March Madness College Football Edition: Favorites, Underdogs, and Cinderella Stories

    March Madness is here, but what if the 2024 NCAA Tournament was for college football? Who would win the 68-team bracket?

    March Madness doesn’t have to be only for college basketball fans. Based on the current 2024 NCAA Tournament 68-team field, we’ll project the bracket using each school’s football team (or lack thereof). What better way to celebrate the impending College Football Playoff expansion for the 2024 season?

    2024 College Football March Madness Bracket

    Just because a school’s football program is elite doesn’t mean their basketball team is, too. As such, multiple CFP contenders aren’t on the bracket, including last year’s national championship opponents Michigan and Washington. Nevertheless, this is a good (and fun) exercise for previewing potential matchups we may not see otherwise.

    *Winning teams will be bolded 

    First Four

    • No. 10 Virginia vs. No. 10 Colorado State
    • No. 10 Boise State vs. No. 10 Colorado
    • No. 16 Howard vs. No. 16 Wagner
    • No. 16 Montana State vs. No. 16 Grambling

    Colorado State and Howard already won their First Four matchups, but in this 2024 College Football March Madness bracket, Virginia defeats the Rams to begin the tournament. The hardest contest to choose from was Boise State vs. Colorado.

    While having Deion Sanders, Shedeur Sanders, and Travis Hunter advance would’ve made for more fireworks, Boise State has the more talented roster overall.

    East Region

    First round

    • No. 1 UConn vs. No. 16 Stetson
    • No. 2 Iowa State vs. No. 15 South Dakota State
    • No. 3 Illinois vs. No. 14 Morehead State
    • No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 13 Yale
    • No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 12 UAB
    • No. 6 BYU vs. No. 11 Duquesne
    • No. 7 Washington State vs. No. 10 Drake
    • No. 8 FAU vs. No. 9 Northwestern

    Second round

    • No. 1 UConn vs. No. 9 Northwestern
    • No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 5 San Diego State
    • No. 3 Illinois vs. No. 6 BYU
    • No. 2 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Washington State

    Sweet 16

    • No. 2 Iowa State vs. No. 3 Illinois
    • No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 9 Northwestern

    Elite Eight

    • No. 2 Iowa State vs. No. 4 Auburn

    UConn may dominate on the hardwood, but after defeating Stetson in the first round, they fall to David Braun’s new and improved Northwestern Wildcats. San Diego State vs. UAB pits Sean Lewis against Trent Dilfer, and it’s hard not to side with the Aztecs. Iowa State taking on FCS powerhouse South Dakota State is another intriguing early contest, but the Cyclones prove too much for the Jackrabbits.

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    Round 2 is a bit more heated, although the tightest contest may be a low-scoring affair between Illinois and BYU. Iowa State makes quick work of the victor from that battle, while Auburn outlasts a rising Northwestern squad. That gives us an Elite Eight matchup of Iowa State vs. Auburn. Although I’d take Rocco Becht over Payton Thorne, the Tigers are in a better position entering Hugh Freeze’s second season at the helm.

    West Region

    First round

    • No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Howard
    • No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 Longwood
    • No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 Colgate
    • No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 13 Charleston
    • No. 5 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 12 Grand Canyon
    • No. 6 Clemson vs. No. 11 New Mexico
    • No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Nevada
    • No. 8 Mississippi State vs. No. 9 Michigan State

    Second round

    • No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Michigan State
    • No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 12 Grand Canyon
    • No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 6 Clemson
    • No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 10 Nevada

    Sweet 16

    • No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 6 Clemson
    • No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 9 Michigan State

    Elite Eight

    • No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 6 Clemson

    The East has some skilled teams, but the West blows the region out of the water. The first and second rounds (outside of UNC vs. MSU) are chalk, but the Sweet 16 matchups turn up the heat. Arizona is on an upward trajectory with Brent Brennan coming over from San Jose State, but Dabo Swinney’s Clemson ends their tournament bid.

