and I don't really have to make a choice between brand-name and store-brand sadness, since either loses to UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen anyway.

Ohio State edges Syracuse by a suspiciously low margin, remains No. 2 in the BCS, is favored by six points against Stanford in the next round.

Sweet Sixteen

Florida-UCLA might be the most spastic possible game between two major football schools. While the Gators' bold incompetence is well known, the Bruins did things in 2013 like commit more penalties than all but three teams, an improvement over ranking the year prior. UCLA is better at football, but do not expect a pretty game. The SEC is thus eliminated.

Ohio State loses to Stanford, remains No. 2 in the BCS.

Elite Eight

Bob Stanton, USA Today

It wasn't until right here that I realized we actually have to choose whether to go with 2013 teams or 2014 teams for this. As you can see by Stanford beating UCLA to reach the Final Four, we're using 2013 teams.

East region

Round of 64

Easy choices here: Memphis over George Washington, Cincinnati over Harvard, Michigan State over Delaware, North Carolina over Providence, Iowa State over NC Central, and Villanova over Milwaukee.

We've got what some would describe as a football upset: Coastal Carolina over Virginia. The Chanticleers are one of FCS' best teams, having reached the playoffs semifinals, while Virginia had one post-August win.

This region also contains a UConn game.

Round of 32

In-theory upsets continue in the East, with Coastal Carolina over Memphis and Villanova over UConn. Sagarin says so!

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio beats up on his previous employer, Cincinnati.

Paul Rhoads is excited.

Sweet Sixteen

Michigan State and North Carolina end the Coastal Carolina and Villanova upset sprees.

Elite Eight

Michigan State loves to punt. UNC's only hope to score against Michigan State is punt returner Ryan Switzer. The Spartans puzzle through the quandary and decide to limit themselves to only so many punts, advancing to the Final Four.

West region

Round of 64

Stress-free selections: Arizona, Oklahoma State, San Diego State, Baylor, UL-Lafayette, and Wisconsin to beat Weber State, Gonzaga, New Mexico State, Nebraska, Creighton, and American, which might or might not be an American Athletic Conference all-stars team.

Oregon beats BYU, but we should note these two teams put a combined 766 rushing yards on Texas.

Oklahoma beats North Dakota State, and every other AQ-conference team here is really, really glad Oklahoma got North Dakota State.

Round of 32

Four honest-to-gosh good football teams enter the Sweet Sixteen, with Oklahoma State over Arizona, Oklahoma over San Diego State, Baylor over UL-Lafayette, and Oregon over Wisconsin.

Sweet Sixteen

Richard Rowe, USA Today

Bracket Bedlam! Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State in unconvincing fashion during the regular season. The rematch is a coin flip. Let's say OU wins, since it already did.

Oregon beats Baylor, despite Bret Bielema tweeting outrageous medical facts the entire game.

Elite Eight

If we want to do the common opponents thing, we'll note Oregon beat Texas by 23 and Texas beat Oklahoma by 16. Ducks to the Final Four.

Midwest region

Round of 64

The no-brainers here are Cal Poly over Wichita State (which hasn't played football in decades), Kansas State over Kentucky, NC State over Saint Louis, Louisville over Manhattan (though this means no Manhattan, New York vs. Manhattan, Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen), Iowa over UMass, and Duke over Mercer (great job, Duke!).

Arizona State to beat Texas is the hardest pick of the whole first round, as no reasonable person should have any degree of confidence in either of these teams. The advanced stats all still love the Sun Devils, with F/+, SRS, and Sagarin ranking them in the top 20, so alright.

This region also contains a Michigan game ... against a SoCon team! Those are always pretty good.

Round of 32

K-State beats Cal Poly and Louisville beats NC State, with both games having about the same score.

8-5 Iowa over 10-4 Duke probably seems like an upset, but the Hawkeyes' defense would be one of the three best Duke saw all year — the other two, Virginia Tech and Florida State, held the Blue Devils' busy offense to 20 total points.

Arizona State vs. Michigan would be the most slapstick football thing ever conceived. It would either be a 39-point blowout or a goal-line catastrophe that would be memed forever. All we know is that ASU would win.

Sweet Sixteen

Kansas State beats Louisville, and you're all just going to have to deal with it.

Iowa is the next to tumble into Arizona State's tunnel of madness.

Elite Eight

Kansas State finally puts a stop to Arizona State's nonsense, reaching the Final Four.

Final Four

Mark J. Rebilas, USA Today

We've already seen Stanford vs. Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, and that was in the Cardinal's home state, with Spartans linebacker and captain Max Bullough suspended. There's no clear reason a do-over in Texas would end more kindly for Stanford.

We've also recently seen Oregon vs. Kansas State, with the Ducks winning the previous year's Fiesta Bowl.

Championship

The Michigan State vs. Oregon final is just about the only really hard to game to pick on the whole board. Considerations:

  • The Spartans' defense is the best unit on the field, but not by much, and its offense is probably still the worst despite late-season improvement.
  • Oregon had an ugly loss to Arizona, while Michigan State entertained itself all year with ugly wins.
  • The advanced stats favor the Ducks by a tad, while a local poll of fellow college football fans favored the Spartans by a wide majority.
  • Oregon lost to Stanford, which lost to Michigan State, but neither of those games was as definitive as most of us think.
  • Michigan State's No. 1 defense had its two worst games against its two opponents most similar to Oregon: run-heavy Nebraska and Ohio State. It's built to destroy passing games, but gave up 455 yards on the ground to those two.
  • To this point in the tournament, Michigan State's batted around some speed teams and butted heads with Stanford. Oregon's gotten hammered in every round, with its list of opponents (BYU, Wisconsin, Baylor, Oklahoma, and Kansas State) giving it maybe the most physical path to the title of anybody in the field. If the Ducks are healthy, we might give them the edge over MSU, but the Spartans have the clear health advantage.
  • Michigan State also gets a heavy home-crowd advantage in Arlington, judging by the number of Ducks fans spotted in the stands at the Alamo Bowl and the sea of green in the Rose Bowl.
We're taking Michigan State to beat Oregon, but it's still a brilliant clash of styles. And this is with 2013 rosters, of course; we'll get to see what the 2014 editions do to each other in Eugene on Sept. 6.

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