The College Football Playoff is only a few days away from its semifinals and the anticipation for the two games is beginning to reach a fever pitch. There’s no shortage of analysis that can be found on the games, but what’s always interesting are the video game simulations, which have proven to be adept at predicting results and identifying mismatches.
Sadly, the last college football video game was released in 2013. (To catch up on the saga behind that and any potential return check out the latest developments here.) Despite that, NCAA Football 14 still holds up well, especially with the ability to continue creating and sharing rosters. To get an idea of what could happen on New Year’s Eve we turned to NCAA 14 to simulate the games with up-to-date rosters (which on Xbox 360 can be downloaded from Roster Share with gamertag Pastapadre) that also reflect some ratings changes based on player performance this season.
NCAA 14 correctly predicted the result of all three Conference Championship games that were simulated even forecasting the Washington blowout of Colorado and nailbiter for Penn State over Wisconsin. The video game was only wrong in thinking that Clemson would cruise to an easy victory over Virginia Tech when the outcome was in question until late.
Peach Bowl — No. 4 Washington vs. No. 1 Alabama
Whichever team found itself facing Alabama would do so as a huge underdog. It’s a two-touchdown spread for the game against the Huskies. However, Washington’s makeup could present some challenges for the Crimson Tide.
The game started as many might predict. Washington went three-and-out on the first series. Alabama QB Jalen Hurts led the team down the field on a nearly perfect drive, the lone blemish being a near pick on a deep throw to the end zone. Eventually, Hurts would move the team to near the goal line, and the Huskies would hold strong. But on fourth and goal from the 1 yard line, Alabama went for it and got it with Hurts running it in for the score and 7-0 lead.
Then came another rough start to a drive for the Huskies, as they found themselves at third and long. QB Jake Browning chucked one deep and was picked off, though it effectively acted as a punt. Hurts continued to work the zone read for success, and the offensive line gave him time to throw. However, the drive stalled in the red zone but Alabama was able to take the 10-0 lead.
Finally, the Huskies were able to get some momentum on the next possession. After a couple of runs were stopped for no gain, Browning converted with a 12-yard pass on third down. A few passes later, he put the team in position for a 29-yard TD pass to tight end Drew Sample. Just like that, Washington felt right back in the game trailing 10-7.
Though Hurts had all day to throw, he made a mistake throwing to the flat, where Huskies corner Sidney Jones undercut the receiver and made the interception. The run game then started to appear for Washington. Myles Gaskin had a few big carries to help the team to the red zone. Browning completed a pass on third and 6, but it was short of the first down marker. The game was tied 10-10 after a field goal.
The game shifted to a defensive battle for a while after that. Alabama had a drive across mid-field, but turned the ball over on downs. The Huskies pushed past mid-field, converted on a fourth and short, but would end up having to punt after that. The game would remain tied going into halftime and through the third quarter.
Early in the fourth, Hurts was picked off by Budda Baker. Browning immediately capitalized by finding John Ross streaking down the field for 64 yards to set up a go-ahead touchdown by Gaskin.
Alabama had to answer and its experience showed. A calm and collected drive followed, though it included a fourth and short conversion that had a lot on the line. Hurts would end up running the ball in to tie the game at 17.
The Huskies would reach near mid-field but have to punt. Alabama followed with a quick three-and-out. Washington was unable to do anything with it after that and the game went into overtime.
The Crimson Tide won the toss and chose to play defense. Two stars in Browning and Ross stepped up, with a 7-yard TD on a play where Ross broke two tackles to reach the end zone.
The pressure was again on Alabama, but that’s nothing new. However, a big sack on third and goal pushed them to fourth and goal from the 12. A pass across the middle of the field was dropped — he would’ve been short even if he held on to it — and the Huskies pulled off a huge upset.
