Using the same college football simulation engine that accurately predicted 80.0 percent of all 2015 FBS games, WhatIfSports.com simulated each of the New Year’s Six bowl matchups and the College Football Playoff National Championship 501 times. For more predictions, view our previews of all 41 bowls.
View each team’s winning percentage, average score and sample box score. If you would like to simulate any bowl game yourself, every 2015 bowl team is available using our free NCAA College Football SimMatchup feature.
Alabama Crimson TideA season ago, Alabama blew a 21-6 lead over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Michigan State did not share the same fortune as its Big Ten brethren, as Alabama turned a 10-0 halftime lead into a 38-0 victory. The Crimson Tide have some history against their title game opponent, leading the all-time series against Clemson 12-3.Clemson TigersAfter trailing Oklahoma 17-16 at the half in the College Football Playoff semifinal, the Tigers scored 21 second-half points while shutting out the Sooners. If Clemson can top Alabama, it will be the school’s first national championship since a perfect season in 1981 that concluded with a 22-15 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.Box ScoreIn the excitement of Deshaun Watson’s Heisman campaign, Wayne Gallman’s excellent season had been relatively overlooked. After the National Championship, that was no longer the case. Gallman found the end zone in the first quarter for an early 7-0 Clemson lead. His 61-yard end zone excursion in the third quarter extended Clemson’s lead to 24-12. Finally, after Alabama fought back to force overtime, Gallman needed just two plays to reach the end zone for the game-winning score.Player of the Game
Houston CougarsThe only blemish on Houston’s season was a 20-17 defeat at Connecticut. The AAC champions bested three ranked conference foes, taking down Memphis, Navy and Temple. The next test is Florida State, which pits the Cougars’ high-scoring offense (40.6 points per game) against the Seminoles’ tough defense. Florida State SeminolesDalvin Cook’s phenomenal season included 1,658 rushing yards with 7.9 yards per carry and 18 rushing touchdowns. He led an offensive that valued the football, turning it over just 10 times all season. On defense, the Seminoles held opponents to 15.8 points per game. Florida State’s consecutive bowl streak is now up to 34. UPDATE: QB Everett Golson is expected to miss the game.Box ScoreThe Cougs were ready to ruin some College Football Pick’em entries after they took a 24-14 lead over the Seminoles midway through the third quarter. However, Cook had other plans. He helped rally Florida State with 134 rushing yards, including a 48-yard TD run that put the Seminoles up 27-24 with 4:37 to play. Houston answered with a game-tying field goal, but Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo connected on a 35-yarder with two seconds remaining for a 30-27 Seminoles victory.Player of the Game
Oklahoma SoonersThe Sooners secured their playoff bid with three straight victories over ranked opponents — Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State — to end the year. Added to early-season wins over ranked Tennessee and West Virginia teams, it was enough to offset a bad loss to 4-7 Texas. Oklahoma’s offensive stalwarts include Baker Mayfield (3,389 passing yards, 35 TDs), Samaje Perine (1,291 rushing yards, 15 TDs) and Sterling Shepard (1,201 receiving yards, 11 TDs).Clemson TigersThe Tigers are flirting with perfection. With two more wins, Clemson can achieve a 15-0 mark and become the first team of the College Football Playoff era to run the table. Dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson passed for 3,512 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 887 yards and 11 scores. The Clemson defense held opposing passers to a 46.1 completion percentage, the lowest mark in the nation.Box ScoreThe only undefeated team in the FBS stayed unbeaten. Watson played mistake-free football while throwing for 288 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another score. The Sooners tied the game in the fourth quarter when Mayfied capped off a 10-play drive with a 12-yard TD pass to freshman tight end Mark Andrews. Clemson responded with a 10-play drive of its own, eating up 3:17 and scoring on a one-yard touchdown run. Dabo Swinney and his squad dabbed postgame as they are now headed to the National Championship.Player of the Game
