Early afternoon games:
#16 Troy v. #1 Alabama
Last year, Troy gave Oklahoma a scare despite never leading that prophesied the Sooners’ upset at the hands of USC. This year, Troy finally led… once. They got the ball to start the game and drove down the field for a field goal. Then after three runs by Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson ran off a 47-yard touchdown run. Alabama would score on their next drive as well, and though they went three-and-out on their next drive, they’d score a touchdown on all but the last drive of the second quarter, including a 62-yard punt return (though with a slight breeze and light rain, Leigh Tiffin missed three out of four extra points in the quarter), entering the half up 39-6 and on its way to a win that was more of an early-season guarantee game than a tournament game, proving the importance of seeding. Dueling “Bring on the Canes!” and “Bring on the Ducks!” chants echo across the field for most of the second half. Ingram made his last pitch for the Heisman with nearly ten yards a carry, four runs of over 20 yards, and a touchdown.
Final score: Troy 13, Alabama 62
#15 East Carolina v. #2 Cincinnati
East Carolina, especially their defense, played tougher than the final score indicated last year against Texas. This time the offenses came out to play, as Brian Kelly’s departure seemed to be a minor distraction for the Bearcats. Tony Pike went three for four on the Bearcats’ first drive of the game en route to a touchdown, the teams traded field goals, then East Carolina went three-and-out and Pike drove the Bearcats 66 yards for another touchdown. A 35-yard run by Brandon Jackson and 26-yard pass to Darryl Freeney sets up the Pirates for a touchdown of their own, but while the Bearcats are forced to punt on their next drive, Marcus Waugh picks off Patrick Pinkney to set up a 60-yard Isaiah Pead touchdown run the next play. East Carolina picks up another touchdown to enter the half down only 7, but most of the analysts think Cincinnati is just on the verge of putting this game away.
Sure enough, the first drive of the second half ends in a Bearcat touchdown, and answers a Pirate field goal with a 41-yard Pead run for another touchdown. The two teams trade touchdowns to start the fourth quarter, leaving Cincinnati up 45-27 with 9:30 to play. East Carolina unsuccessfully goes for it on fourth and 18 on the Cincinnati 36, but then forces Cincinnati to go three-and-out and blocks the ensuing punt, allowing them to cut the lead to 11 (they elect not to go for two). They kick the ball away with 3:28 left rather than go for an onside kick, but the defense forces another three-and-out. The Pirates can’t pick up the first down, though, and another lengthy Pead touchdown run ices the game. Still, did the Pirates provide a blueprint for other teams to potentially crack the Bearcat defense?
Final score: East Carolina 34, Cincinnati 52
#10 LSU v. #7 Iowa
Unlike Pete Carroll last year, Les Miles doesn’t complain too strongly about the sub-freezing temperatures, knowing his team was lucky just to get into the field. Iowa drew first blood about midway through the first quarter with a field goal, then on the first play of the next drive Adam Robinson got a 38-yard gain into Tigers territory, followed later by a 23-yard gain on a screen pass to Tony Moeaki that falls just short of the end zone. Iowa punches it in to end the quarter up 10-0, and goes on another field goal drive to open the second. A freak play happens on the second play from scrimmage on LSU’s ensuing drive as Keiland Williams breaks free for a 63-yard run all the way to the 8 only to have the ball knocked free before he can make the end zone, giving the ball back to the Hawkeyes on their own 8, but while they proceed to drive close enough for a 45-yard field goal attempt, it sails wide left and LSU burns the clock for most of the rest of the half with a drive that ends with LSU finally getting on the board with a field goal, entering the half down 13-3.
LSU’s first drive of the second half also ends in a field goal to cut the deficit to 7, but another big Moeaki screen on the ensuing drive helps set up another Iowa touchdown to make it a two-score game again, and Iowa widens the lead further when Robinson breaks out for a 55-yard touchdown run off a draw. Thanks in part to a 46-yard run off a screen by Richard Dickson off the first play from scrimmage, LSU cuts the deficit back to 14 on the ensuing drive, but Les Miles elects not to onside kick with 10 minutes left. Iowa drives into LSU territory again but Chris Hawkins picks off Ricky Stanzi, giving LSU the ball back with 5:52 left, but they can only muster one first down and Iowa tacks on a field goal to put it away. Robinson is the star of the game with over 200 yards rushing, including the two big runs and three touchdowns, and the Big Ten finally has concrete evidence that those southern teams can’t come up north.
