Clemson prevails in 64-team college football bracket – ESPN


The field in ESPN.com’s fictitious and fun 64-team college football tournament has been trimmed to 16 teams. Now it’s time to find out which one can go all the way.

All four No. 1 seeds, based on ESPN’s 2018 preseason FPI — Clemson, Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State — are still alive in their respective brackets. Three of the No. 2 seeds are still playing, too. But the final rounds could feature some upsets.

Here’s how we got to the Sweet 16. Now, let’s see which teams will continue to survive.


EAST REGION

Regional semifinals

(1) Clemson 45, (4) Miami 20: The Canes will be just a bit motivated after dropping their past two games to Clemson by a combined score of 96-3. Mark Richt’s team competes well and takes a halftime lead before Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and the Clemson defensive line slam the door. Kelly Bryant throws two second-half touchdowns, and the Tigers move on.

(3) Michigan State 23, (7) LSU 21: The Nick-Saban-Used-To-Coach-Here Bowl will feature a good dose of defense and run plays. Ultimately, the better quarterback prevails, as Brian Lewerke makes several clutch throws on two fourth-quarter drives to send the Spartans into the Elite Eight.

Regional final

(1) Clemson 35, (3) Michigan State 27: Two of the more complete teams in the tournament put on an entertaining show, as Lewerke boosts the Spartans early before Clemson’s superior line play takes over. Hunter Renfrow hauls in the go-ahead touchdown, and then the Tigers stop a Michigan State drive in the red zone. Clemson returns to the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight year.

How we got here:
First round: (1) Clemson over (16) South Florida, (2) Penn State over (15) Pitt, (3) Michigan State over (14) Arkansas, (4) Miami over (13) UCLA, (12) Ole Miss over (5) Florida State, (11) Kansas State over (6) Florida, (7) LSU over (10) Boise State, (9) TCU over (8) Missouri

Second round: (1) Clemson over (9) TCU, (7) LSU over (2) Penn State, (3) Michigan State over (11) Kansas State, (4) Miami over (12) Ole Miss


SOUTH REGION

Regional semifinals

(1) Alabama 31, (5) Texas 14: It’s the end of the line for a Texas team that makes obvious improvement in Tom Herman’s second season. Todd Orlando’s defense holds Tua Tagovailoa in check for 2½ quarters, but Texas doesn’t have the firepower to do much against Raekwon Davis and the Tide D. Nick Saban’s crew pulls away late.

(2) Auburn 42, (11) Arizona 30: Quarterbacks Jarrett Stidham and Khalil Tate show why they gained All-America honors, as both offenses surge for most of the game. Auburn has a clear edge on defense, though, and linemen Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson and Dontavius Russell create some late stops.

Regional final

(2) Auburn 27, (1) Alabama 25: An Iron Bowl rematch in the Elite Eight? Yes, please. Although Alabama gets revenge for last year’s loss in the regular-season game in Tuscaloosa, Auburn pulls off the upset here. Stidham outplays Tagovailoa in the second half, and the kicking game costs Alabama, which misses two field goals, including a 43-yarder in the closing seconds. Gus Malzahn takes his team to Waffle House to celebrate.

How we got here:
First round:
(1) Alabama over (16) Fresno State, (2) Auburn over (15) Minnesota, (14) UCF over (3) Oklahoma, (4) Mississippi State over (13) Arizona State, (5) Texas over (12) North Carolina, (11) Arizona over (6) Georgia Tech, (10) Wake Forest over (7) Cal, (8) West Virginia over (9) Louisville

Second round: (1) Alabama over (8) West Virginia, (2) Auburn over (10) Wake Forest, (11) Arizona over (10) UCF, (5) Texas over (4) Mississippi State


SOUTHEAST REGION

Regional semifinals

(1) Georgia 31, (4) USC 24:The Bulldogs get boosts from both of their young quarterbacks, Jake Fromm and Justin Fields, to rally past USC. Linebacker Cameron Smith sparks an improved USC defense, but Georgia’s D will be nationally elite by this point and bottles up Stephen Carr down the stretch and forces a late interception.