Michigan State SpartansSparty gained some gray hairs this season. Of Michigan State’s 12 victories, six were decided by seven points or less. But the performance was enough to gain entrance to the College Football Playoff as the No. 3 seed. The Spartans have the fourth-best turnover margin in the nation, having gained 28 turnovers while coughing it up just 12 times.Alabama Crimson TideLast year, Alabama earned the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff but suffered a semifinal upset to Ohio State. Nick Saban’s team gets another shot this year as the No. 2 seed. Expect a heavy dose of Heisman hopeful Derrick Henry, who led the nation in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns. The always-stout Bama defense held opponents to 14.4 points per game in 2015. Box ScoreWhat a fourth quarter, what a game! Henry broke free for a 57-yard touchdown, putting the Tide up by 15 with four minutes left in the game. The Spartans responded with a 10-play, 85-yard drive which ended with a 35-yard TD run by L.J. Scott. Then, Michigan State kept its hopes alive by recovering the onside kick. Six plays later, Connor Cook connected with Gerald Holmes for the nine-yard TD pass. It all came down to the two-point conversion. Alabama blitzed and Cook’s pass fell to the ground. Nick Saban’s team advances to the National Championship.Player of the Game
Notre Dame Fighting IrishThe Fighting Irish were oh-so-close to causing a storm of controversy regarding this year’s playoff field. Instead, Notre Dame fell to Stanford on a field goal as time expired, greatly simplifying the playoff selection process. Notre Dame’s two defeats were by a combined four points.Ohio State BuckeyesAfter a loss to Michigan State in which running back Ezekiel Elliot was limited to 33 yards on 12 touches, he made public his disapproval of the team’s play-calling. A week later, Elliott submitted 221 yards of total offense on 32 touches in a win over Michigan. Nationally, Elliot ranks in the top five in both rushing yards (1,672) and rushing touchdowns (19). Box ScoreJust feed the Zeke. Elliott rushed for a Fiesta Bowl record 244 yards in the win against the Fighting Irish. The previous record-setting performance took place 33 years ago, when Oklahoma’s Marcus Dupree tallied 239 rushing yards against Arizona State in 1983. The Buckeyes were down by three late in the fourth quarter. Jack Willoughby tied the game with 91 seconds remaining on the clock. After a quick three-and-out, J.T. Barrett needed only three plays to get well into Willoughby’s range. As time expired, Willoughby made the game-winning 34-yard field goal with ease.Player of the Game
Stanford CardinalChristian McCaffrey’s record-breaking season included 1,847 rushing yards, 540 receiving yards and 1,109 punt and kick return yards for a total of 3,496 all-purpose yards. The figure was 1,000 yards more than second-place Tyler Ervin of San Jose State and beat Barry Sanders’ all-time record of 3,250 yards. Iowa HawkeyesThe Hawkeyes’ perfect season ended in the Big Ten championship game, a 16-13 loss to Michigan State. Had Iowa won, it would have joined the College Football Playoff and competed for a national championship. Instead, the consolation prize is a trip to the Rose Bowl to face Stanford. Box ScoreHere’s how a Heisman candidate should handle his business in a bowl game. McCaffrey capped off his season with a brilliant performance, racking up 170 total yards and scoring three times, including the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter to give Stanford a hard-fought Rose Bowl victory. Player of the Game
Oklahoma State CowboysWith 10 wins to kick off the year, Oklahoma State reached as high as No. 4 in the AP poll and appeared to be a legitimate playoff hopeful. But losses to Baylor and Oklahoma relegated the Cowboys to the Sugar Bowl. Watch out for defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who collected 13 of the Cowboys’ 38 sacks.Ole Miss RebelsThe Rebels have gone bowling in each of Hugh Freeze’s four seasons and the program has a chance to reach 10 wins for the first time since 2003. Quarterback Chad Kelly tossed for 3,740 yards and rushed for another 427. Laquon Treadwell led the receiving corps with 76 receptions for 1,082 yards and eight touchdowns.Box ScoreAn 11-point lead for Oklahoma State with less than five minutes to play? Game over, right? Not so fast, my friends! After a 56-yard rushing touchdown and a defensive stop, Ole Miss had the ball at the 18-yard-line, down five, with enough time for one last play. As time expired, Kelly connected with Cody Core for the game-winning score to complete one of the greatest comebacks in Sugar Bowl history. Player of the Game