March Madness 2018: College football bracket Sweet 16 and Elite Eight winners –

The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight are in the back window with the Final Four going down Saturday. While the single-elimination format is not necessarily the best way to determine a champion, it does heighten the competition and allow for Cinderella surprises that can rock the sport. In other words, it’s a lot of fun and makes good on the “March Madness” moniker, which is why the college football staff here at CBS Sports wants to get in on the fun.

Using our final rankings from the CBS Sports 130, we seeded the top 64 college football teams and spread them across four regions for a March Madness tournament of the college football variety. In consultation with our expert bracketologist Jerry Palm, we provided location preferences to the top seeds and aligned the others in a similar fashion to how the NCAA Selection Committee would do so. Of course, when it comes to football, it is more difficult to ensure conference opponents do not play until later in the tournament — but we did our best.

Our staff has predicted the winners the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds. Later this week, we will pick winners of the Final Four and national championship. Let’s get to it.

Graphic illustrations below courtesy of Michael Meredith

Atlanta Region by Barton Simmons

Florida State has surprised by advancing two rounds as a No. 14 seeed, beating ACC rival No. 3 Miami and No. 6 LSU. Can it keep up the streaky play with two more impressive wins?

(1) Alabama def. (4) Oklahoma State — This may be a basketball-style tournament, but we’re still playing football. At least Alabama is doing just that. Mike Gundy’s squad isn’t constructed to pull this upset off. Mason Rudolph is a stationary target for Alabama’s tenacious front seven, and the Tide grind away at a defense used to giving up points. Alabama marches on. 

(2) Ohio State def. (14) Florida State — FSU’s Cinderella run comes to a screeching halt against Ohio State. The Seminoles’ offensive line put up a good fight in the first two games of the tournament, but it’s just not equipped to withstand the waves of athletes that the Ohio State defensive front throws at it. James Blackman doesn’t finish this one, and Ohio State gets a breather before the Elite Eight. 

Elite Eight: (1) Alabama def. (2) Ohio State — Ohio State has the dogs to put Alabama’s offense in a bind and the Tide sputter in the first half and trail at the break. Nick Saban has to fire his Tua Tagovailoa bullet just to get into the Final Four, and the true freshman delivers in relief bringing a spark to the offense. Urban Meyer makes no such effort on the Ohio State side, opting to stick with JT Barrett over his talented backup. A 13-6 second half sparks a 20-16 win for the Tide. 


Boston Region by Barrett Sallee

Six-seed Virginia Tech stands in the way of a nearly all-chalk region after taking down No. 3 Auburn in the second round. Will it survive and advance to compete for a chance to win the entire regional?

(1) Georgia def. (4) Notre Dame — Well, we saw this game in Week 2 in South Bend in what was true freshman Jake Fromm’s first ever start. Should we expect anything different. Well … yeah, of course. We should expect a blowout in favor of the Bulldogs.  

(2) Penn State def. (6) Virginia Tech —  While I like what Joshua Jackson brings to the table, the Penn State defense would stifle the Hokie offense and Saquon Barkley will break off a big special teams play late to give the Nittany Lions a win in a nail-biter. 

Elite Eight: (1) Georgia vs. (2) Penn State —  Remember the Rose Bowl? This matchup will be very similar to Georgia’s real-life national semifinal win over Oklahoma. Running backs will break off big play after big play, quarterbacks will go toe-to-toe in a game for the ages, and Georgia gets a late field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship to move on to the Final Four.


Omaha Region by Ben Kercheval

Outside of a first-round upset by Purdue, this is as chalky as a regional can get. The top four seeds have all advanced with top seed Oklahoma likely hoping to avoid a rematch with TCU in the regional final.

(1) Oklahoma def. (4) Washington — This game becomes a fascinating battle in the trenches with Washington’s defensive front against Oklahoma’s stellar O-line. The Sooners get things going quickly with coach Lincoln Riley calling up all kinds of multiple looks. Baker Mayfield throws for another three bills through the air, and though Washington makes things interesting in the second half thanks to some connections between Jake Browning and Dante Pettis down the field, it’s not enough to rally in this shootout. 

(3) TCU def. (2) Clemson — This is basically Duke-Syracuse in terms of low-scoring, defensive struggles. Both defensive fronts are set up to disrupt and that’s exactly what happens. However, TCU’s defensive backs, so good earlier in the year vs. Oklahoma State, are the game changers against Clemson’s speedy receivers. A late interception — Kelly Bryant’s second of the day — seals the deal in this odd 26-21 win for the Frogs.  

Elite Eight: (1) Oklahoma def. (3) TCU — It’s tough to beat the same team twice. It’s harder to beat them three times in a row, especially with a coach as good as Gary Patterson. Still, the Sooners have been the bane of TCU’s existence in 2017 and the same goes for this Big 12 rematch in the Elite Eight. It’s not quite the blowout the other two were, but TCU simply doesn’t have an answer for Mayfield and Co. 


Los Angeles Region by Tom Fornelli

As with the regional above, this one was all chalk aside from No. 11 Oregon’s first-round win. Top seed UCF is getting the job done, but will it have the stamina to make it all the way to the Final Four?

(1) UCF def. (4) Stanford — UCF enters the game as an underdog in Vegas and uses that as motivation to sneak by Stanford, 34-31. Things were going Stanford’s way until Bryce Love tweaked his high-ankle sprain in the second quarter and never returned to the game. 

(2) Wisconsin def. (3) USC — Wisconsin faces its first challenge of the postseason, and it gets by, though just barely. USC’s offensive line struggles with Wisconsin’s front seven all day long, as the Badgers pick up six sacks and force three turnovers from Sam Darnold. Still, USC’s defense does enough to keep the Trojans in the game, but it finally relents late in the fourth quarter. Wisconsin wins 28-24.

Elite Eight: (2) Wisconsin def. (1) UCF —  UCF’s dream season finally comes to an end as Wisconsin chews up the clock like a cow grazing a Wisconsin prairie. The Badgers keep the UCF offense off the field, and UCF’s defense is completely worn down during the second half. Wisconsin wins 34-17.


Final Four

Here’s where we stand entering the final two rounds of the tournament.


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