Final Score: Washington 24, Alabama 17
Jalen Hurts (ALA) 21-30, 199 yards, 3 INT, 2 rush TD
Jake Browning (WASH) 24-32, 274 yards, 2TD, 2INT
Myles Gaskin (WASH) 21 RUSH, 87 yards, TD
Damien Harris (ALA) 14 RUSH, 59 yards
Robert Foster (ALA) 6 REC, 59 yards
Ardarius Stewart (ALA) 4 REC, 64 yards
John Ross (WASH) 4 REC, 93 yards, TD
Chico McClatcher (WASH) 6 REC, 80 yards
Budda Baker (WASH) 9 tackles, INT
JoJo McIntosh (WASH) 6 tackles, INT
Sidney Jones (WASH) 3 tackles, INT, pass defensed
Dalvin Tomlinson (ALA) 3 sacks
Marlon Humphrey (ALA) 3 tackles, INT, pass defensed
Fiesta Bowl — No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson
Ohio State enters the game as 3-point favorites, but having not made it to the Big Ten Conference Championship they haven’t played a game in well over a month. Clemson comes off the ACC Championship victory over Virginia Tech, which helped move the Tigers up to the higher seed here. All that means, however, is that they are considered the “home” team.
The Tigers opened up the game with an efficient drive going no-huddle, with receiver Mike Williams playing a big part in the march down the field. He had a 19-yard reception and 12-yard run on a reverse. But the drive stalled in the red zone and ended in a field goal.
Ohio State answered with a similar drive, mixing up the run and the pass well. The fate was the same, though, as the Buckeyes reached the red zone but couldn’t punch it in. A field goal tied the game up at 3.
Both teams methodically moved the ball in the first quarter, with third-down situations rare, as they only popped up once reaching the red zone. That’s what happened with Clemson’s second drive as quarterback Deshaun Watson scrambled for a first down, but took a hard hit and fumbled. The offense recovered, but Watson would not. He was diagnosed with a concussion and wouldn’t be able to return.
Stepping into his place was Nick Schuessler. After two runs failed to punch it into the end zone, Schuessler threaded the needle on a slant to Williams for the TD from 6 yards out. That made the score 10-3.
The Buckeyes were using the screen game effectively, with a couple of big plays from running back Mike Weber on the ensuing drive. However, they went to the well one too many times, and quarterback J.T. Barrett was intercepted on a screen attempt by defensive end Richard Yeargin.
Clemson turned to running back Wayne Gallman with Watson out. He had several effective runs before a play action allowed Schuessler to find Artavis Scott for a 25-yard touchdown on a post route. That made the score 17-3 and the Buckeyes were on their heels.
Late in the second quarter, after an Ohio State punt, Schuessler found Artavis Scott deep down field for a 50-yard TD. The extra point was missed, but at 23-3 the game felt effectively over. The backup QB Schuessler had come in and thrown three touchdowns on his first three drives.
Ohio State failed to put up much of a fight in the second half. Barrett struggled with his accuracy and threw another INT in the third quarter. The Buckeyes just didn’t have the offense to mount a comeback and Clemson effectively ran the clock down with the running game mixed with a handful of short passes.
Final Score: Clemson 33, Ohio State 13
Nick Schuessler (CLEM) 13-16, 173, 3TD
DeShaun Watson (CLEM) 7-7, 64, 41 rush yards
JT Barrett (OSU) 20-36, 190 yards, 2 INT
Wayne Gallman (CLEM) 20 RUSH, 104 yards, TD
Mike Weber (OSU) 11 RUSH, 37 yards, TD, 5 receptions
Mike Williams (CLEM) 7 REC, 81 yards, TD
Artavis Scott (CLEM) 4 REC, 90 yards, 2 TD
Curtis Samuel (OSU) 7 REC, 69 yards
Richard Yeargin (CLEM) 2 tackles, INT
Dorian O’Daniel (CLEM) 6 tackles, 2 for loss
Mark Fields (CLEM) 6 tackles, INT
Raekwon McMillan (OSU) 11 tackles
Chris Worley Jr (OSU) 5 tackles, sack
NCAA Football 14 predicts #4 Washington vs #2 Clemson for the National Championship!