The 2005 college football season was as good as any in history due to the top-level talent among heavyweights Texas and USC — resulting in a phenomenal title game — and a deep pool of exciting talent around the country.
Stars that year included Vince Young, Reggie Bush, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Ryan, Calvin Johnson and many more. While the Longhorns and Trojans were fitting championship contenders, it would have been even more fun to see other schools with an equal shot in a playoff format.
So, we’ve decided to run a full, in-depth 32-team bracket based on the 2005 campaign using “NCAA Football 06” with rosters carefully programmed with real names, attributes and appearances. It’s a passion project, to be sure, but one that should be more than worthwhile given the nostalgia of the mid-2000s era.
The bracket was set by taking into account three factors:
- How teams fared in real life in 2005
- How teams are rated in the video game
- How many NFL stars and/or cult heroes were produced
The first two points carried most of the weight, with the final component coming in handy when we had particularly tough calls to make. UCF, for example, was gifted the final seed because it had a pair of supremely gifted wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Mike Sims-Walker. We wanted to see if the Knights could use them to lead a shock upset over top-seeded Texas (spoiler: they couldn’t).
Games are played by manually controlling the underdog team on sliders that provide generally realistic results (though obviously not perfect). Home field is given to the higher seed. We’re recording game play and posting highlights on YouTube and in our articles summarizing each round.
This story will take you through the first round, which consisted of 16 contests. We’re also logging game stats throughout “The Tournament” and sharing them at the end of each write-up.
Here are all results from the first round, followed by player stats and Sweet 16 matchups:
No. 1 Texas 49, No. 32 UCF 20
Texas earned the right to the No. 1 seed with its real-life championship and stacked roster, while UCF (8-5 in 2005) barely snuck into our bracket due to its star outside threats.
The matchup was predictably lopsided. Brandon Marshall and Mike Sims-Walker combined for 107 yards and no touchdowns for UCF, doing little outside a couple of chunk plays with the contest already out of hand. The Longhorns offense, meanwhile, was absolutely dominant.
Vince Young went 9 of 15 through the air for 294 passing yards and three touchdowns and ran for 75 yards and an additional score. His rushing TD was reminiscent of what he did to win the national title — albeit with the stakes much lower.
Jordan Shipley contributed 212 receiving yards for Texas. Limas Sweed chipped in 78 and a touchdown catch.
No. 16 West Virginia 42, No. 17 NC State 28
In a matchup of a memorable offensive team in West Virginia (No. 17) against a strong defensive side in NC State (No. 18), things remained close until the final seconds of the third quarter, when Steve Slaton took a kickoff back 100 yards to put the Mountaineers up for good.
West Virginia (11-1 in 2005) is criminally underrated in “NCAA Football 06” largely because Slaton and quarterback Pat White were freshmen. EA didn’t realize just how good the duo would be right away. But even though White struggled a bit under center (9 of 22 for 158 yards), the Mountaineers were more than explosive enough to overcome a Wolfpack line led by NFL first-rounders Mario Williams and Manny Lawson. Their defense impressed, too, picking off NC State quarterback Jay Davis five times.
We expect West Virginia’s Sweet 16 game against Texas to be a high-scoring affair.
No. 8 Oklahoma 28, No. 25 Cal 21
Adrian Peterson vs. Marshawn Lynch. That’s the story.
Lynch (118 rushing yards, two TDs) tied the game at 21 early in the fourth quarter before Peterson (144 rushing yards, three TDs) sped away for a game-winning touchdown.
Oklahoma (8-4 in 2005) carried a No. 8 seed because EA expected the Sooners to perform much better than they actually did and rated them accordingly. Cal (8-4 in 2005) was still a year away from their best roster centered around Lynch — then-freshman DeSean Jackson had yet to reach his peak and quarterback Joe Ayoob struggled to avoid turnovers.
Jackson did return a punt for a touchdown in this virtual matchup, but he contributed little in the passing game. Justin Forsett was a non-factor for the Golden Bears.
No. 24 Texas A&M 31, No. 9 Florida State 7
We expected to get hammered by ninth-seeded Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium. Instead, No. 24 Texas A&M (5-6 in 2005) did all of the hammering.
The Aggies were a team that looked much better on paper — and in video game ratings — than they did in real life. Dual-threat quarterback Reggie McNeal was a monster in the opening round matchup, amassing 171 passing yards, 57 rushing yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over against a Seminoles defense that featured Lawrence Timmons, Antonio Cromartie and Ernie Sims. He ran the option well while flanked by running back Courtney Lewis (78 all-purpose yards, two TDs). Wide receiver Jason Carter also had a big day, reeling in a pair of deep throws from McNeal to reach 114 receiving yards.