    The Jonathan Smith-led Michigan State Spartans will press the new-look Crimson Tide a little, but they’re just outmatched physically. An Elite Eight duel between Clemson and Alabama is what fans want and expect here. And while the Tigers should outperform the 9-4 record they posted last year, the Crimson Tide are still one of the best teams in the nation.

    South Region

    First round

    • No. 1 Houston vs. No. 16 Longwood
    • No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 15 Western Kentucky
    • No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 14 Oakland
    • No. 4 Duke vs. No. 13 Vermont
    • No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 James Madison
    • No. 6 Texas Tech vs. No. 11 NC State
    • No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 Boise State
    • No. 8 Nebraska vs. No. 9 Texas A&M

    Second round

    • No. 1 Houston vs. No. 9 Texas A&M
    • No. 4 Duke vs. No. 5 Wisconsin
    • No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 11 NC State
    • No. 10 Boise State vs. No. 15 Western Kentucky

    Sweet 16

    • No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Texas A&M 
    • No. 10 Boise State vs. No. 11 NC State

    Elite Eight

    • No. 9 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Boise State

    CINDERELLA ALERT: Boise State rides its First Four momentum to victories over Florida, Western Kentucky, and NC State. Unfortunately, just like in CFB’s version of March Madness, the Cinderella team fails to reach the natty, with Texas A&M playing spoiler. Regardless, let this serve as a notice to CFB fans: Don’t sleep on the Broncos in 2024.

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    Beyond the boys in blue, games between Texas A&M and Nebraska and Texas Tech and NC State provide entertainment in the opening round. Wisconsin also takes down JMU, which is undergoing a coaching change, and Duke, who lost star QB Riley Leonard to Notre Dame.  NC State and Kentucky duke it out in the Devin Leary Bowl, with the Wolfpack leaving victorious before falling to the aforementioned Broncos.

    Midwest Region

    First round

    • No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 16 Montana State
    • No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 15 Saint Peter’s
    • No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 14 Akron
    • No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Samford
    • No. 5 Gonzaga vs. No. 12 McNeese
    • No. 6 South Carolina vs. No. 11 Oregon
    • No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Virginia
    • No. 8 Utah State vs. No. 9 TCU

    Second round

    • No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 9 TCU
    • No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 7 Texas
    • No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 12 McNeese
    • No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 14 Akron

    Sweet 16

    • No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 9 TCU
    • No. 7 Texas vs. No. 11 Oregon

    Elite Eight

    • No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 7 Texas

    Bill Self’s men’s basketball team may not be the Kansas of old, but Lance Leipold’s football contingent is a Big 12 contender, knocking out Samford, McNeese, and TCU en route to the Elite Eight. Oregon vs. South Carolina is the biggest match in the first round, but Dan Lanning and Co. power their way to the Sweet 16.

    Tennessee would’ve gone further had they not drawn Texas in Round 2, cutting their season shorter than anticipated. The Longhorns then have to face the Ducks, but Dillon Gabriel just can’t keep up with Quinn Ewers’ high-octane unit. Fresh off two wins against top competition, Texas blitzed Kansas, who wasn’t prepared after coasting past Samford, McNeese, and TCU.

    Final Four

    National Semifinal

    • No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 4 Auburn
    • No. 7 Texas vs. No. 9 Texas A&M

    National Championship

    • No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 7 Texas

    A Final Four of Alabama, Auburn, Texas, and Texas A&M won’t ever happen in the CFP, given they are all from the SEC. And even with Auburn and Texas A&M defeating some accomplished programs to get here, they’re no match for Bama and Texas.

    The semifinal may have underwhelmed, but the national championship more than makes up for it. Unfortunately for the Crimson Tide, they are unable to knock off the team that took their spot in the playoff last season.

    KEEP READING: Projecting the 2024-2025 College Football Playoff

    Ewers will have an entirely new receiving corps, but the Tide will have an entirely new program with Nick Saban gone. Longhorns fans, rejoice because Texas is officially BACK!

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