Mid-Major Cinderella Stories of 2016

The mid-major conference tournaments are the source of much of the early holiday season drama, as only the tourney champion will be able to put on their dancing shoes.  While almost all mid-major NCAA teams have the chance to play Cinderella come Christmas Day (aka the first round of the NCAA tourney), it is particularly special when these teams have an inspiring sentimental storyline.  Often times this involves a squad making its first trip to the Big Dance (see Northern Colorado in 2011).  Other times there is a likable coach who warms the hearts of the nation (see Pete Carril in 1994, Andy Enfeld in 2012).  Inevitably, when the second week of March comes around, these stories will come to fruition.  In the meantime, it’s worth looking at the standings and checking out which mid-major conference leaders/contenders could inspire us during ESPN’s annual championship week.  Only teams currently in first or second place of their respective conferences or squads currently in the hunt for an at-large bid will be included in this column.  They are listed in alphabetical order by conference.

Stony Brook (America East)- The Seawolves have been in the hunt for their school’s first NCAA tourney bid the past four seasons but have managed to fall short each and every time. This may be their best chance yet as they currently hold a two game lead over the rest of the conference.

Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun)- The Dolphins haven’t danced since 1986 but they currently find themselves tied for first place in the Atlantic Sun with defending conference champion North Florida. Would you believe this squad actually made the Final Four in 1970?

Seton Hall (Big East)- I know this is technically an article about “small conference” Cinderella stories, but I am going to include a few squads from major conferences who are in the process of breaking major NCAA tournament droughts. The Pirates are one of those squads who believe it or not haven’t danced in 10 years. They are currently 3rd in the conference standings and sit as a 10 seed in my current Brad-ketology bracket projection.

Hawaii (Big West)– The Rainbow Warriors haven’t danced since 2002 but they are currently tied with the defending conference champs (UC-Irvine) atop the Big West standings.

UNC-Wilmington (Colonial)- It’s been a decade since the Seahawks have put on their dancing shoes, but right now they stand alone atop the CAA standings.

William & Mary (Colonial)- The Tribe along with Northwestern, Army, St. Francis (NY), and The Citadel are make up the infamous list of “Original Five” squads to never make the NCAA tournament. Last year W & M won the conference regular season but faltered in the tourney. This year, despite losing NBA draftee Marcus Thornton, the Tribe are only a game back of UNCW for first place in the Colonial.

Yale (Ivy)- Neither Yale or Columbia have danced since the 1960’s but right now those two squads are first and second respectively in the Ivy League standings.

Columbia (Ivy)- See comment above.

Monmouth (MAAC)- If I was to pick one squad who I most want to see Dance this year, this would be it. Literally: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uZd2rVpzdE.   The Hawks haven’t danced in ten years and if they were to make the field in 2016 their world famous bench would have a chance to shine on their biggest stage yet. Right now, Monmouth is in great shape to get there too, as they are alone in first place in the Metro Atlantic Standings are also in line for a potential at-large bid.

South Carolina State (MEAC)- The Bulldogs haven’t punched their dance card since 1993, but right now they are tied for first place in the MEAC with defending conference champ Hampton.

Evansville (MVC)- The Purple Aces of Evansville and the Redbirds of Illinois State haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since the late 90’s, but this year they are tied for second in the league standings.

Illinois State (MVC)- See comment above

Fairleigh Dickinson (Northeast)- The NEC is traditionally dominated by either Robert Morris and Mount St. Mary’s, but this season the league standings have been turned upside down as all of the conference’s top three teams have current tourney droughts lasting over a decade (Fairleigh Dickinson- 2005, Wagner- 2003, St. Francis PA- 1991)

Wagner (Northeast)– See comment above.

St. Francis (PA) (Northeast)– See comment above.

Tennessee Tech (Ohio Valley)- Belmont is still the clear favorite to repeat as OVC champ, but they are surprisingly tied for first place in the conference with a Tennessee Tech squad that hasn’t danced since the year JFK was shot.

Oregon State (Pac-12)- The Beavers have one of the longest current major conference tourney droughts, as they haven’t put on dancing shoes since Gary Payton’s senior season in 1990. Ironically, his son, Gary Payton II, has a great chance of following in his father’s footsteps and leading OSU back to the Big Dance in his own senior season. Right now the Beavers sit squarely on the NCAA Tournament Bubble.

