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College football dream tournament: The Bear sneaks into the semifinals

Bear Bryant YouTube

Our single-elimination battle of college football champions continues with four quarterfinal battles. Catch up on the results here:

Once more, here’s the methodology.

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.

These aren’t picks or predictions; they’re an attempt to simulate the randomness of a single-elimination tournament. I might run all of this again at the end just for grins. And to get Miami fans off of my back for the 2001 Canes losing. Sorry your team was merely great and not By Far The Best Team Of All-Time, One That Would Have Had A 100% Chance Of Beating Every Champion ever.

On to the quarterfinals!

1899-1920 Region

  • (2) 1908 LSU (win prob: 45.0%) def. (1) 1902 Michigan

We have a (slight) upset! Edgar Wingard’s ringers Tigers take down mighty turn-of-century Michigan!

1921-52 Region

  • (1) 1945 Army (win prob: 74.1%) def. (7) 1943 Notre Dame

No upset here. Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside, and the best supporting cast imaginable take care of business against Frank Leahy’s first Irish title team.

1953-84 Region

  • (18) 1973 Alabama (win prob: 49.7%) def. (13) 1953 Maryland

The dream is dead in College Park. Jim Tatum’s underdog Terps fall to an even bigger underdog.

A few 1973 Bama facts.

  1. The Tide got into this tournament on a technicality. They lost to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl and lost the AP national title vote in the process. But for some strange reason, the UPI was still crowning its champion before the bowls. And since the Tide graded out better than the Irish per S&P+, they got the ‘73 bid in this tournament.
  2. The Sugar Bowl loss was maybe the most scarring of the 1970s for the Tide. Granted, they only lost 11 times between 1971-79, so the competition for that crown isn't fierce. Still, this would have been Bama's first AP title since the controversial 1966 title race, when an 11-0 Bama team lost to a Notre Dame squad that had just settled for a tie against Michigan State. And to lose it to the Irish? Ouch.
  3. It was also a jarring loss because this team was so damn good. Tackle Buddy Brown, receiver Wayne Wheeler, and linebacker Woodrow Lowe were all named All-Americans, Wilbur Jackson rushed for 752 yards at 7.9 yards per carry, quarterbacks Gary Rutledge and Richard Todd combined 1,222 passing yards with 813 rushing yards and 20 combined touchdowns, and until the bowl loss, the Tide had beaten every opponent on the schedule by at least 14 points. That includes No. 10 Tennessee (42-21 in Birmingham) and No. 7 LSU (21-7 in Baton Rouge).
  4. This was Bama’s third season of running the wishbone and fielding an integrated team. It was also the third year of Bear Bryant’s best decade. Between 1971-80, the Tide won at least 10 games nine times (a harder feat with only 11 regular season games) and finished in the top 5 seven times. They won two AP titles in this span but came close to so many more.
  5. Back to the bowl loss for a second. (Sorry, Bama fans.) Though Bo Schembechler's and Woody Hayes' teams were known for fighting their guts out against each other in the regular season and leaving nothing in the tank for the postseason, Bama had a hell of a run of bowl problems as well. The Tide lost their bowls in 1967 (20-16 to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl), 1968 (35-10 to Missouri in the Gator Bowl), and 1969 (47-33 to Colorado in the Liberty Bowl), tied Oklahoma in the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl, and lost in 1971 (38-6 to Nebraska in the title-deciding Orange Bowl) and 1971 (17-13 to Texas in the Cotton Bowl). They would go on to lose to Notre Dame again to finish 1974 (13-11 in the Orange Bowl) before turning things around dramatically: They won six in a row after this destitute streak.

This was far from Bryant’s best team, but it was a good one. And it’s Alabama’s representative in the Dream Tournament semis.

1985-2016 Region

  • (2) 2005 Texas (win prob: 59.2%) def. (12) 1987 Miami

The train keeps rolling for Vince Young and the untouchable Texas Longhorns.


Your Dream Tournament semifinals:

I thought about shuffling the deck and pitting the newest and oldest teams against each other in the semis, but we’ll keep it straight-forward.

  • 1908 LSU vs. 1945 Army
  • 1973 Alabama vs. 2005 Texas

It’s going to take an upset to prevent an Army-Texas final. Army’s projected win probability over LSU is 76.1%, and Texas’ over Alabama is 63.8%.