Final score: LSU 13, Iowa 30
Late afternoon games:
#14 Central Michigan v. #3 Florida
Tim Tebow is picked off on Florida’s first drive, hurting his Heisman candidacy. But he didn’t win the Heisman he already has for his throwing. It’s a combination of his legs and his arm that drive the Gators down 91 yards on the next drive for a touchdown. But the Gators don’t score and only pick up one first down the rest of the half, while the Chippewas penetrate Gator territory on their first full drive of the second quarter, punt, and return the Gators’ punt to the Florida 34. Andrew Aguila misses a 39-yard attempt, though, and Central Michigan can’t score at all in the first half. A long Mike Gillislee run sets up another Florida touchdown, but Central Michigan in the third quarter provides the biggest scare the Gators have had in the entire Golden Bowl tournament. Aguila misses from 45 but Florida goes three-and-out and Aguila redeems himself with a successful try from 49 yards out, the first score the Gators have allowed in the second half of a tournament game since WhatIfSports has been used to simulate the Golden Bowl Tournament, and when Emmanuel Moody loses the ball on the Gators’ second play from scrimmage and the Chippewas return it for a touchdown, the Gators are up only four, their tightest second-half lead in tournament history.
After the teams exchange three-and-outs, Tebow enters the fourth needing to put the game away or risk seeing his Heisman candidacy completely vanish. But Florida crosses the quarter break with another three-and-out, the ensuing punt gives the Chippewas good field position, and they finally pick up a first down. That’s it, though: they go three-and-out from there, punt, and watch as Tebow runs for 49 yards on a 90-yard drive ending with a 19-yard Jeffery Demps run for a touchdown. Dan LeFevour gains 8 on second down on the ensuing drive and a Florida encroachment penalty gives the Chippewas the first down, but LeFevour is sacked on second, sees Kito Poblah brought down just short of the marker on third, and on fourth-and-1 completes it to Bryan Anderson, who picks up the first down only to lose the ball with 3:11 left. Tebow takes care of the remaining clock and finishes with one of his biggest running efforts in the Golden Bowl tournament, gaining 84 yards on 25 attempts, and isn’t too shabby passing either, but Demps is the player of the game with over five yards a carry (75 yards on 14 attempts) and scoring all the Gators’ touchdowns. LeFevour isn’t shabby, going 10-for-16 passing, but it isn’t quite enough on this day.
Final score: Central Michigan 10, Florida 21 (since Florida has first-and-goal with 1:52 left and Central Michigan burns their last timeout after the play that gave them the first, I’m ignoring the madness of the last 38 seconds)
#13 Boise State v. #4 Georgia Tech
Vindication for those who felt Georgia Tech didn’t deserve to be seeded over Texas. And finally, Golden Bowl Tournament verification for the non-BCS schools. It wasn’t even close: Boise State scored touchdowns on every drive of the first half, going into halftime up 35-13. They’re finally held to a three-and-out on their first drive of the second half, and Jonathan Dwyer gets a 53-yard run that sets up a Jacket touchdown to cut the deficit to 15. With an astonishing 246 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown, Dwyer would be the player of the game if the defense could get a stop. Instead D.J. Harper’s only reception of the game is a 44-yard touchdown, Dwyer is stripped on the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive, leading to another touchdown, and Boise State is up 49-20 after three quarters, with the Broncos icing the game two minutes into the fourth with a 72-yard Doug Martin touchdown run. Only four Bronco drives the entire game don’t end in touchdowns, and one of them ends in victory formation. Kellen Moore is the star, going 17-for-21 passing with four touchdowns, and Martin pitches in with, in addition to his game-icer, 66 yards on 11 carries and another touchdown.
Final score: Boise State 56, Georgia Tech 27 (ignoring the completely unnecessary field goal at the end – seriously, Moore takes a knee with 16 seconds left and the Broncos still trot out the field goal unit?)
#11 Virginia Tech v. #6 TCU
The non-BCS schools didn’t need Boise State to bring them vindication, though it was nice. TCU never trailed, driving 79 yards for a touchdown on the first drive of the game, but Virginia Tech kept it close for a half, evening the score on the next drive when Ryan Williams takes the ball on a draw and goes 63 yards for the touchdown. TCU gets a chip shot field goal, but after the teams trade three-and-outs Beamer Ball comes into play as the TCU punt is returned into Horned Frogs territory, allowing the Hokies to start the second with a field goal to re-tie the game. But the Hokies wouldn’t score again, TCU picked up a touchdown before the half, and put the game away in the third quarter with three more touchdowns, the first on a 51-yard run by Edward Wesley. The star, though, is Matthew Tucker, who gets 136 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns.