Navy (Patriot)- See comment for Evansville above. The Midshipmen find themselves in the exact same situation in their respective conference race.

Colgate (Patriot)- See comment for Evansville above. The Raiders find themselves in the exact same situation in their respective conference race.

South Carolina (SEC)- Not only have the Gamecocks not danced in 12 seasons, but they haven’t won a tourney game since before my dad attended college there (1973).   However, thanks to a huge road win over Texas A & M on Saturday, South Carolina is currently projected as an 7 seed in my most recent Brad-ketology update.

Houston Baptist (Southland)- The Huskies haven’t qualified for the NCAA Tournament since before I was born (1984), but right now they are tied for second in the Southland.

IPFW (Summit)- Like William & Mary, the Mastodons are a Big Dance virgin who currently sit alone in second place in their respective conference standings.

Cal-State Bakersfield (WAC)- The Roadrunners were a Division II basketball powerhouse in the 1990’s and after going through a lengthy transition process, they have emerged as the top contender to challenge frontrunner New Mexico State in this year’s WAC title race.

 

My Final College Football Rankings (1-128)

1 Houston
2 Alabama
3 Clemson
4 Ohio State
5 Stanford
6 Michigan State
7 Oklahoma
8 Iowa
9 TCU
10 Ole Miss
11 LSU
12 Georgia
13 Utah
14 Baylor
15 Michigan
16 Oklahoma State
17 Notre Dame
18 Wisconsin
19 Florida State
20 North Carolina
21 Northwestern
22 Western Kentucky
23 Navy
24 Toledo
25 Appalachian State
26 Tennessee
27 Mississippi State
28 Florida
29 Washington State
30 Oregon
31 Brigham Young
32 San Diego State
33 Marshall
34 Texas A & M
35 Arkansas
36 UCLA
37 California
38 West Virginia
39 Louisville
40 Miami-FL
41 Pittsburgh
42 Duke
43 Memphis
44 Temple
45 Boise State
46 Louisiana Tech
47 Georgia Southern
48 Bowling Green
49 Arkansas State
50 Auburn
51 Southern Cal
52 Washington
53 Arizona
54 Texas Tech
55 Penn State
56 Virginia Tech
57 NC State
58 South Florida
59 Southern Miss
60 Western Michigan
61 Ohio
62 Akron
63 Arizona State
64 Kansas State
65 Nebraska
66 Minnesota
67 Indiana
68 Cincinnati
69 Middle Tennessee
70 New Mexico
71 Air Force
72 Nevada
73 Colorado State
74 Northern Illinois
75 Central Michigan
76 Uconn
77 Tulsa
78 Utah State
79 San Jose State
80 Georgia State
81 Kentucky
82 Missouri
83 Texas
84 Illinois
85 East Carolina
86 Vanderbilt
87 Colorado
88 Rutgers
89 Virginia
90 Syracuse
91 FIU
92 Old Dominion
93 UTEP
94 Rice
95 Buffalo
96 South Alabama
97 South Carolina
98 Iowa State
99 Georgia Tech
100 Wake Forest
101 Maryland
102 Boston College
103 Troy
104 UL-Lafayette
105 Idaho
106 Oregon State
107 Purdue
108 Tulane
109 Fresno State
110 UNLV
111 Hawaii
112 Florida Atlantic
113 UTSA
114 Ball State
115 Kent State
116 Miami-OH
117 Umass
118 New Mexico State
119 Texas State
120 SMU
121 Wyoming
122 Charlotte
123 UL-Monroe
124 Army
125 North Texas
126 Eastern Michigan
127 Kansas
128 UCF

Best/Worst Sports Moments of 2015

For the seventh year in a row, I am publishing an account of my top 10 best and worst sports moments of the past year.  (click here for 2009-2014 editions).  Keep in mind that these are given from a purely subjective viewpoint.  When I say “best/worst moments” I’m not talking about great or horrible sporting events.  I’m talking about moments that affected me the most positively or negatively.  Overall, this sports year got off to a strong start for me but ended with a very disappointing fall. As a result, you will see that most of my favorite moments of the year occurred during the first half of 2015, while most of the worst occurred in the latter part of the calendar year. Without further ado, here are my best and worst sports moments for the year 2015.

