College Football Playoff Rewind: 2006 Final Four From WhatIfSports.com image

What-if Rewind: 2006 College Football Playoff

Upsets abound as neither Florida nor Ohio State reach the championship game in our playoff scenario

By Jake Westrich - WhatIfSports.com
August 1, 2012

To amend a quote by Benjamin Franklin: "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and BCS controversies."

The 2006 college football season was no different, as a handful of teams clamored to join undefeated Ohio State in the BCS Championship game. Boise State (12-0), Louisville (11-1) and Wisconsin (11-1) made solid arguments, but Michigan was the biggest slight, as Florida edged out the Wolverines by a mere .0101 points in the final BCS standings.

Florida's only blemish on the season was a 27-17 defeat at Auburn, and the team's SEC championship win over Arkansas helped the Gators leapfrog Michigan in the final BCS standings, moving from No. 4 to No. 2. Michigan's lone loss came in its last regular-season game, a gut-wrenching 42-39 setback to Ohio State in Columbus.

With the help of our college football simulation engine, we're rewriting history and offering Michigan a shot at redemption by placing the Wolverines in a four-team national championship playoff. Ohio State and Florida secure the top seeds, while LSU joins the fictional fray in the fourth and final spot. The Tigers lost to Auburn and Florida in the season's early going, but put together six consecutive wins to earn the No. 4 ranking in the final BCS standings and, more importantly, admission into our tournament.

2006 college football playoff

Playoff seeding based on BCS rankings.

2006 College Football Semifinal
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
(1) Ohio State41.423.0Simulate Game
(4) LSU58.626.2

2006 Ohio State
Record: 12-1 (National Championship loss)
Team MVP: Troy Smith
(2,542 pass yards / 30 TDs)

2006 LSU
Record: 11-2 (Sugar Bowl win)
Team MVP: JaMarcus Russell
(3,129 pass yards / 28 TDs)

2006 College Football Semifinal
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
(2) Florida45.320.7Simulate Game
(3) Michigan54.722.0

2006 Florida
Record: 13-1 (National Champions)
Team MVP: Chris Leak
(2,950 pass yards / 23 TDs)

2006 Michigan
Record: 12-2 (Rose Bowl loss)
Team MVP: Mike Hart
(1,562 rush yards / 14 TDs)

2006 College Football Title Game
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
(3) Michigan43.921.7Simulate Game
(4) LSU56.124.3Sample Boxscore

Simulated Title Game: Recap

Playoff proponents are sure to like our semifinal upsets, as No. 1 Ohio State couldn't handle the SEC speed of LSU, while Michigan made the most of its second chance by narrowly edging out Florida.

Despite being two of the more historic programs in college football, Michigan and LSU have never met on the gridiron. That all changed as the two schools clashed for the ultimate prize: a BCS Playoff Championship.

LSU won the coin toss and elected to receive, a move that quickly paid dividends. On the second play of the game, Keiland Williams took a handoff 63 yards before being chased down at the four-yard line. Backup rusher Justin Vincent made no progress on two runs and a pass from JaMarcus Russell to Jacob Hester fell incomplete, forcing the Tigers to settle for a chip shot field goal by Colt David.

Michigan responded with two field goals of its own behind kicker Garrett Rivas and the Wolverines held a 6-3 lead as the first quarter expired.

Undefeated Teams Outside BCS Top 4: 1998-2011
TeamBCS Rank
2009 Boise State 6
2008 Utah 6
2008 Boise State 9
2007 Hawaii 10
2006 Boise State 8
2004 Utah 6
2004 Boise State 9
1999 Marshall 12
1998 Tulane 10

The advantage didn't last long as Russell began picking apart the Michigan secondary. He completed three consecutive passes - a 24-yard strike to Dwayne Bowe, a 16-yard gain to Early Doucet and a touchdown pass to Craig "Buster" Davis from eights yards out - for LSU's first touchdown and a 10-6 lead. Later in the quarter, Russell found Brandon LaFell for a 19-yard gain on third and long. He hit LaFell again on the ensuing play for his second touchdown pass of the game.

With just one minute remaining in the half, the Wolverines quickly went to work. Running back Mike Hart churned for 15 yards and Chad Henne connected with Mario Manningham, Tyler Ecker and Steve Breaston for several big plays. The drive finally stalled at the LSU 19-yard line and Rivas punched in his third field goal to keep Michigan within striking distance, trailing 9-17 at the half.

Rivas added his fourth and fifth field goals in the third quarter, but Michigan lost ground, surrendering seven points to the Tigers as Russell again found Davis in the end zone.

Hart got things moving for the Wolverines in the fourth quarter, as his 57-yard run brought Michigan to the LSU five-yard line. Henne then zipped a short pass to Ecker and suddenly LSU's lead dwindled to 24-22 with more than 12 minutes remaining in the game.

Both teams hit a stall, trading punts before Michigan finally got to work around the three-minute mark. Henne found Breaston in the open field and he sped to the LSU 31-yard line. The Wolverines were just a 48-yard field goal from the win, but the distance matched Rivas's longest of the season, and two and a half minutes remained to improve field position. Brandon Minor's rush resulted in a two-yard loss and Henne's pass to Carson Butler only got back to the line of scrimmage. On third down, Henne was sacked for a six-yard loss. Instead of improving its field position, Michigan was forced to let Rivas try from 56 yards out. His kick had the distance but sailed wide right. The Tigers ran out the remaining minute to hold on for the 24-22 win.

Gridiron Dynasty

Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jwestrich@whatifsports.com.

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