As things turned out with this "shoulda/coulda/woulda" version of the 2015 NCAA Division 1-A football playoffs, it all came down to two teams looking for a second playoff championship...one of them going after a second consecutive title in this version of a big-school playoff.
Time to just cut to the chase and show you just what happened:
FIRST ROUND (seeding in parentheses): Western Kentucky (9) 38, Arkansas State (24) 6; TCU (16) 28, Appalachian State (17) 14; Florida State (13) 14, Florida (20) 10; Northwestern (12) 10, Temple (21) 0; Oklahoma State (14) 63, Bowling Green State (19) 42; Notre Dame (11) 21, San Diego State (22) 7; Navy (15) 24, Toledo (18) 0; North Carolina (10) 21, Michigan (23) 3
SECOND ROUND: Clemson (1) 35, Western Kentucky 31; Stanford (8) 35, TCU 21; Florida State 22, Houston (5) 21; Iowa (4) 21, Northwestern 7; Oklahoma (6) 42, Oklahoma State 28; Michigan State (3) 14, Notre Dame 0; Ohio State (7) 21, Navy 7; Alabama (2) 28, North Carolina 0
QUARTERFINAL ROUND: Clemson 19, Stanford 14; Iowa 21, Florida State 14; Oklahoma 28, Michigan State 7; Alabama 21, Ohio State 7
SEMIFINAL ROUND: Iowa 20, Clemson 14; Alabama 24, Oklahoma 7
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Iowa 14, Alabama 7 (1 OT)
Now...it's time for some highlights!
FIRST ROUND: Brandon Doughty completed 30 of 37 passes for 357 and four TDs to key the Hilltoppers (favorite target Taywan Taylor caught six balls for 134 yards and two TDs)...Trevone Boykin's 80-yard scoring toss to Kolby Listenbee 3:17 into the game set the tone for the Horned Frogs...Wildcats outgained Owls, 268-256...Gators couldn't capitalize on their two first-quarter safeties (for a 4-0 lead), and went on to be held to 186 total yards (25 of 'em on the ground in 36 tries) while Seminoles' Dalvin Cook scampered for 125 yards in 23 trips (scored a TD, too)...Fighting Irish outgained Aztecs, 463-207 and held the Mountain West kingpins to just 40 passing yards (on 3-for-17 throwing)...Keenan Reynolds (26-134 with a pair of scores) led a Midshipmen attack that got 323 rushing yards in 69 totes...Cowboys outgained Falcons in a barnburner in Stillwater, 590-560; OSU's Mason Rudolph (29-42-523-6 TDs-1 INT)
and BGSU's Matt Johnson (31-57-521-% TDs-1 INT)
SECOND ROUND: Cougars coughed up a 21-7 lead, then with 41 ticks to go in regulation, couldn't stop Cook from scoring the winning two-point conversion (after Seminoles' Everett Golson fired a three-yard scoring strike to Ermon Lane)...J.T. Barrett's 80-yard TD run on the first play of the game set things up for the Buckeyes...Wildcats' Solomon Vault took the opening kickoff back 100 yards for the game's first score, but all it did was lead to 21 unanswered Hawkeye points in a rematch of a regular-season game...in another rematch, Baker Mayfield matched Rudolph in touchdown throws (four)- but the Sooners picked off three Rudolph aerials...Irish outgained Spartans, 419-310 (with C.J. Prosise getting 138 yards in 16 rushes), but just couldn't find the end zone...Christian McCaffrey's 225 all-purpose yards (134 on the ground, 41 on catches, and 50 on returns) helped Cardinal sideline Frogs in a game where TCU once led, 14-7...Derrick Henry put on a 26-144-3 TD show
as Crimson Tide held Tar Heels to 52 ground yards...Wayne Gallman's one-yard scoring run with 1:17 to play in fourth quarter saved Tigers' bacon (and made Deshaun Watson's 368 total yards- 216 by air, 152 by land- stand up).
QUARTERFINAL ROUND: Cook still got his yards (18-134-1 TD), but Derrick Mitchell scored from four yards out with 8:38 to play in the fourth stanza to lift the Hawkeyes (Iowa had trailed, 14-7)...Sooners erased a 7-7 tie by reeling off 21 unanswered points...Tide and Buckeyes got involved in a bitter, sloppy game marked by 23 penalties (13 by Ohio State, 10 by Alabama); Heisman winner Henry outrushed the Bucks, 103-94- and scored twice...Tigers won it on C.J. Fuller's five-yard run with 1:40 to go in regulation; what's more, Clemson limited McCaffrey to 34 yards in 19 attempts.
Playoff MVP Desmond King swiped four Watson passes and helped Hawkeyes force him into a 13-for-27-for 165 yards outing (and helped thwart Tigers' furious fourth-quarter rally)...Henry scored twice in a 27-121 effort that drew 102,354 to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: At University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ, Henry was held to 99 yards in 22 carries. On top of that, Hawkeyes outgained Tide, 264-263...with the difference coming from Jordan Canzeri's game-winning TD with 12:52 to play in overtime.
With that, instead of Alabama getting its second straight D-1-A playoff championship, Iowa gained its second playoff title- and first since 2002.
Another thing Kirk Ferentz' team did by retaking the top was end a four-year period in which a team that had never won these Division 1-A playoffs before triumphed.
Who knows how the 2016 Division 1-A football playoffs (at least this version) will shape up? Stay tuned!