Texas A&M boasted both Martellus Bennett and Michael Bennett in 2005 and featured defensive tackle Johnny Jolly as the anchor of its D-line. It’ll face the Sooners next in our tournament.
Florida State (8-5 in 2005) suffered the loss of Cromartie to injury in real life, a setback that wasn’t reflected in the game. His presence wasn’t enough to prevent Texas A&M from roasting his team.
No. 4 Penn State 42, No. 29 TCU 14
TCU (11-1 in 2005) was a fun and quite good Mountain West upstart outside of its strange early season loss to SMU. The Horned Frogs didn’t get enough ratings respect from EA, though, and were pummeled by fourth-seeded Penn State’s rock solid roster in our tournament.
Nittany Lions quarterback Michael Robinson might have had the best performance of any player in the first round. He threw for 196 yards and two scores, ran for 138 yards and another score and sat for the latter half of the fourth quarter with the game out of reach of TCU. Running back Tony Hunt gashed the Horned Frogs for 134 rushing yards and 29 receiving yards, while receivers Derrick Williams and Deon Butler each hauled in long touchdown passes.
Penn State (11-1 in 2005) won the Orange Bowl in real life. The program figures to be a primary obstacle to Texas and USC in our simulation.
TCU did pick up substantial garbage time yardage. Robert Merrill finished with 180 on the ground in the losing effort, and wideout Michael DePriest gained 172 through the air.
No. 13 Oregon 27, No. 20 Alabama 14
On the verge of a dizzying run of up-tempo offensive success led by the likes of Dennis Dixon, Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas and Marcus Mariota, Oregon (10-2 in 2005) was pretty damn good. The Ducks leaned on NFL-bound Kellen Clemens under center and had an underrated defense spearheaded by Haloti Ngata, Anthony Trucks and Patrick Chung.
Alabama (10-2 in 2005) was not at the level it would reach with Nick Saban in charge but still an SEC force. With Brodie Croyle under center and Kenneth Darby in the backfield, the Crimson Tide did just enough in real life to support the top-ranked scoring defense in the nation. In the game, though, the squad is under appreciated in terms of ratings, leading us to give them a rather disrespectful No. 20-seed.
This turned out to be one of the more evenly matched, entertaining games of the opening round.
Oregon jumped ahead 14-0 with this pick-six from Chung, who somehow covered half the field horizontally to secure his interception.
Alabama grounded and pounded its way back into the game, cutting its deficit to 17-14 behind Darby’s workhorse performance. Darby finished the contest with 144 rushing yards and a pair of scores.
Oregon’s decisive moment came late in the third quarter when Clemens found Garren Strong down the sideline with a pass that looped juuust beyond the reach of Simeon Castille.
No. 28 Iowa 20, No. 5 Georgia 10
Iowa (7-5 in 2005) was always going to be a trap game for Georgia (10-3 in 2005) given its elite defense. Still, we didn’t expect the Hawkeyes to be as relentless as they were.
Led by linebackers Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge, Iowa kept Georgia from scoring an offensive touchdown. The Bulldogs’ lone score came via a first-quarter pick-six of Drew Tate.
The Hawkeyes forced five turnovers in their victory. Safety Miguel Merrick bookended the takeaways with an early pick of D.J. Shockley and a late forced fumble of Sean Bailey.
Iowa’s lack of offensive pop is a concern moving forward in our tournament. Drew Tate (7 of 18 for 140 yards, one TD and three INTs) was inconsistent, and running back Albert Young managed just 57 yards on the ground. Still, the unit did much better than what the Bulldogs put forth.
No. 41 Virginia Tech 41, No. 20 Auburn 20
The younger brother of Michael Vick went off for 21-seed Virginia Tech (11-2 in 2005) against 12-seed Auburn (9-3 in 2005). He threw a touchdown pass and ran for two more scores in a runaway win, looking fantastic in an option attack for the Hokies. Tigers defensive linemen Quentin Groves and Stanley McGlover were mostly neutralized, combining for six tackles and a single sack.
Defensively for Virginia Tech, Jimmy Williams intercepted two passes and forced two fumbles.
No. 2 USC 79, No. 31 Clemson 10
This was not a fun game to play. USC (12-1 in 2005) is on another planet talent-wise in “NCAA Football 06” and proved to be an unfair matchup for Clemson (8-4 in 2005). As in real life, Reggie Bush was ridiculous as a virtual running back/special teamer. He tallied 140 all-purpose yards and four total touchdowns (including three return TDs!) in the first-round romp.