(2) Notre Dame 35, (11) NC State 23: It won’t be as one-sided as last year’s game in South Bend, where Notre Dame ran through a Wolfpack defense filled with future pros. Ryan Finley keeps his team in it for three quarters before Notre Dame’s offensive line and run game take control. Alize Mack hauls in two touchdowns as the Irish move on.

Regional final

(1) Georgia 23, (2) Notre Dame 17: If you enjoyed last year’s game in South Bend, get ready for a similar one in the Elite Eight. Both defenses shine before a bipartisan crowd — no Dawg takeover this time — but Fields leads a late touchdown drive, finding Terry Godwin, who breaks Notre Dame’s hearts again with a spectacular catch in the end zone.

How we got here:

First round: (1) Georgia over (16) Washington State, (2) Notre Dame over (15) Maryland, (3) Michigan over (14) Kentucky, (4) USC over (13) Tennessee, (12) Purdue over (5) Oregon, (11) NC State over (6) Oklahoma State, (7) Iowa over (10) Texas Tech, (9) Utah over (8) Duke

Second round: (1) Georgia over (9) Utah, (2) Notre Dame over (7) Iowa, (11) NC State over (3) Michigan, (4) USC over (12) Purdue


MIDWEST REGION

Regional semifinals

(4) Stanford 28, (1) Ohio State 24: FPI loves Stanford’s offense (No. 5 nationally) going into the season, but the Cardinal defense will gain more respect in this one. Ohio State’s big-game inexperience at quarterback proves costly, as Stanford forces three turnovers. The Cardinal control the clock with Bryce Love and an offensive line that carries the day against Nick Bosa & Co.

(2) Washington 28, (6) Virginia Tech 17: The Huskies’ offensive experience and rapidly improving defense start to turn it on in this tournament. Jake Browning throws three touchdown passes, and Washington records two second-half takeaways to move on.

Regional final

(4) Stanford 27, (2) Washington 25: After missing the 2017 CFP, the Pac-12 is assured of a spot this time. Much like with Auburn and Alabama, the regular-season loser storms back to win in the tournament. Love breaks off two 60-yard touchdown runs, and Stanford wins the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter.

How we got here:
First round:
(1) Ohio State over (16) Houston, (2) Washington over (15) San Diego State, (3) Wisconsin over (14) Syracuse, (4) Stanford over (13) Nebraska, (5) Texas A&M over (12) Memphis, (6) Virginia Tech over (11) Iowa State, (10) Baylor over (7) South Carolina, (9) Boston College over (8) Northwestern

Second round: (1) Ohio State over (9) Boston College, (2) Washington over (10) Baylor, (6) Virginia Tech over (3) Wisconsin, (4) Stanford over (5) Texas A&M


NATIONAL SEMIFINALS

(1) Clemson 31, (4) Stanford 20: Line play jumps out in this one, as Stanford’s offensive line and Clemson’s defensive line clash. The Cardinal start slowly only to rally back behind Love. But Clemson holds on behind Kelly Bryant, who evades Stanford defenders to pick up first downs and bleed the clock down the stretch.

(1) Georgia 27, (2) Auburn 21: The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry shifts from the SEC championship game in 2017 to the national semifinal stage. Georgia, which edged Auburn between the hedges several weeks earlier, wins the line of scrimmage and pressures Stidham into several errant throws. Freshman running back Zamir White has two touchdowns as the Dawgs move on.


NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

(1) Clemson 28, (1) Georgia 27: It’s more heartbreak for Georgia in familiar fashion. The Bulldogs jump ahead by 10 before Clemson’s defensive line tightens up to shut down Swift, White and the run game. After an ineffective first half, Dabo Swinney benches Bryant in favor of true freshman Trevor Lawrence, a native of Cartersville, Georgia, who leads Clemson on the decisive touchdown drive.


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