March Madness: The best first round match-ups from a football perspective

It’s time to lace up your high tops, pull out your brackets and pretend that you know who is going to win every game in March Madness. Instead of diving into the stats and the match-ups, I’ll leave that to the guys over at Run The Floor, I thought it would be interesting to breakdown the first round of the tournament in a different way.

Which first round match-ups would make the best college football games and who would win?

For the purpose of this we will use the 2013 versions of these college football teams.


From a football perspective, this is slim pickings. If Tulsa hadn’t gone and stunk up the joint in 2013, their match-up with UCLA would have brought some intrigue. New Mexico vs Stanford? Squash. Syracuse vs WMU? No thanks. Florida would probably have their hands full with the winner of Albany/Mt St. Mary’s but I think Muschamp would find a way to win that one. There is really only one game that might be intriguing and we would need some frosty beverages to partake in it…

#8 Colorado vs #9 Pittsburgh

The Buffs went 4-8 overall and 1-8 in the conference with their best win coming against Cal. Pitt finished 7-6 and capped off their season by beating the MAC Champs (Bowling Green). Pitt’s best win came against Notre Dame and their worst loss came to Navy.

Neither of these teams had a particularly good offense in 2013 but in comparing the two teams, Pitt was better overall and had better players in Tom Savage, Tyler Boyd and Aaron Donald.

Colorado keeps it close early, but Pitt pulls away in the second stanza.

FINAL: Pittsburgh 31 Colorado 17



Much like the South, this bracket is the pits for football fans. The only slightly interesting match-up is….

#5 Cincinnati vs #12 Harvard

Harvard, you say? They went 9-1 last year with their only loss being a 51-48 3OT game against Princeton. Cincinnati was pretty solid in 2013, but they were susceptible to the upset (lost to USF and Illinois).

As much as I’d love to go with the upset here, Cincinnati simply has too much for Harvard’s defense.

Cincinnati 52 Harvard 21



This is where it gets interesting.

#5 Oklahoma vs #12 North Dakota State

NDSU is no joke. Last year they went 15-0 en route to a FCS Championship. On their way to the Championship, they also knocked off Kansas State of the Big 12.

Oklahoma finished the season on a high note winning their last four including a great win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. But would the team that lost to Texas or Baylor show up in this one?

This would be a hard nosed game and I would not be surprised to see NDSU take OU to the wire. In the end, OU brings in Blake Bell at QB and the Sooners muscle out a victory with a late score and then run out the clock on the Bisons.

FINAL: Oklahoma 28 NDSU 21


#6 Baylor vs #11 Nebraska

The Bears went 11-2 in 2013 and had the highest scoring team in college football. The Huskers struggled a bit offensively and fell four times during the 2013 season although they did claim a win in the Gator Bowl over Georgia.

Baylor took the lead early and the Huskers offense just couldn’t come from behind.

FINAL: Baylor 48 Nebraska 24


#7 Oregon vs #10 BYU

Oregon finished 2013 with an 11-2 record but still felt like a bit of a disappointment. They lost to Stanford by six and got rolled by Arizona.

BYU was up and down as they beat Texas and Boise State but fell to Virginia and Utah. BYU’s chance to win this game is if they can control the football and ground out the Ducks like they did to the Longhorns on Sept 7th. In the end, Mariota and the Ducks offense is just too much for the BYU defense to handle.

Oregon 42 BYU 24



Much like the West, the Midwest gives us some solid football games….

#8 Kentucky vs #9 Kansas State

Kentucky went just 2-10 in Mark Stoops debut season but they were more competitive than in the recent past. They lost to South Carolina by just seven and Mississippi State by six. A couple of plays here and there and they could have won those games.

With the loss of Colin Klein, Kansas State fell back a bit to 8-5 but they were very solid down the stretch winning six of their last seven.

Bill Snyder rarely losses to teams with less talent and his Wildcats would handle their SEC counterparts in this one.

FINAL: Kansas State 24 Kentucky 14


#11 Iowa vs #11 Tennessee

A play-in game for the right to play UMass. As expected, Tennessee was down in 2013 but they still had some players and pulled off a big upset of South Carolina and almost did the same to Georgia.

After losing their opener to NIU (which was a solid team in 2013), the Hawkeyes buckled down and went 8-4 in their last 12 and their losses were all “quality losses” (Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, LSU).

Tennessee would keep this game close and if they could find a consistent passing game, they could win this game. But, history tells us that Tennessee would find a way to come up just short in this one. After an interception, Mark Weisman scores late to give the Hawkeyes a victory.

FINAL: Iowa 27 Tennessee 23


#7 Texas vs #10 Arizona State

2013 saw the end of the Mack Brown era and a very inconsistent Longhorns team. With losses to BYU and Ole Miss, the Horns got off to a slow start. They did post an impressive victory over Oklahoma but they also failed to win any of their big games down the stretch.

Arizona State put together a great year in 2013 going 10-2 in the regular season with wins over UCLA, Washington, USC and Wisconsin. While they did lose to Texas Tech in the bowl game, I think they would show up motivated in this one and they would be able to navigate the Texas defense.

Taylor Kelly throws four TD passes but it was the Sun Devils defense that came up big by sacking Case McCoy and causing a fumble as Texas drove in the fourth quarter in an attempt to tie the game.

FINAL: Arizona State 35 Texas 28

About Kevin Causey

Dry humorist, craft beer enthusiast, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Comeback.