Best Moments:

1.  American Pharoah wins Horse Racing Triple Crown (June 6, 2015)– This was going be my # 1 moment for 2015 no matter what happened before or after it. The only thing that could have possibly eclipsed it was a Kentucky basketball undefeated season, but as I will discuss later, that didn’t happen. As many of you know, I had carried around and obsessed over five major sports goals throughout the majority of my life. They were in order or priority: (1) 16 seed over a 1 seed in basketball, (2) Wake Forest football or basketball national championship, (3) Triple Crown in horse racing, (4) British tennis player wins Men’s Wimbledon Singles Championship, and (5) Kentucky football ends epic drought against Tennessee. Interestingly enough, goals 3-5 were all realized in descending order within the past five years. Prior to that, a combined 139 years had gone by without those three things happening. Pretty amazing stuff

2.  New England Patriots win Super Bowl in dramatic fashion (February 2, 2015)- The Patriots have been my favorite pro football teams ever since I was six years old and applied my affinity for a WCW tag team to my sporting interests. The New England franchise was absolutely terrible at the time but 25 years later they have become one of the great dynasties in sports history. This wasn’t my favorite of the Pats four super bowl victories—that would have to be me their first one in 2002. However, this would be a close second given the 10-year hiatus between championships and the unbelievable way in which they were able to close this one out with Butler’s interception on the goal line.

3.  Georgia State upsets Baylor in first round of NCAA Tournament (March 19, 2015)- On the face of it, Georgia State’s win over Baylor doesn’t rank as big of an upset as several that have occurred in recent NCAA tournaments. In fact, there have been three 15 seeds to beat 2 seeds in the past four years and this was only a 14 seed over a 3. Baylor is also not a traditional powerhouse and has struggled in the early rounds of the Big Dance before. However, the way this upset transpired was what made it truly memorable. The Panthers were all but out of the game trailing by 12 points with only 2:54 to go in the second half. However, the coach’s son and future NBA draftee, R.J. Hunter, led a furious rally that culminated with him hitting a three-pointer with 2.8 seconds left to beat the Bears 57-56. The best part of the entire sequence was Coach/Father Ron Hunter falling out of his chair in celebration after tearing his Achilles tendon the conference championship celebration just a few days before. Hunter then proceeded to roll around in his medically prescribed scooter to celebrate. March Madness at its finest!

4.  American Pharoah wins first-ever Grand Slam of Horse Racing (October 31, 2015)– When the 2015 triple crown campaign began, American Pharoah was not my favorite horse in the field by a long shot. I’ve never been a huge fan the horse’s trainer Bob Baffert fan, and I thought even less of its owner Ahmed Zayat. However, by the time I arrived in Churchill Downs in June for a Kentucky wedding weekend I was buying American Pharoah championship memorabilia left and right. My affection for this horse grew even greater when I got the chance to witness his final race on Halloween at Keeneland in the Breeder’s Cup Classic. That was quite possibly the most historic sporting event I’ve ever attended and this was quite possibly the greatest racehorse of my lifetime.

5.  Golden State Warriors win NBA Championship (June 16, 2015)- The Warriors haven’t historically been one of my two or three favorite teams in the NBA, but I have, like most of America, become particularly fond of this likable squad of undersized shooters. I had the opportunity to see Stephen Curry play in-person four times during his college career and like most scouts I thought he’d make a decent pro, but nothing spectacular. Instead, Curry has become the best player in the league, and this past June, he led these overachieving Warriors to an NBA Championship while playing an exciting, old-school, and high-scoring brand of basketball.

6.  Kansas City Royals win World Series Title (November 1, 2015)– The Royals joined the Warriors as the darlings of professional sports this season when they also utilized a “team first” philosophy to win a world championship in dramatic fashion. This championship was particularly satisfying because of the heartbreaking manner in which the Royals lost last year’s World Series to the Giants (last year’s worst moment # 5).