Take a look at Bush in all of his collegiate glory.
Dwayne Jarrett added a long touchdown reception , and LenDale White poured on the points late with 113 yards of his own.
Clemson’s only touchdown came through an interception return from Tye Hill.
No. 18 Michigan 35, No. 15 Tennessee 7
Mike Hart was a tank out of the backfield for Michigan, carrying the ball 1,015 times in his career. That mark ranks 14th on the all-time NCAA leaderboard, a remarkable accomplishment considering just three of the players ahead of him played in the 2000s.
While the Wolverines (7-5 in 2005) were one of the nation’s biggest disappointments in real life, they used Hart to great success in our virtual contest. The New York native racked up 188 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns against Tennessee (5-6 in 2005). A significant chunk of his production came on this spin-aided 94-yard run:
Chad Henne (137 yards, one TD and no INTs) was solid under center for Michigan in this game while counterpart Erik Ainge (141 yards, one TD and two INTs) was far less effective.
Outside of a 12-yard touchdown reception for Robert Meachem, little went right for Tennessee.
No. 7 LSU 37, No. 26 Boston College 27
Only one quarterback showed up in this matchup of marquee signal-callers between seventh-seeded LSU (11-2 in 2005) and 26th-seeded Boston College (9-3 in 2005) — and it happened to be the passer on the losing team.
Matt Ryan was generally excellent for Boston College, connecting with Will Blackmon in the end zone twice in the first half. His second strike to the cornerback-turned-wideout cut LSU’s lead to 17-14 entering the half.
LSU managed to put up 37 points despite an atrocious effort from JaMarcus Russell (3 of 16 for 75 yards, one TD and two INTs). Alley Broussard, rated as LSU’s top back in the game entering 2005 before missing the entire season, went off for 231 rushing yards and two touchdowns to help the Tigers pull away.
We expect Russell to pick up his game in the Sweet 16 against Florida. He has too many outside options (including Dwayne Bowe and Early Doucet) not to play better.
No. 10 Florida 37, No. 23 Virginia 6
Florida (9-3 in 2005) earned the 10-seed in our bracket but suggested it should have been ranked even higher with a dominant win over a Virginia team featuring NFL first-rounders D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Chris Long, as well as future Pro Bowl linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
The Cavaliers (7-5 in 2005) took a 3-0 lead into the second quarter before falling victim to an onslaught from the Chris Leak-led Gators. A wonky 59-yard tip catch and run by Andre Caldwell set the blowout in motion.
No. 3 Ohio State 47, No. 30 Wisconsin 24
Ohio State (10-2 in 2005) is probably the top threat to keep USC out of the championship game. The Buckeyes have Troy Smith, Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr. on offense and A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Malcolm Jenkins on defense. Our 3-seed had no problem dispatching Wisconsin at home.
Wisconsin (10-3 in 2005) failed to slow down the run game. Antonio Pittman ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, Smith ran for 103 yards and a touchdown and Ginn found the end zone on a nifty option reverse play.
The Badgers played from behind throughout the contest, keeping things respectable in large part because of a strong outing by Jonathan Orr (126 receiving yards and two TDs).
No. 14 UCLA 48, No. 19 Louisville 30
A clash of star-studded offenses did not disappoint. UCLA’s Drew Olsen, Maurice Jones-Drew and Mercedes Lewis bested Brian Brohm, Michael Bush and Joshua Tinch in the back-and-forth affair that stayed close until late in the third quarter.
Jones-Drew (137 all-purpose yards, three total TDs) was the MVP for the Bruins (10-2 in 2005). His punt and kickoff return scores were instrumental in creating space between teams.
Brohm cost Louisville by throwing three interceptions, each one coming in UCLA territory. He did accumulate 384 passing yards — the most of anyone in the first round. Bush rushed for 146 yards and Tinch delivered 177 all-purpose yards.
No. 27 Georgia Tech 28, No. 6 Notre Dame 24
This wound up being the most exciting game of the opening round.
Georgia Tech (7-5 in 2005) saw the good version of quarterback Reggie Ball to support P.J. Daniels and Calvin Johnson in a narrow upset of sixth-seeded Notre Dame (9-3 in 2005).
Brady Quinn gave the Fighting Irish a 7-0 advantage with a lob over the middle to future MLB pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
It was then time for Johnson to assert himself, first with an over-the-shoulder catch down the left sideline and then with a reception streaking wide-open down the right sideline. His second touchdown came on the first play from scrimmage of the second half and gave Georgia Tech a 21-10 lead.
Notre Dame clawed back, though, as Quinn found his rhythm to guide his team to a 24-21 lead with less than five minutes to go in the contest.
