BY MIKE WOLVERTON SPORTS GUY We have a few problems in this country, and one of them is the priorities of our elected officials. This month, Congress is wasting time and taxpayer money trying to force the NCAA to adopt a playoff system for Division 1 football. H.R. 390, the College Football Playoffs Act, would make it illegal to promote a postseason contest as a “National Championship” unless the teams involved arrived there via a playoff system. Forget that the bill is sponsored by a Texas Congressman trying to curry favor with UT alums (Texas was the team that got hosed by the current system in 2008). Forget that the Associated Press crowns their champion by vote, regardless of the participants in theBCS National Championship Game (only voters in the coaches poll are required to place the winner of that game atop their ballot). Also, please ignore the fact that regulating college sports is not the concern of the government, no matter what smoke screen they use (I believe it is “interstate commerce”). I think some of the motivation is that discussing college football at work is more interesting than the other boring crap Congress deals with.
Who needs a playoff, anyway? I’m not here to rehash all those arguments, but I will give you one: with the current system, the entire college football season becomes a “playoff,” where one loss usually ends your chances of winning it all. I, for one, love the current bowl system, and can make you a convert as well. It’s simple. Find a friend who likes college football and a list of all the point spreads. Agree on an amount to wager on each game (my friend and I started at $1 per game and now we are up to $10). One person chooses a team, and the other automatically gets stuck with the opposing side. Then person 2 makes a choice, and so on. Suddenly you have a stake in every bowl game on the board (a whopping 34 games this year), and Oh! How your holiday joy will grow!
I’ve been playing this game with my buddy for ten years and I hang on every down in such games as the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl (a.k.a. Blue Turf Bowl) and the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Over the ten years I have become fascinated by the name and sponsorship changes and get a big kick out of referring to the games just by the sponsor (i.e. “What’s the line in the Gaylord?”). We’ve developed seven “spin off” games that measure things like the biggest underdog to win outright and gives different weights to each game depending on what order they are chosen. During Bowl Season this fun completely overwhelms my interest in the NFL, and makes the Dec.30-Jan. 1 “corridor” three of the most fun days of the year (fifteen bowl games in three days!). Because I have diligently previewed all 34 games, I will share a few of the highlights of this year.
Three You Must See
Air Force vs. Houston (-4.5) in the Bell Helicopters. Houston has the #1 passing offense in the nation, Air Force the #1 passing defense. Air Force has the #3 rushing offense and Houston’s rush D is ranked 111th. So why is Houston giving points? And how can Air Force lose something called the Armed Forces Bowl? Oh, they lost this very game to this same Houston team last year? Forget it.
Boise State vs. TCU (-7) in the Tostitos. Conspiracy theorists delighted when neither of these “BCS Busters” got a shot at a BCS Conference opponent and thus neither will get a chance to change opinions about how their conference stacks up against the Big Six. Way to keep the little guy down! Already this bowl season, Utah and Brigham Young, fromTCU’s Mountain West Conference, have smoked Pac 10 teams. Meanwhile, Boise State’s conference-mate Nevada just lost by 35 as a 15-point favorite, and Fresno State lost while favored by 11. Judging by that, this could be a blowout…tune in to see just how goodTCU is.
Texas vs. Alabama (-5) in the Citi BCS NCG. You may find it hard to root for either team, but it is the National Championship.
Three You Must Bet
I don’t encourage betting, except that most of this column has been about encouraging betting.
Texas Tech (-8) vs. Michigan State in the Valero. Texas Tech has the #2 passing offense in the country while the Spartans’ defense is middling. And Michigan State has lost eight players to suspension after a dorm fight, including a starting defensive back and their two top receivers. On top of the fact that Michigan State just sucks. This will be a long day forSparty.
West Virginia (-3) vs. Florida State in the Konica-Minolta. It really doesn’t matter how hard the Seminoles try to send Bobby Bowden out with a victory, they are poor and overmatched. The Gator Bowl bypassed several other ACC teams to lift Florida State into this game purely for Bowden-related reasons. Bettors will think the same thing, “This is Bowden’s last game, ther’re going to be fired up, they can’t lose this one!” But Bowden has been a hands-off delaGator for the last ten years. I wonder how many of the players have had conversations with him, and I really don’t see them caring as much as the public thinks they will. Did I mention the ‘Noles are poor? FSU to get squished.
Ohio (-2.5) vs. Marshall in the Little Caesars. Oh my lord how is Marshall in a bowl game? They lost to 4-8 UTEP by 31 points. Ohio is no good either, but still. If you read this too late to act on the Little Caesars, consider Air Force (getting 4.5!) in the Bell Helicopters.
Three You Must Avoid
I don’t have enough Marriage Capital built up to cover 34 bowl games, so these are the three I’ll skip (if I have to):
Ohio vs. Marshall in the Little Caesars. Ohio was the runner-up in the MAC, which only means they are better than Temple. Marshall was outscored by 37 points over the course of the season and their coach resigned. Awful, awful game.
Minnesota vs. Iowa State in the Insight. I checked out Iowa State and they looked so bad, my thought was, “Please let Minnesota be just slightly competent and I will jump all over them with my first pick.” Well, I checked out Minnesota and then couldn’t decide. They are both that bad. Iowa State is 102nd (out of 120) in points per game; Minnesota is four spots better. If the kickers can put it through the uprights, this one screams 6-3.
Bowling Green vs. Idaho in the Blue Turf. A guy I knew once told me that the blue turf in Boise was a problem for migrating geese, as the feathered mistook the large blue area for a body of water and would crash into it, with grisly consequences. This factoid is significantly more interesting than anything that will come out of this game.
So, in conclusion, bet Texas Tech, avoid Little Caesars, watch Bell Helicopters and keep Congress off my bowl games.