7.  Michigan State football knocks off defending national champion Ohio State (November 21, 2015)- Despite my issues with the way this years’ college football season played out (see worst moments of 2015 below), my # 1 goal of the season was to have Ohio State not repeat as champion. That was fortunately accomplished thanks to a thrilling road upset by my favorite team in this year’s college football playoff, the Spartans of Michigan State.

8.  Great Britain wins first Davis Cup since 1936 (November 29, 2015)- Andy Murray became my favorite athlete in the current sports world when he ended the great British Wimbledon drought in 2013. Murray added to his incredible tennis legacy this year by ending another long British drought and leading the Brits to the Davis Cup title over Belgium.

9.  U.S. Women’s Soccer win World Cup Championship (July 5, 2015)- Hard to believe that this squad hadn’t won the World Cup since their dramatic 1999 victory over China in the Rose Bowl, but their drought ended in dominating fashion over Japan this summer.

10. Houston Cougars football upsets Florida State in Peach Bowl (December 31, 2015)– Talk about up to the minute updates, as I am writing this blog entry, a sports moment has emerged that warrants inclusion on this list. I absolutely love when “Group of Five” powers (formerly called non-BCS teams) knock off major powers in the big bowl games. These “Group of Five” teams have now gone to 2-0 in the Playoff era as the Cougars just knocked off the Noles of Florida State 38-24. If Clemson falters in the playoff, then I fully expect to rank Houston as the # 1 team in the country in my final CFRA ballot of the season.

Worst Moments:

1.  Wisconsin basketball beats Kentucky in NCAA Final Four (April 4, 2015)- A Kentucky Final Four loss is bad enough but when it derails a historic 38-0 season then that moment becomes the worst of my sports year. I thought all year my Cats would lose at some point, so I was hoping it would happen before the start of the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, it didn’t and the overwhelming pressure of completing an undefeated season ended up being too much for me (sorry, William Shanahan), Big Blue Nation, and Calipari’s young squad, as the Cats fell to the Badgers on 71-64.

2.  Ohio State football wins first National Championship of Playoff Era (January 12, 2015)- I’ve never been a big Ohio State fan, but I certainly don’t hate them as much as entities like Clemson, Duke, and ISIS. Nevertheless, their national championship last year was particularly bothersome for me because they had no business qualifying for the playoffs in the first place (see last year’s worst moment # 2). Both Big 12 co-champs, TCU and Baylor, were more deserving of a playoff bid, but the committee proved to have an inherent bias towards traditional powerhouses and selected the Buckeyes as the # 4 seed in the playoff. Then Ohio State beat my two favorite perennial powerhouses, Alabama and Oregon, to claim the first-ever national championship in the College Football Playoff era.

3.  Holocaust Saturday I (November 7, 2015)- It seemed like almost every College Football Saturday this past fall every team I cheered for found a way to lose a game. The first two Saturdays in November, however, stand out as being particularly bad which is they are listed as # 3 and 4 on this list. On this first “Holocaust Saturday” of November 7 2015, Ole Miss saw its SEC title hopes dashed by a miraculous Arkansas 4th and long conversion in overtime. South Carolina fumbled away their hopes of bowl eligibility on the final drive against Tennessee. East Carolina also saw their bowl hopes dashed by South Florida. Michigan State, my favorite of the unbeatens at that time, choked away a big 4th quarter lead against Nebraska thanks to a controversial catch from a receiver who came in from out of bounds. Vanderbilt blew a golden opportunity to pull off the upset of the year when they lost to Florida on a field goal with 2:22 to play. Kentucky fell to Georgia. TCU had its national championship hopes dashed with a blowout loss to Oklahoma State. Florida State blew a chance to derail Clemson’s playoff hopes and undefeated season. That’s what you call a bad day in sports!

