What would a college football World Cup-style tournament look like?

Dr. Saturday
What if Alabama had to play a World Cup-style tournament to win the 2017 national title? Let’s try to find out. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
What if Alabama had to play a World Cup-style tournament to win the 2017 national title? Let’s try to find out. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Despite the United States’ absence, we have World Cup fever. And since we can’t stop thinking about college football, we started wondering what would happen if college football played a World Cup-style tournament.

So we’re going to try to find the answer. Over the next three weeks, with the help of 2017 rosters on a copy of EA Sports’ classic NCAA Football 14, we’re going to simulate a college football World Cup tournament.

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Next week we’ll reveal the results of the group stage games and the week after that we’ll reveal the champion. Here’s what the tournament field looks like.

The 32 spots in the college football World Cup were awarded to teams all across the top level of college football. We split the 32 teams into four pots of eight and then had a random draw, putting a team from each pot into eight groups of four, just like the World Cup.

Pot 1

All Power Five conference champions made the first pot. The other three spots were taken up by the three highest-ranked teams in the final College Football Playoff standings that didn’t win their conferences.

• Alabama (At-Large)
• Georgia (SEC Champ)
• USC (Pac-12 Champ)
• Ohio State (Big Ten Champ)
• Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)
• Clemson (ACC Champ)
• Wisconsin (At-Large)
• Auburn (At-Large)

Pot 2

This pot contained the champions of the AAC and Mountain West Conference along with six at-large teams taken from the College Football Playoff rankings.

• UCF (AAC Champ)
• Boise State (Mountain West Champ)
• Penn State (At-Large)
• Miami (At-Large)
• Washington (At-Large)
• Stanford (At-Large)
• Notre Dame (At-Large)
• TCU (At-Large)

Pot 3

Here’s where we put the champions from Conference-USA, the MAC and the Sun Belt. The other five spots were filled by the next five teams in the college football rankings that didn’t win their conference championship.

• FAU (Conference-USA Champ)
• Toledo (MAC Champ)
• Troy (Sun Belt Champ)
• Michigan State (At-Large)
• LSU (At-Large)
• Washington State (At-Large)
• Oklahoma State (At-Large)
• Memphis (At-Large)

Pot 4

Pot 4 contains the second-place teams in the Group of Five conferences with a couple of caveats. First, Memphis, the runner-up in the AAC, was in Pot 3. So that opened up a spot for another at-large team. Second, Army deserved to be in the tournament following a 10-3 regular season. So with a little of our own FIFA corruption we dumped Akron in favor of the Black Knights. Finally, Appalachian State and Troy were technically co-champions of the Sun Belt, but Troy’s better overall record (11-2) compared to App State (9-4) put the Trojans in Pot 3 and the Mountaineers in Pot 4.

• North Texas (C-USA runner-up)
• Army (Commissioner’s discretion)
• Northwestern (At-Large)
• Virginia Tech (At-Large)
• Mississippi State (At-Large)
• NC State (At-Large)
• Appalachian State (Sun Belt co-champ)
• Fresno State (MWC runner-up)

The Groups

Thanks to the help of Random.org, we assigned each team a number and randomized the numbers, placing the teams into eight groups of four. Here’s how they turned out.

Group A: Auburn, Stanford, Memphis, Mississippi State

Group B: Oklahoma, UCF, Michigan State, Fresno State

Group C: Ohio State, Notre Dame, Toledo, North Texas

Group D: Wisconsin, Washington, FAU, Army

Group E: Alabama, Miami, Oklahoma State, App State

Group F: Georgia, TCU, Washington State, NC State

Group G: Clemson, Boise State, LSU, Northwestern

Group H: USC, Penn State, Troy, Virginia Tech

Group of Death?

For our money, it’s either Group A or Group F. It’s not going to be much of a surprise if one of the two teams at the bottom of each group advances to the round of 16.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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