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NEW TGS COVER STORY...CONFERENCE TITLE GAME NOTEBOOK
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor


Has it already been a year since we ran our well-received book review of Death to the BCS, a probing work authored by Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel, Jeff Passan, and Josh Peter? And can it already be more than a year since that trio’s excellent piece of sports journalism hit the bookshelves?

We mention Death to the BCS because it received a fair deal of coverage when it hit the marketplace last year. For us at TGS, our very-favorable review of Death To the BCS generated perhaps the most positive response we have ever received for one of our editorial pieces. We didn’t get one negative comment, and also don’t recall Wetzel & Co. getting anything other than universal praise for their outstanding bit of investigative journalism that exposed the sham that is the bowl system and the underhanded machinations behind the BCS.

But any hope that the Wetzel book would signal a change on the horizon in the way college football conducts its business was apparently just wishful thinking. The national media, led by ESPN (which has a vested interest in the current bowl system). continues to be enraptured by college football, has mostly forgotten about Death to the BCS, although Wetzel continues to beat his drum in frequent college football columns that appear on Yahoo Sports.

We mention watchdog Wetzel again because few aside from him have been perceptive enough to report objectively on the latest doings regarding the BCS, fueled, as could be expected, by the almighty Big Ten and its commissioner, Jim Delany (right). Although the recent rumblings from the BCS that it is considering “scaling back” its operation to merely include one title game matchup, as opposed to the current five-game BCS-bowl cluster, was met with a collective yawn by much of the national media. At least Wetzel, and almost he alone, picked up on the same vibes that got our antennae up when first hearing about the news.

Production schedules allowed Wetzel to beat us to the punch, but we share the same perception that the Big Ten would, as usual, be working in its own self interest to push for a scale-back of the BCS. Without BCS affiliations that force Big East or ACC teams, or heaven forbid, potential interlopers threatening litigation from the Mountain West, WAC, or Conference USA into the big bowl mix, bowls such as the Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta would be unencumbered for at least one of their slots, in which Big Ten reps, with their rabid fan bases, endless appetite for tickets, and accompanyng TV ratings, would always make a nice fit. The prized Rose Bowl, which has begrudgingly gone along with many BCS machinations in recent years, could also return to its familiar Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup, lest champions from one of those two leagues would be invited to the title game, and not have to worry about unwelcome sorts such as TCU crashing the party, as was the case last year.

Delany and the Big Ten are certainly not the only entities on the college football totem pole motivated by their own self interests. The Big Ten, however, has never much cared for the bigger picture, going to extreme lengths to block any discussion of a playoff, even in the “plus one” scenario that has reached the serious discussion stage in past negotiations. The Big Ten, joined at the hip by the Pac-12 thanks to the Rose Bowl, has in the past threatened to drop out of the BCS entirely if anything were enacted close to resembling a playoff, of which the much-discussed “plus one” scenario (matching up the top four teams in an effective “Final Four” in college football) would qualify.

We have long believed that the BCS would sooner go back to how the bowl system used to look before advancing the other direction with any resemblance of a playoff, even the “plus one” idea. From the looks of things, that’s exactly what is in the works. Stay tuned for further developments.

Meanwhile, the real grist of Wetzel’s book, dealing with the sham of the current bowl system, and its inexcusable excesses that are allowed to manifest for the select few “cigars” who profit from those operations, also seems to have been forgotten by much of the national media. Wetzel’s book also introduced substantial evidence of corruption and misappropriation of bowl funds. In the meantime, the Fiesta Bowl’s financial irregularities came to light and caused plenty of embarrassment in the Valley of the Sun. But most of Wetzel’s words seem to have been forgotten by the national sports media, which also never seemed to embrace Wetzel’s spot-on observation that the bowl system was actually hindering, in a severe way, potential windfalls for the entirety of college sport, instead pandering to a select core of profit-makers at the expense of a greater need in a time of budget cutbacks and a sagging economy.

As Wetzel reminded us, college football sells, so why not use it for the greater good, rather than padding the pockets of a select few? We can only imagine what the voracious political press would do to the non-transparent college football bowl system if it sunk its teeth into the story, rather than allowing the mostly-shallow national sports media to carry the baton.

Whatever, Christmas is just around the corner, and Wetzel’s Death to the BCS is still available where books are sold. Do the college football fan in your life a favor by purchasing a copy as a holiday gift.

Meanwhile, college football gears up for the end of its regular season and a handful of conference championship games, to be conducted Friday and Saturday. The loss of the title game in the Big XII (which no longer has the twelve teams required to conduct such an event) has been countered by the Big Ten and Pac-12 joining the fray with their own events, for the first time, this season, with a resultant net gain of one league championship contest for 2011. We can’t predict what the conference title landscape might look like a year from now, with the Big East threatening expansion to include a proposed title game, and the Mountain West and Conference USA on the verge of a partnership that will perhaps result in a combined title game, with the winner supposedly receiving a BCS berth. Except no one knows if the BCS has yet agreed to such an arrangement, or, as mentioned above, if the BCS is even going to be doing business the same way in the future with its potential scale-back on the drawing board.