4.  Holocaust Saturday II (November 14, 2015)- Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse in my sports world, the following College Football Saturday of November 14, 2015 ended up being almost as bad as the one that preceded it. On that second “Holocaust Saturday”, the day began with South Carolina football putting the finishing touches on their disastrous 1-7 SEC campaign with a home loss to Florida. Later in the evening, national championship contenders, Baylor, Stanford, and Utah all saw their title hopes dashed thanks to losses to Oklahoma, Oregon, and Arizona all within about an hour of each other. My Boise State Broncos had their conference title hopes derailed at home by New Mexico in a stunning upset. Kentucky’s bowl hopes suffered a major blow with a loss to Vandy. And finally, my favorite MMA fighter, Ronda Rousey, was knocked out in stunning fashion by an unknown challenger named Holly Holm. Another really bad day in the office…

5.  Clemson football completes undefeated regular season (December 5, 2015)- As most of you know, Clemson football and Duke basketball are my two least favorite organizational entities, sports or not, in the entire world. The fact that both of them may soon hold the national championships in their respective sports at the same time is more repulsive to me than being put inside a Human Centipede. I actually picked the Tigers of Clemson to qualify for the College Football Playoff in the preseason so I’m not surprised by this development. The Tigers had their typically easy schedule where all of their tough games fell at home. Despite that, they needed the worst offsides call in the history of football to preserve their win over ACC Title Game win over North Carolina.

6.  Steve Spurrier retires from South Carolina football (October 12, 2015)-The next two entries on this list can be grouped together and titled “The demise of South Carolina football”. Other than my alma mater, Wake Forest, the Gamecocks are my favorite college football program. And not only did they have a shockingly bad 3-9 season this year, but they also had one of the most disappointing coaching transitions of all-time. It all began when Hall of Fame coach Steve Spurrier decided to retire midseason in order to avoid his first losing season in the sport since 1987. Spurrier was not only the greatest coach in South Carolina history but also one of the most charismatic figures in the sport. College football is in a worse place without him and South Carolina is undoubtedly in a worse place without him (see below).

7.  South Carolina football hires Will Muschamp (December 6, 2015)- So who did South Carolina choose to replace possibly the greatest football coach of all-time with? The answer is Will Muschamp, a man that was fired at his only former employer, Florida, which is a much easier place to win than Columbia. Spurrier won a national championship at Florida but couldn’t even win an SEC title at South Carolina. What do you think is going to happen when a guy that couldn’t win at Florida comes to Columbia? A lot of people are high on his early recruiting efforts, but as a Wake Forest fan who tried to be optimistic when the Deacs hired the lowly Jeff Bzdelik to take over their basketball program in 2010, I refuse to support another clearly bad hire.

8.  Dustin Johnson chokes away another major championship at golf’s U.S. Open (June 21, 2015)- My favorite current golfer just can’t seem to get over the hump to win a major championship. His latest disappointment came at the 72nd hole of his year’s U.S. Open Chambers Bay when Johnson had a 12-foot eagle putt to win the championship over Jordan Spieth. Instead of sinking it, Johnson missed it badly and then missed a 5-foot birdie putt which would have forced a compelling 18-hole playoff. I’m hoping Johnson ends up like Michelson and is able to finally get the major championship monkey off his back, but after this many heartbreaking losses, who knows if he’s run out of chances.

9.  The “Streak of the Deac” ends in College Baseball with Virginia’s national championship (June 25, 2015)- One of my favorite sports trivia questions has always been who is the only ACC team to win a baseball national championship? The answer to the question was shockingly Wake Forest– until Virginia became the first ACC squad since the 1955 Demon Deacons to be crowned as champions this past summer. Don’t get me wrong– I would rather have the Cavs win the title as opposed to several other less-likable ACC powerhouses such as: North Carolina Clemson, Florida State, or Miami. However, the heartbreak here lines in having one of Wake Forest’s last great claims to athletic fame come to an end.

10.  Wake Forest soccer loses in Elite 8 of NCAA tournament (December 5, 2015)- The once proud Demon Deacon athletic program has truly collapsed in the past few years. The football program has floundered and failed to produce a winning season since 2008. The basketball team suffered through the Bzdelik years and is still trying to find its identity with Danny Manning. Even the three-time national champion women’s field hockey has come across some relatively hard times recently. That is why it was certainly refreshing this fall for the men’s soccer program to rise to national prominence and obtain the # 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Nevertheless, the Deacs fell to eventual national champion Stanford 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion, falling just short of the College Cup in Kansas City.

Bowl Game Picks

These are in order from my most confident pick to least confident.  Lines are based on the current spreads according to Vegasinsider.com.

