With the SEC and nearly every conference in America working through their basketball tournaments this week, and the NCAA Tournament about a week away, we've transitioned into bracket season, a time for anxiety, hope, and crushed wills to go on due to upsets. What if we got that same insanity on the gridiron? What if there was an SEC Tournament for football?
For the purpose of eliciting Internet shouting over a fictional and impossible scenario, we created a tournament bracket for last season's football teams and ran them through a simulator.
Here's how it works
- Each team (including Missouri, who's ineligible for this year's hoops tournament, and was essentially ineligible during all of last football season) was seeded 1 through 14 based on the 2015 regular season SEC football standings, with Alabama at No. 1 and South Carolina at No. 14.
- Tiebreakers relied on head-to-head results, but in the case of a three-way tie, like the one with Georgia, Arkansas, and LSU, overall record was used, then the head-to-head score could be used to break the tie between the other two teams.
- The 14 teams were then put into the single-elimination bracket used by the SEC Basketball Tournament. To determine who wins each matchup, I relied not on hours of statistical analysis and general feelings about each team, but on the wizardry of WhatIfSports, a site that allows one to simulate games between teams from the past 20 years.
- For example, if you were dying to know who would win between Ed Orgeron's 2007 Ole Miss team and Houston Nutt's Ole Miss 2011 team, WhatIfSports would tell you the answer is Orgeron's team, 30-13. And praise the good Lord above we could never be subjected to such a game.
- Finally, to promote maximum chaos, each game in this football tournament was simulated just one time with no repeats.
So here's how the bracket would look on the first day of the tournament, which would be played at what will most likely be Laremy Tunsil's new home stadium in Nashville.
(12) Kentucky 19, (13) Missouri 3
(11) Vanderbilt 31, (14) South Carolina 7
Some highlights of day one included five first-half field goals by Kentucky and Missouri:
And Patrick Towles and Drew Lock doing their parts to keep the parade of field goals going:
The first day was miserable, so let's say we kick things up on Day 2.
(8) Texas A&M 34, (9) Mississippi State 31
(12) Kentucky 44, (5) Georgia 20
(7) LSU 17, (10) Auburn 14
(6) Arkansas 34, (11) Vanderbilt 24
First off, Mark Richt REALLY lost control of Georgia. Or maybe the WhatIfSports simulator is a big Miami booster and wanted to make sure that he got that job. Or maybe Kentucky's basketball team played this game. Who knows what happened, but this imaginary 24-point win marked the first time Kentucky football beat an SEC team by more than three touchdowns since 2003 when they defeated Mississippi State 45-17.
Speaking of the Bulldogs, a brutal loss to Texas A&M. This is how that one ended:
/Dan Mullen wasn't focused on the tournament because he was talking with Maryland
This day also gave us the first indication that the simulator probably doesn't know what it's doing. Observe Leonard Fournette's numbers against Auburn:
Those should be at least five times higher. Of course, given Louisiana's budget issues, maybe scholarships now only allow for a player to play two possessions.
On to the third round...
(1) Alabama 29, (8) Texas A&M 18
(4) Tennessee 41, (12) Kentucky 14
(2) Florida 31, (7) LSU 24
(3) Ole Miss 35, (5) Arkansas 31
Another knock against the simulator is that it didn't include any post-game comments from Nick Saban complaining about the tournament, citing how unfair it is and how much recruiting time he loses.
We also saw the launch of the Joshua Dobbs 2016 Heisman campaign:
And finally, Ole Miss and Arkansas resumed the show of unbridled offenses. Only this time, it was Arkansas who felt the pain of disaster in the final moments.
LET IT WASH OVER YOU.
And then there were four.
(1) Alabama 38, (4) Tennessee 13
(3) Ole Miss 47, (7) Florida 7
As for the other game, we all believed Florida was rapidly descending at the end of the 2015 season, while Ole Miss' offense was an all-consuming fireball of touchdowns that tried to wreck the careers of opposing defensive coordinators, but the simulator treated that belief as absolute truth. Observe Chad Kelly's numbers in this game:
The SEC Championship
Now we've arrived at the championship game, a rematch of the Ole Miss-Alabama contest in Bryant-Denny Stadium, which the Rebels won 43-37. Since this is a championship game, one would assume Ole Miss doesn't have much of a chance CAUSE THEM BLACK BEARS AIN'T NEVER WON NOTHIN.
Let's see what the simulator says.
Whoops, my fault. Copied and pasted the wrong thing. Let's try that again.
Dang, my bad again. One more time. Who won the WhatIfSports simulation of the SEC Football Tournament?