Well, we’ve already picked this year’s basketball bracket based on football, so let’s get right to this year’s edition of an actual football bracket.
Like always, we’ll pretend this happens right after bowl season. Also, we’ll pretend players are all impervious to injury and being paid buckets of “tuition” (fresh, crispy cash dollars) for this extra work!
I followed the NCAA’s basketball method — rank teams No. 1 through No. 68, give the top seed the friendliest geographical starting point available, do the same for No. 2 and then No. 3, pile all the others in via a snaking S-curve, and then fiddle with stuff to avoid early regular-season rematches — but also messed with a few that’d give us potential rivalry games.
Also, this is all of Division I, just like March Madness, rather than just FBS.
Here’s the South Region bracket, topped by overall No. 1 Clemson:
Asterisks (*) are conference-champion autobids.
Where should we play? March Madness uses neutral-siters all the way, but the NIT, FCS, etc. would go with campus sites for the early rounds. I’d prefer campus, myself.
Dormant rivals Florida and Miami are on pace for a second-round game. Also, App State is just a couple upsets away from a game with Michigan, Utah and Boise State have a tiny bit of history, and App State and JMU have an FCS classic between them.
The highlight: the Vols have a chance to regain The Life Championship from NC State, which took it from Vanderbilt!
Kansas State and Oklahoma State have chances to meet former Big 12 rivals Colorado, Nebraska, and Texas A&M, which should delight the Cornhusker-pining Bill Snyder. If Houston wins this region of once and future Big 12 teams, we should let the Cougars in the conference.
In round one: UNC head coach Larry Fedora vs. his hometown school.
Bo Pelini’s Youngstown State is here, meaning a long-shot chance at a Huskers-Pelini reunion.
Tennessee might get rocked again by Bama. That’d be sad.
Picking the four No. 1 seeds was harder than you might think. For these 68-team rankings, I started with S&P+, the final AP poll, and the Massey Composite, along with Sagarin (which includes FCS teams).
But there are few great choices for overall No. 3 and No. 4. Computers don’t love USC like the polls do, everybody but Michigan and Wisconsin got blown out at some point, and either the Wolverines or Badgers as a No. 1 would mean them being ahead of three teams to which they lost.
Oklahoma won a conference and a New Year’s bowl, and while neither was that impressive, OU is one of only four teams to rank in the top five per both the computers and the AP.
Anyway, this region has all the Kentucky teams in it. Kentucky-LSU might look like an early-round rematch, but they haven’t played since 2014 and only twice since their 2007 classic.
SHSU-Wisconsin and WKU-Iowa: battles for the soul of football. Will thunderous punts and stubborn defenses snuff out two of Division I’s most productive offenses? Prolly.
Also, if NDSU makes it a three-win streak against Minnesota, it might go further than Iowa, thus beating Iowa twice this season.
Washington is the other team both the polls and computers are OK with. In my heart, I think I’d put USC here. We could argue for any of about eight teams as the No. 3 or No. 4 seeds.
[Penn State being a 3 seed is unpopular, but PSU’s computer ratings put them right around here, and they have two bad losses, to five-loss Pitt and by a million points to Michigan. One spot higher would mean a 2 seed, though, which would also be fine.]
This region includes potential for Pitt-West Virginia, Virginia Tech-West Virginia, Pitt-Penn State (a rematch always worth rematching), and so forth, along with an Ohio State-Virginia Tech rubber match and a likely rematch of 2016’s most controversial game, Ohio State-Penn State. This is the hating-est region I could concoct.
Eastern Washington is also here, Washington State fans.
Go ahead and let me know what you’re most unhappy about, and let’s go from there.