Southern Cal (-3.0) vs. Wisconsin- Dec. 30 (10:30)
Texas A & M (-2.5) vs. Louisville- Dec. 30 (7:00)
Ohio (+8.0) vs. Appalachian State- Dec. 19 (5:30)
UCLA (-6.5) vs. Nebraska- Dec. 26 (9:15)
Western Michigan (-3.0) vs. Middle Tennessee- Dec. 24 (12:00)
LSU (-7.0) vs. Texas Tech- Dec. 29 (9:00)
Mississippi State (-5.5) vs. NC State- Dec. 30 (3:30)
Central Michigan (+5.5) vs. Minnesota- Dec. 28 (5:00)
Clemson (+3.5) vs. Oklahoma- Dec. 31 (4:00)
Georgia State (+3.0) vs. San Jose State- Dec. 19 (7:00)

Last Week’s Record: 6-4, Overall Season Record: 68-72

Bowl Game Upsets to Watch Out For

These are in order from least shocking to most shocking according to the lines on vegasinsider.com:

North Carolina (+3.0) vs. Baylor- Dec. 29 (5:30)
Georgia State (+3.0) vs. San Jose State- Dec. 19 (7:00)
South Florida (+3.5) vs. Western Kentucky- Dec. 21 (2:30)
Clemson (+3.5) vs. Oklahoma- Dec. 31 (4:00)
UConn (+4.5) vs. Marshall- Dec. 26 (11:00 AM)
Central Michigan (+5.5) vs. Minnesota- Dec. 28 (5:00)
Air Force (+6.5) vs. California- Dec. 29 (2:00)
Ohio (+8.0) vs. Appalachian State- Dec. 19 (5:30)

Last week’s Upset Pick of the Week: Texas (+20.0) vs. Baylor

Brad’s 2015 Bowl Intrigue Rankings

Some bowl games produce fascinating matchups.  Others produce complete duds.  Here is my ranking of most intriguing bowl games for the 2015 season.

Bowl Game Intrigue Rankings
1 12/31/2015 Cotton Bowl- Semifinal Alabama (12-1) vs. Michigan State (12-1)
2 12/31/2015 Peach Houston (12-1) vs. Florida State (10-2)
3 12/31/2015 Orange Bowl- Semifinal Clemson (13-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-1)
4 1/1/2015 Sugar Ole Miss (9-3) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2)
5 1/1/2015 Rose Iowa (12-1) vs. Stanford (11-2)
6 12/30/2015 Birmingham Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3)
7 1/1/2015 Fiesta Notre Dame (10-2) vs. Ohio State (11-1)
8 12/26/2015 Sun Miami-FL (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)
9 1/2/2015 Alamo TCU (10-2) vs. Oregon (9-3)
10 12/19/2015 Las Vegas Utah (9-3) vs. Brigham Young (9-3)
11 12/29/2015 Russell Athletic North Carolina (11-2) vs. Baylor (9-3)
12 12/26/2015 Pinstripe Duke (7-5) vs. Indiana (6-6)
13 12/21/2015 Miami Beach Western KY (11-2) vs. South Florida (8-4)
14 12/22/2015 Boca Raton Toledo (9-2) vs. Temple (10-3)
15 1/1/2015 Citrus Michigan (9-3) vs. Florida (10-3)
16 12/24/2015 Hawaii Cincinnati (7-5) vs. San Diego State (10-3)
17 1/1/2015 Outback Northwestern (10-2) vs. Tennesse (8-4)
18 12/29/2015 Texas Texas Tech (7-5) vs. LSU (8-3)
19 12/23/2015 Poinsettia Boise State (8-4) vs. Northern Illinois (8-5)
20 12/19/2015 New Mexico Arizona (6-6) vs. New Mexico (7-5)
21 12/26/2015 Independence Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Tulsa (6-6)
22 1/2/2015 Cactus West Virginia (7-5) vs. Arizona State (6-6)
23 1/2/2015 Taxslayer (Gator) Penn State (7-5) vs. Georgia (9-3)
24 12/30/2015 Holiday Wisconsin (9-3) vs. Southern Cal (8-5)
25 12/29/2015 Armed Forces California (7-5) vs. Air Force (8-5)
26 12/30/2015 Music City Texas A & M (8-4) vs. Louisville (7-5)
27 12/28/2015 Military Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Navy (9-2)
28 12/26/2015 Foster Farms Nebraska (5-7) vs. UCLA (8-4)
29 12/30/2015 Belk Mississippi State (8-4) vs. NC State (7-5)
30 1/2/2015 Liberty Kansas State (6-6) vs. Arkansas (7-5)
31 12/19/2015 New Orleans Louisiana Tech (8-4) vs. Arkansas State (9-3)
32 12/22/2015 Famous Idaho Potato Akron (7-5) vs. Utah State (6-6)
33 12/19/2015 Camellia Ohio (8-4) vs. Appalahian State (10-2)
34 12/26/2015 St. Petersburg Uconn (6-6) vs. Marshall (9-3)
35 12/23/2015 GoDaddy Bowling Green (10-3) vs. GA Southern (8-4)
36 12/26/2015 Heart of Dallas Washington (6-6) vs. Southern Miss (9-4)
37 12/28/2015 Quick Lane Minnesota (5-7) vs. Central Michigan (7-5)
38 12/24/2015 Bahamas Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Middle Tenn. (7-5)
39 12/19/2015 Cure San Jose State (5-7) vs. Georgia State (6-6)
40 12/29/2015 Arizona Colorado State (7-5) vs. Nevada (6-6)