Georgia Tech’s response sucked the life out of South Bend:
With a chance to respond with a winning drive, Quinn and the Fighting Irish turned the ball over on downs. Georgia Tech advanced to face Miami in the Sweet 16.
No. 11 Miami 45, No. 22 Texas Tech 24
Miami (9-3 in 2005) is a dark horse candidate to make a run in this competition. It has NFL talent scattered throughout its roster; the team’s big names include Greg Olsen, Devin Hester, Sinorice Moss, Brandon Meriweather and Calais Campbell.
Texas Tech (9-3 in 2005) couldn’t quite handle Miami’s firepower, though it did get some strong individual displays from Joel Filani (206 receiving yards, one TD) and Taurean Henderson (136 rushing yards, two TDs).
Craig Hodges threw two interceptions in the loss, with his second one going the other way for six.
Miami quarterback Kyle Wright went 17 of 32 passing for 324 yards and two touchdowns.
Stats leaderboard for ‘The Tournament’
|Player||Team||Comp/Att||Pass Yards||Pass TD||INT|
|Brian Brohm||Louisville||16 of 44||384||0||3|
|Kyle Wright||Miami||17 of 32||324||2||0|
|Vince Young||Texas||9 of 15||294||3||0|
|Matt Ryan||BC||20 of 31||275||2||2|
|Jay Davis||NC State||11 of 21||262||1||5|
|Cody Hodges||Texas Tech||17 of 38||262||1||2|
|Brady Quinn||Notre Dame||12 of 21||250||2||0|
|Kellen Clemens||Oregon||12 of 20||235||1||1|
|D.J. Shockley||Georgia||14 of 32||234||0||2|
|Brandon Cox||Auburn||20 of 35||233||2||2|
|Chris Leak||Florida||13 of 25||224||2||0|
|Jeff Ballard||TCU||9 of 18||207||1||3|
|Michael Robinson||Penn State||9 of 12||196||2||0|
|John Stocco||Wisconsin||10 of 17||192||2||2|
|Reggie Ball||Georgia Tech||7 of 14||187||2||2|
|Charlie Whitehurst||Clemson||14 of 27||183||0||2|
|Reggie McNeal||Texas A&M||16 of 21||171||2||0|
|Pat White||West Virginia||9 of 22||158||1||1|
|Marques Hagans||Virginia||11 of 29||158||0||5|
|Paul Thompson||Oklahoma||15 of 32||155||0||0|
|Drew Olson||UCLA||8 of 24||141||2||1|
|Erik Ainge||Tennessee||8 of 17||141||1||2|
|Drew Tate||Iowa||7 of 18||140||1||3|
|Matt Leinart||USC||6 of 12||138||3||1|
|Chad Henne||Michigan||9 of 21||137||1||0|
|Brodie Croyle||Alabama||6 of 19||132||0||2|
|Marcus Vick||Virginia Tech||7 of 14||120||1||1|
|Steven Moffett||UCF||8 of 18||112||0||2|
|Drew Weatherford||Florida State||11 of 18||93||0||1|
|JaMarcus Russell||LSU||3 of 16||75||1||2|
|Joe Ayoob||Cal||6 of 22||54||0||0|
|Troy Smith||Ohio State||6 of 12||47||1||1|
|Selvin Young||Texas||1 of 1||19||0||0|
|John David Booty||USC||2 of 5||16||1||0|
|Kenny Irons||Auburn||1 of 2||14||0||1|
Rushing (top 10)
|Player||Team||Rush Yards||Rush TD||Scrim Yards|
|Leon Washington||Florida State||148||1||148|
|Antonio Pittman||Ohio State||145||2||145|
|Michael Robinson||Penn State||138||1||138|
Receiving (top 10)
|Player||Team||Receiving Yards||Receiving TD|
|Joel Filani||Texas Tech||206||1|
|Tramain Hall||NC State||133||0|
|Calvin Johnson||Georgia Tech||132||2|
|Jeff Samardzija||Notre Dame||128||1|
Sweet 16 matchups
Expect the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 recap stories to come out in about a week. Here are the matchups for the next round:
- No. 1 Texas vs. No. 16 West Virginia
- No. 2 USC vs. No. 18 Michigan
- No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 14 UCLA
- No. 4 Penn State vs. No. 13 Oregon
- No. 7 LSU vs. No. 10 Florida
- No. 8 Oklahoma vs. No. 24 Texas A&M
- No. 11 Miami vs. No. 27 Georgia Tech
- No. 21 Virginia Tech vs. No. 28 Iowa