Who would win a 64-team NCAA football tournament this fall if there was one?
With the NCAA basketball tournaments getting going this week, it’s a question ESPN — led by Chris Low — asked and attempted to answer over the course of a few days.
The method went as follows: 64 teams were seeded based mostly upon ESPN’s SP+ projections entering the season, and then each game matchup was briefly analyzed to determine a winner.
As far as Utah teams are concerned, the Utah Utes made the field as a No. 2 seed, while the BYU Cougars got in as a No. 7 seed (the Utah State Aggies did not make the field despite a great 2021 season).
Cutting to the chase, the Utes made it to the Sweet 16, while the Cougars were beat in the first round.
The Utes were the No. 2 seed in the “South” Region and were matched up against the 15th-seeded Memphis Tigers in the first round.
The Utes cruised past the Tigers, winning 33-10. Wrote Low: “There’s a lot to like about Kyle Whittingham’s Utah team in 2022, and the Utes take it to the Tigers with a bruising running game and a defense that racks up seven sacks, one going for a safety.”
In the second round, the Utes faced the seventh-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks and “won” 30-24. Low’s “assessment” of that game read as follows: “Spencer Rattler passes for three touchdowns for the Gamecocks, but they simply can’t stop a Utah running game that piles up 275 yards with Tavion Thomas romping for 150 of those yards to go along with two touchdowns.”
The ride ended for the Utes in the Sweet 16, however, as they “lost” to the NC State Wolfpack 28-24.
Wrote Low: “The Wolfpack captured their first ACC championship since 1979 in the regular season, which had been a long time coming for Pack fans. But their biggest win in decades comes in this matchup of two physical, well-coached teams that isn’t decided until the fourth quarter when quarterback Devin Leary sneaks across the goal line from just inside the 1. It’s on to the Elite Eight for Dave Doeren and the Pack.”
As for BYU, this one is short, as the Cougars, the No. 7 seed in the “West” Region, lost in the first round to the 10th-seeded Purdue Boilermakers 32-29.
Wrote Low: “Jeff Brohm guided Purdue to its first nine-win season since 2003 a year ago, and the Boilermakers continue that wave of momentum with Aidan O’Connell passing for 405 yards and four touchdowns to move into the second round of the tourney.”
As far as the mock tournament as a whole is concerned, No. 1 seed Alabama beat No. 3 seed Oklahoma in the first semifinal, and then No. 1 seed Ohio State beat No. 2 seed Texas A&M in the second semifinal (Georgia and Michigan were the other No. 1 seeds).
Then in the “championship game,” Ohio State beat Alabama 34-30.