Brad’s 14th Annual Mock 16-Team College Football Playoff

For the 14th straight season, I have created a mock college football playoff bracket based my proposed college football playoff system.  I know that a four-team playoff has emerged, but I still think we can do a lot better.  You will see below that 16 is clearly the magic number for the ideal college football playoff, as I will present to you the most comprehensive college football playoff proposal you will see anywhere.  Anyone that would like to see this playoff in an excel bracket format then just let me know, and I’ll send you a copy.

The Field: Clemson (ACC  Champ),  Michigan State (Big 10 Champ), Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ), Stanford (Pac-12 Champ), Alabama (SEC Champ), Houston (AAC Champ), San Diego State (MWC Champ), Western Kentucky (C-USA Champ), Bowling Green (MAC Champ), Arkansas State (Sun Belt Champ), Iowa (at-large, # 5 in Playoff Rankings), Ohio State (at-large, # 7 in Playoff Rankings), Notre Dame (at-large, # 8 in Playoff Rankings), Florida State (at-large, # 9 in Playoff Rankings), North Carolina (at-large, # 10 in Playoff Rankings), TCU (at-large, # 11 in Playoff Rankings)

South Regional

(1) Clemson vs. (4) Arkansas State, Friday December 18th- 8:00 (ESPN), Annapolis, MD

(2) Notre Dame vs. (3) TCU, Thursday December 17th- 8:00 (ESPN), Tampa, FL

Winners play Saturday December 26th at 3:30 in Atlanta, GA (ABC)

West Regional

(1) Oklahoma vs. (4) Western Kentucky, Saturday December 19th- 8:00 (ESPN), San Antonio, TX

(2) Iowa vs. (3) Houston, Saturday December 19th- 3:30 (ESPN), Albuquerque, NM

Winners play Saturday December 26th at 3:30 in Phoenix, AZ (ESPN)

East Regional

(1) Alabama vs. (4) Bowling Green, Saturday December 19th- 12:00 (ABC), Mobile, AL

(2) Ohio State vs. (3) Florida State, Thursday December 19th- 8:00 (ABC), Memphis, TN

Winners play Saturday December 26th at 8:00 in Orlando, FL (ABC)

Midwest  Regional

(1) Michigan State vs. (4) San Diego State Saturday December 19th- 12:00 (ESPN), Houston, TX

(2) Stanford vs. (3) North Carolina, Saturday December 19th- 3:30 (ABC), Las Vegas, NV

Winners play Saturday December 26th at 12:00 in Arlington, TX (ESPN)

Final Four/Championship

South Champ vs. West Champ, Saturday January 2nd- 3:30 (ESPN), Pasadena, CA

East Champ vs. Midwest Champ, Saturday January 2nd- 8:00 (ESPN), New Orleans, LA

Championship Game, Saturday Jan 9th- 8:00 (ESPN), Miami, FL

Basic Format:

