#1 Florida Gators vs. #16 Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers
My rule about venue means this is taking place at or below sea-level in either a swamp or a sewer or a John Deere factory, where Gators have the advantage.
I remain convinced that this is my alma mater's mascot's namesake, as alligators are a bit thin on the ground in Northwestern Pennsylvania
I've got a feeling that for the most part, unfamiliarity is going to work against Mount St. Mary's; sure, you can orient yourself in the wilderness and start a fire with some moss and a piece of wet burlap, but those skills don't necessarily help when your opponent is low to the ground and toothy.
#8 Colorado Buffaloes vs. #9 Pittsburgh Panthers
Here's a matchup. Colorado's got size on their side, but Pittsburgh has the advantage in terms of speed and agility and number of eye-gouging claws. Even set in the Great Plains, where the Panther can't exactly get the jump on the Buffalo, I can't see this going well.
A quick search of completely unsourced speculation from people who have no idea what they're talking about suggests both mascots would top out in terms of running speed at 35 mph, but unless the panther just stands there and lets itself be run over, I can't imagine mass wins over claws.
#5 Virginia Commonwealth Rams vs. #12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
I'm sure rams are perfectly fine at what they do. I'm not entirely sure what that consists of, but probably ramming, a fair bit of grazing and having some pretty intimidating horns.
But there is no way the Lumberjacks don't win this. "Sheep with Horns" doesn't sound too intimidating against "Large Man with Axes and Saws and Flannel and the willingness to show trees who runs things around here".
Stephen F. Austin advances.
#4 UCLA Bruins vs. #13 Tulsa Golden Hurricanes
I've long held the stance that bears are basically monsters, but hadn't encountered the Golden Hurricane until this year. I could just make a bunch of really, really juvenile jokes here, but I won't.
Tulsa, at least, has either the presence of mind or crassness to name their team after a natural disaster they'll never have to actually put up with. On the other hand, they got rid of their awesome cyclone-headed Huffy mascot and replaced it with a generic superhero who is mostly chin.
That said, bears probably won't fare to well against a weather system.
#6 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #11 Dayton Flyers
Ohio State always has a tough time in the bracket, as buckeyes aren't really so much "menacing" as "poisonous if you happen to eat one, unless we're talking about the confectionery, in which case they're delicious."
Rudy Flyer, on the other hand, seems to have everything more or less in order. If he's got the wherewithal to fly a plane, I'm going to grant that he's smart enough not to try to eat his enemy.
I want to see him open for The Aquabats circa 1999.
Otto is fun and all, and in recent years he's gotten more toothy, but unless citric acid is some sort of contact poison to untamed horses, this one is going to end pretty swiftly.
Even if Buster Bronco does have a sort of droopy-lidded-may-have-just-been-tranq-ed look about him, I'm pretty sure he can just step on his opponent and be on his way.
Western Michigan advances.
I'm sorry, Stanford. You're a fantastic school and in the actual world, I hope you do well here. But your mascot is a tree and your team name is a color. I can't even go with a sort of surprise upset by a passerine bird here.
New Mexico has wolves. I'm sorry. They win this one.
New Mexico advances.
I know that in my Rules I specifically used the Jayhawks as an example of a mascot that I hold no malice against, but would probably rule against based on nothing but his shoes.
Here, though, we've got a fictional bird (whose name alludes to the free-state Jayhawkers) going up against a Kentucky Colonel. That might not imply overwhelming military might as it's a title of honor, but the most famous Kentucky Colonel literally made his fortune killing birds, breading them, frying them and serving them as food. The mascot even looks like Harland Sanders.
Bonus points for showing off the lapel pin.
Eastern Kentucky advances.