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College football dream tournament: Another upset brings us closer to a 1945 Army-2005 Texas final

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Texas v UCLA

We are ready for the Round of 16 in our 128-team tournament of national champions. Here’s how things have played out so far.

And here’s your regular remind of what exactly we’re doing here:

1. We’re going to pit national champions from the last 128 years against each other. In the many instances in which more than one team claims a title from a given year, I’ll use Estimated S&P+ to determine the participant — the highest-rated team gets in.

2. We’ll break them up into four ‘regions’ based on the year. Teams from 1889-1920 go in one region, from 1921-52 in another, from 1953-84 in another, and 1985-2016 in another.

3. Within each ‘region,’ we’ll seed the teams based on Estimated S&P+.

4. To simulate each game, we’ll determine win probability based on each team’s Estimated S&P+ rating, then use a random number generator to determine the winner.

Of the top eight seeds (i.e. the top two in each region), only four remain: 1902 Michigan, 1908 LSU, 1945 Army, and 2005 Texas. The recent regions have gotten rather messy. But when everyone in the bracket is a national champion, it’s not like you’ll be lacking for quality.

Let’s simulate the Round of 16!

1899-1920 Region

  • (1) 1902 Michigan (win prob: 65.0%) def. (13) 1917 Georgia Tech

I still think S&P+ undersells the 1917 Georgia Tech team a tad, but it’s hard to object to 1902 Michigan beating just about anybody. This was a team, after all, that beat opponents by a combined 644-12.

Fielding Yost's Wolverines beat Michigan State and Ohio State by a combined 205-0. Notre Dame went 6-2-1 that year but lost to Michigan, 23-0. Minnesota went 9-2-1 but fell, 23-6. And Amos Alonzo Stagg's Chicago otherwise went 14-0 in 1902 but fell at home to Yost's squad, 21-0. So yeah, they could probably handle Georgia Tech and the John Heisman jump shift as well.

  • (2) 1908 LSU (win prob: 54.5%) def. (6) 1890 Harvard

LSU’s team of ringers will face Yost’s old-rules juggernaut.

1921-52 Region

  • (1) 1945 Army (win prob: 70.7%) def. (5) 1946 Notre Dame

How good was 1945 Army? Against the 1946 Notre Dame team that outscored opponents, 271-24, the Cadets were 71 percent favorites. Absurd. (Read more about 1945 Army here, of course.)

  • (7) 1943 Notre Dame (win prob: 55.2%) def. (11) 1924 Notre Dame

Army survived one Notre Dame team. Now one more stands in the way of a Final Four bid as Frank Leahy’s 1943 squad takes down the Four Horsemen.

1953-84 Region

  • (13) 1953 Maryland (win prob: 34.5%) def. (1) 1971 Nebraska

BREAK UP THE TERPS. Holy smokes. Jim Tatum’s 1953 Maryland squad had already beaten 1974 Oklahoma in the second round; now they take down what my father says is an overrated 1971 Nebraska squad. Okay, I don’t think he thinks the entire team is overrated ... just Johnnie Rodgers. (He will insist to you that Rodgers wouldn’t have won the Heisman without a block in the back that year.) Regardless: MARYLAND IS IN THE ELITE EIGHT.

  • (11) 1973 Alabama (win prob: 54.6%) def. (18) 1976 Pitt

Pitt’s own Cinderella run comes to an end, and we’ll have either a No. 11 or No. 13 seed in the Final Four.

1985-2016 Region

  • (12) 1987 Miami (win prob: 58.7%) def. (25) 1992 Alabama

And one Alabama team remains. Jimmy Johnson’s only national championship squad scores enough on Gene Stallings’ defense to advance.

  • (2) 2005 Texas (win prob: 73.9%) def. (30) 1990 Colorado

And the ultimate Cinderella run comes to an end. After taking down seemingly every top team in the region, 1990 Colorado falls to the behemoth that was 2005 Texas. And thanks to chaos in the 1953-84 Region, Mack Brown’s Horns are now favorites to reach the finals against 1945 Army. But being a favorite has only meant so much in this tournament.


Your Elite Eight:
  • 1902 Michigan vs. 1908 LSU
  • 1943 Notre Dame vs. 1945 Army
  • 1953 Maryland vs. 1973 Alabama
  • 1987 Miami vs. 2005 Texas