  • 16 teams (10 conference championships and 6 at-larges chosen by the top 6 in the Playoff Rankings, which can be chosen exactly as it is now with a committee of 12/13.)
  • 4 regions (teams seeded 1-4 based on committee)
  • Bowl sites will become tourney sites.  See further explanation below.
  • Selection Sunday will be held the day after conference championship day and the first game will be played two weeks after that or one week depending on how late regular season ends.
  • A couple of special stipulations are that two teams from the same conference can’t play in the same region, and each conference is limited to four total playoff teams.

Scheduling:

  • I’ve even drafted a mock game schedule that takes into consideration both the interests of the viewers and  television providers.  I’m going to assume that ABC/ESPN buy the rights to playoff coverage, since they have already purchased future New Year’s Six coverage rights.
  • Week 1 (First Round):  Game 1: Thursday 8:00- second best game of the week (ESPN);  Game 2: Friday 8:00- worst game of the week (ESPN); Games 3 and 4: Saturday 12:00- two non-west region games (ABC/ESPN split); Games 5 and 6: Saturday 3:30- two games of any type (ABC/ESPN split); Games 7 and 8: Saturday 8:00- game of the week is on ABC; ESPN has other game.
  • Week 2 (Elite 8): Game 1: Saturday 12:00- Third biggest game of the week but can’t be midwest/west regional final (ESPN); Game 2: Saturday 3:30- Worst game of the week (ESPN); Game 3: Saturday 3:30- Second biggest game of the week (ABC); Game 4: Saturday 8:00- Featured game of the week (ABC).
  • Week 3 (Final Four): Game 1: Saturday 3:30- Second biggest game of the week (ESPN); Game 2: Saturday 8:00- Featured game of the week (ESPN).
  • Week 4 (Championship Game): Saturday 8:00 (ESPN)

Playoff Sites:

  • Lower-tier bowl sites will become first round sites on a rotational basis.   
  • 2015: Tampa, FL; Annapolis, MD; Memphis, TN; Mobile, AL; San Antonio, TX; Houston, TX; Albuquerque, NM; Las Vegas, NV. 2016: Jacksonville, FL; New York, NY; Shreveport, LA; Birmingham, AL; Fort Worth, TX; Boise, ID; San Francisco, CA; Honolulu, HI. 2017: Charlotte, NC; Detroit, MI; Nashville, TN; St. Petersburg, FL; El Paso, TX; Dallas, TX; Tempe, AZ; San Diego, CA.
  •  The bowl sites of Arlington (Cotton), Orlando, FL (Citrus), Phoenix (Fiesta), and Atlanta (Peach) will be annual elite 8 sites.
  • The Final Four/Championship games will be held in Pasadena, New Orleans, and Miami.  The championship game will rotate between the 3 sites, and the two final four games will be played in the non-championship cities.
  • Other notes: (1) New bowl sites coming into existence must replace old ones.  (2) The first-round sites that are off of the playoff rotation will still hold bowl games.  More explanation on that to follow.

Remaining Bowl Games:

  • This is time where things get tricky, as I try to accommodate the rest of the bowl eligible teams who do not make the 16-team playoff.
  • There will be 20 bowl games held at all the first-round sites who are off  of the playoff rotation and the three bowl-only sites of: Nassau, Bahamas, Montgomery, AL, Tucson, AZ, and Boca Raton, FL.
  • The names of the bowls can either change depending on which bowl is being played each year, or a bowl game can be played every year at different sites.  It doesn’t really make a difference to me.
  • The tie-ins for the bowls will try to replicate those for the current bowl games with the obvious omission of all tie-ins of conference champions.  Also, the number of bowl teams from each conference may fluctuate depending on how many teams it sends to the playoff in a particular season.
  • Overall, in this system there will be 56 1-A postseason teams (16 in playoff, 40 in bowls), which is much more reasonable than the current number of 80.  Honestly, by taking out some of the garbage teams who currently squeak into bowl games, I think this system will actually make the bowl games more meaningful and watchable.