About all we do know is that six of these games will be taking place this week, and there have been some rather interesting conference-specific spread and “totals”-related trends that have been worth noting over the past several years. The most noteworthy of those are highlighted in the following league-by-league title game histories. Included are results since 2003.

SEC...Nineteen games since 1992, with favorites 15-4 straight up, but only 9-10 vs. the pointspread. The first two (1992 & ‘93) were held at Birmingham’s Legion Field; since ‘94, all have been played at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. As usual, national title implications are in store this year, although many believe LSU is likely to receive a ticket to the BCS championship in New Orleans regardless. The team ironically at risk in the SEC isn’t even playing this week; Alabama could be knocked out of the BCS entirely (because of its two-per-league rule) if Georgia scores the upset over Les Miles’ Tigers this week, which would qualify the Dawgs for a BCS berth. The resultant controversy would billow from the Georgia Dome throughout the BCS nation. 2010-Auburn (-5) 56 - South Carolina 17 (“over” 61); 2009-Alabama 32 - Florida (-5) 13 (“over” 41); 2008-Florida (-10) 31 - Alabama 20 (“under” 52½); 2007-LSU (-7½) 21 - Tennessee 14 (“under” 60); 2006-Florida (-2½) 38 - Arkansas 28 (“over” 44½); 2005-Georgia (+ 1½) 34- LSU 14 (“over” 40½); 2004-Auburn (-14½) 38 - Tennessee 28 (“over” 47½); 2003-LSU (-3) 34 - Georgia 13 (“over” 42).

BIG XII...Fifteen games since 1996, with favorites winning and covering nine of those. This one is in dry-dock for the time being until the Big XII gets back to twelve teams (not scheduled for another year, at least), or even survives into the future. 2010-Oklahoma (-4½) 23 - Nebraska 20 (“under” 53); 2009-Texas (-14) 13 - Nebraska 12 (“under 46½); 2008-Oklahoma (-16½) 62 - Missouri 21 (“over” 79); 2007-Oklahoma (-3) 38 - Missouri 17 (“under” 65); 2006-Oklahoma (-3½) 21 - Nebraska 7 (“under” 45½); 2005-Texas (-26½) 70 - Colorado 3 (“over” 60½); 2004-Oklahoma (-22) 42 - Colorado 3 (“under” 54½); 2003-Kansas State (+14) 35 - Oklahoma 7 (“under” 54).

MAC...Fourteen games since 1997, with favorites 8-6 straight up and 6-8 vs. the pointspread. Prior to 2004 (when the game was moved indoors to Detroit’s Ford Field), MAC championships had been contested at campus sites. Underdogs have covered the last three. 2010-Miami Ohio (+17½) 26 - Northern Illinois 21 (“under” 54½); 2009-Central Michigan (-13½) 20 - Ohio 10 (“under” 54); 2008-Buffalo (+15½) 42 - Ball State 24 (“over” 63); 2007-Central Michigan (-3) 35 - Miami Ohio 10 (“under” 63½); 2006-Central Michigan (-3½) 31 - Ohio 10 (“under’ 45½); 2005-Akron (+13) 31 - Northern Illinois 30 (“over” 52); 2004-Toledo (+1½) 35 - Miami-Ohio 27 (“under” 64); 2003 - Miami-Ohio (-7) 49 - Bowling Green 27 (“over” 58½).

ACC...Six games since 2005, with favorites 4-2 straight up and vs. the pointspread. First three games held at Jacksonville’s Alltel Stadium; 2008 and 2009 games held at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa; last year and this at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte. 2010 Virginia Tech (-4) 44 - Florida State 33 (“over” 52); 2009-Georgia Tech (-1) 39 - Clemson 34 (“over” 56½); 2008-Virginia Tech(+1½) 30 - Boston College 12 (“over” 43); 2007-Virginia Tech (-4½) 30 - Boston College 16 (“under” 47); 2006-Wake Forest (-2) 9 - Georgia Tech 6 (“under” 40); 2005-Florida State (+14) 27 - Virginia Tech 22 (“over” 44½).

CONFERENCE USA...Like the ACC, began in 2005, with six games since; favorites (and home teams) 4-2 straight up and vs. the pointspread. C-USA title games have been held at campus sites, with the home team noted by an *. 2010- UCF* (-9) 17 - SMU 7 (“under” 55); 2009-East Carolina* 38 - Houston (-2) 33 (“over” 69); 2008-East Carolina (+12½) 27 - Tulsa* 24 (“under” 65½); 2007-UCF* (-7½) 44 - Tulsa 27 (“under” 74); 2006-Houston* (-5) 34 - Southern Miss 20(“over” 53½); 2005-Tulsa (-2) 44 - UCF* 27 (“over” 56½).

WAC...Three title games at Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium between 1996-98, with favorites winning all 3, and covering 2.


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