Who'd win our 68-team college football bracket project?

BySharon Katz and Mark Schlabach ESPN logo
Friday, May 13, 2016

Over the past two weeks, we've taken a fun look at how a 68-team college football bracket would be built, then how the first few rounds would play out.

Now let's look at how the Final Four would go down.

A reminder about how we got to this point. Using the 2016 Way-Too-Early Top 25 and the initial Football Power Index ratings, we set up a bracket and played out two rounds, with picks coming from Mark Schlabach's crystal ball and Sharon Katz's FPI wisdom. Then, last week, Schlabach and Katz projected the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.

To see who's your imaginary 2016 CFB 68-team national champions -- and Schlabach and FPI weren't even close to mirroring each other, if you're wondering -- keep reading.


Schlabach's bracket:

(1) Alabama Crimson Tide over (2) Stanford Cardinal

(1) Florida State Seminoles over (2) Clemson Tigers

Katz's bracket:

(2) Oklahoma Sooners over (6) Oklahoma State Cowboys

(2) LSU Tigers over (2) Clemson Tigers

Schlabach's breakdown:Like the quarterfinals, the existing New Year's Six bowl games would be incorporated into a 68-team tournament. Under this scenario, the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl would host a semifinal game between No. 1 seed Florida State and No. 2 seed Clemson, and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl would host the other matchup between No. 1 seed Alabama and No. 2 seed Stanford. The Fiesta Bowl would be a rematch of a regular-season game between bitter ACC foes. After beating Clemson at home during the regular season, the Seminoles would complete the sweep with a thrilling 34-31 victory. In the other matchup in Atlanta, Alabama's defense would contain Christian McCaffrey enough to walk away with a hard-fought 24-20 win.

Katz's breakdown:Bedlam Take Two? Because of the way the bracket aligned, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both advanced to the Final Four despite the Cowboys having only the seventh-best chance to make it that far. Last year, Oklahoma rolled to a 58-23 win over Oklahoma State, and FPI again would give the Sooners the edge (66 percent chance to win) entering the season in 2016.

On the other side of the bracket, Heisman hopefuls Deshaun Watson and Leonard Fournette are sure to impress with a trip to the national championship on the line. Ultimately, FPI expects the Tigers' (much-improved) offense to be too much for Clemson's defense, which is again tasked with replacing the majority of its defensive starters.


Schlabach's bracket:

(1) Alabama over (1) Florida State

Schlabach's breakdown: After playing five games in five weeks (and 15 games in the season to date), Alabama and FSU would finally get a weekend off before playing in the inaugural College Football Tournament Championship Game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. After a closer-than-expected 27-24 win, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban would join legendary Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Byrant as the only coaches in college football history to guide their teams to six national championships. Alabama's defense will lead it to its fifth national title in eight seasons.

Katz's bracket:

(2) LSU over (2) Oklahoma

Katz's breakdown:And your FPI national champion is -- LSU. Well, sort of. If this bracket was played out, FPI would give LSU the best chance to win the tournament, but it would win only about 15 percent of the time. What does FPI see in the Tigers? They return an FBS-high 18 starters, including Fournette, to a team that has been consistently efficient over the past few years. Oklahoma would provide a tough challenge, but ultimately LSU would be favored in a rematch of the 2004 Sugar Bowl, leading to the Tigers' first national championship since 2007. (For full projections of every team's chances in every round of this hypothetical tournament, according to preseason FPI, click here.)

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