Final score: Virginia Tech 10, TCU 48
#12 Ohio State v. #5 Texas
I simulated two alternatives for this game to reflect the fact WhatIfSports doesn’t have a “fog” option, with no middle ground between “clear skies” and “occasional light rain“. (I think I had a similar situation last year, but don’t remember what I did. In retrospect, maybe I should have simulated a light wind.) Fundamentally, they’re pretty much the same: Texas scores a field goal if anything in the first quarter. In the “clear” game, they break it open in the second quarter, starting it with another field goal and getting an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown on the ensuing drive; Tre Newton finally puts an offensive touchdown on the board before the half, and while the second play from scrimmage in the second half is a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown by Todd Denlinger, it’s Ohio State’s only score of the game. Colt McCoy drives to third-and-goal from the 1 but can’t punch it in either time on the ensuing drive, but after a Buckeye three-and-out Texas gets the ball back on the 7 and finish the job. Terrell Pryor can’t complete a pass all game, going 0-12 with an interception, and nets no yardage on the ground.
The “rainy” game is more interesting, as Texas picks up a touchdown early in the second quarter, but Ohio State kicks three field goals to take the lead into the half. Texas still puts away the game in the second half, though, getting into the end zone on their second drive of the half, then seeing Brandon Saine cough up the ball on Ohio State’s second play from scrimmage to set up a 52-yard Newton touchdown run. Blake Gideon picks off Terrell Pryor shortly into the fourth quarter for another touchdown, and the Longhorns put the game away with two field goals to go up 34-9 with 3:13 to play. In both games, neither QB is impressive with each throwing a pick (in the clear game, McCoy is 25-for-34 for 275 yards but never puts the ball in the end zone; in the rainy game, McCoy’s 15-for-23 for 146 yards and a TD slightly outplays Pryor’s 8-for-18 for 114 yards with 15 yards on as many carries on the ground, but it isn’t Heisman-caliber) and Newton is the player of the game with 76 (clear game) or 115 (rainy game) yards rushing on 16 carries with at least two touchdowns: three running in the clear game, one running and one receiving in the rainy game.
Final score: Ohio State 7 or 9, Texas 37 or 34 (I’m ignoring the last field goal in the clear game – WhatIfSports was really bad with this, wasn’t it?)
#9 Oregon v. #8 Miami (FL)
Things start out well for Oregon. They force a three-and-out on the game’s first drive and, in breezy conditions, get the ball back on the Hurricane 14, drawing first blood with a quick touchdown. But later, Jacory Harris gets three big plays to start a drive en route to a touchdown of Miami’s own, evening the score after one, and another big play helps set up another touchdown midway through the second. LaMichael James re-evens the score with a 71-yard touchdown run off a draw with about two and a half remaining before the half, but the ensuing kickoff is returned almost to midfield, helping set up another Miami touchdown that gives Miami the lead at the half.
Oregon drives 67 yards for a 28-yard field goal to start the second half, cutting the deficit to four, but Miami gets good field position off the kickoff again and Damien Berry breaks open a 32-yard touchdown run. James picks up another big touchdown run, this time 66 yards, but Miami’s own James, Javarris, responds with a 39-yard touchdown run of his own and Miami leads 35-24 after three. Oregon’s most concerted comeback attempt begins with about six minutes left on the clock, but it stalls in the red zone, giving Miami the ball back with 2:35 left, and Berry proceeds to ice the game with an 82-yard touchdown run. The questions surrounding the decision not to give Oregon home field advantage will still be asked after this one, where the Hurricanes seemed to vindicate the respect the committee continues to give the ACC. Despite the loss, LaMichael James is the player of the game with three runs of over 20 yards en route to a 217-yard day off 20 carries and two touchdowns.
Final score: Oregon 24, Miami (FL) 42
#8 Miami (FL) v. #1 Alabama
Miami tamed Oregon’s high-powered offense by racking up even more points. Now they have to crack the Bama defense and figure out how to stop still-likely Heisman winner Mark Ingram.
#7 Iowa v. #2 Cincinnati
Brian Kelly is gone (even though it won’t show in the simulation) and Tony Pike is going up against a good pass defense. Upset alert?
#6 TCU v. #3 Florida
Face it, these last two games are the ones everyone wants to see. How about this for Tim Tebow’s last game in the Swamp? He has to face a team that’s run the table to this point, one whose defense can match Florida’s on the stat sheet. And Florida hasn’t faced an offense that’s racked up as many stats as TCU. But Florida’s rushing attack is still potent, and they still have Tebow.
#13 Boise State v. #5 Texas
It’s an offense that scored more points than anyone against one of the top defenses in the country. And Colt McCoy. One team will leave still undefeated; the other is likely opening the new year in Cowboys Stadium.
Bowl schedule, modified and unmodified, hopefully coming tomorrow (although since Ohio State and Oregon both lost I’m conflicted about the Rose Bowl); quarterfinals to be posted December 27.