Monday, December 7, 2015

College Football: An Early Look at the 40(!!!) Bowl Matchups (CFP Edition)

OK, 41, if you consider the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl to be a bowl game, which I do. I'm going to start with the two Playoff games because they're the biggest and, to be honest, the only games that have actual relevancy.  The other Bowl games are rewards to teams for season's well played or, in some cases, bowl slots because the bowl organizers had to fill their roster and these teams should travel OK.


One: The two most compelling games are the CFP Semifinal games being played in the Orange & Cotton Bowls.  Well, OK not in the ACTUAL Orange and Cotton Bowls but in Sun Life Stadium and Jerry's World. (The old Orange Bowl is, sadly, no more and the Cotton Bowl now hosts the Red River Shootout and the Heart of Dallas Bowl.) But, sticking with naming conventions (because the other gets too darn hard) we'll refer to the Bowls by their chosen names.

One A: The College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capitol One Orange Bowl (seriously, that's the official name)

4. Oklahoma (-3) vs. 1. Clemson

I'm not entirely surprised that OU is a favorite here, and I actually expect the line to move more in their favor as time goes on.  They are the hot team and the team that didn't have its warts fully exposed in a Championship Game because the Big XII is the dumbest of all the Power 5 conferences.

Because OU didn't play they fell in the rankings to #4, where they got, IMO a much tougher matchup in the Semifinals than they'll find in the finals.  OU has the sizzle, I think Clemson has the steak. But, there's the "Not Big Game Bob" factor vs. "Clemsoning" to consider.

Prediction:  TBD

Gaming options: To be honest, I hate this game for betting purposes. At least, right NOW I hate it.  If the line slides further to OU then I like Clemson coming back, but it's going to need to get much closer to -6 or -6.5 to interest me. Given that we're still a LONG WAYS away from the 31st I think it might get there. The O/U in this game is currently sitting at either 65 or 65 1/2 depending on the book.  I think that right there the number is right and I'm loathe to mess with it much.  I'll be watching the movement however because I think this game will have the more volatile line. (It's already moved from -2.5 to -3 toward OU.)

One B: The College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl (I mean c'mon)

3. Michigan State vs. 2. Alabama (-9)

This game has the potential to set College Football back to the 1960's era, or maybe to the days before Notre Dame unveiled the forward pass.  Despite that, this is my favorite matchup because it has the potential to be one of those games where the two teams knock seven bells out of each other until one of them falls down.

It also pits two of the best coaches in the game up against one another (Alabama's Nick Saban and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio) with over three weeks to prepare.  Granted, Alabama might be missing Kirby Smart for this game and time will tell if coaching attrition will effect Michigan State as there are still a handful of jobs open.

Prediction: TBD

Gaming Options: Right now I'm very enamored with Michigan State at +9.  I think that number is going to come down so if you can jump on it I might think about it right now. I'm also interested in the O/U for this game, which currently sits at 49.  I think, as bettors start to get a handle on this game, it's going to move up.  If it heads North of 52 I like the under.  If not, I'll pass.


Is four enough?

The big argument surrounding the CFP now is whether or not four is enough.

CBS, happy that the SEC is getting represented, is making the case that 4 is plenty. I would expect this changes the second a 2-loss team gets eliminated and their only TV contracted conference gets omitted from the playoffs.

Fox, who has the television contract with the omitted Pac12: Is starting to push for an expansion to 8 teams. For a network that's trying to challenge the hammer-lock that ESPN has on College Football having their marquee conference excluded is a big jolt.

ESPN, who has the CFP contract itself: Is not-so-quietly pushing for eight because more high-profile games means more advertising revenues which means more MONEY. For a network that's sorely in need of it.

NBC, who carries SOME ND games still: hasn't published an opinion yet and to be honest, what they think doesn't really matter.  My thought is that NBC is going to all but abandon high-level College Football altogether over the next couple of years and focus instead on growing NBCSN using soccer, auto racing, golf and other sports including Olympic tie-ins while NBC focuses on Sunday Night Football, BPL games and Olympic sports.

Other sites, including many online sports sites, are advocating for expansion. They include:

Eleven Warriors (Ohio State Fansite)
For the Win (USA Today)
The Student Section (On-line football blog for online sports site The Comeback)
FiveThirtyEight(ESPN)
And Baylor (Big XII [X])

You can add The Public Money to that list arguing for.  As a matter of fact, I'm going to argue for expansion to 16 teams, even IF the major conferences expand to 4 16-team super-conferences as I have been predicting.

Why 16?

Because we currently have 10 conferences in Division I college football (FBS, whatever) and 5 of those conferences have no realistic shot to ever play in the College Football Playoff.  And, while I understand the arguments against their inclusion (You're right, they can't compete on the field of play OR financially) excluding them from the party only increases the disparity.

And before you gripe about "Hey, aren't you free market? Why do you want football socialism?" I'll counter that the NCAA is not a free market at all, but a protected monopoly where finances are currently being handed out to an exclusive minority at the expense of the vast majority of teams.

So, here's my suggestion:  EVERY Conference champion gets a nod, plus the next six highest ranked teams as at-large bids.

This year the line-up (with seeds) would look like this:

1. Clemson (ACC Champion)
2. Alabama (SEC Champion)
3. Michigan State (B1G Champion)
4. Oklahoma (Big XII (X) Champion)
5. Stanford (Pac 12 Champion)
6. Iowa (at-large)
7. Ohio State (at-large)
8. Notre Dame (at-large)
9. Florida State (at-large)
10. North Carolina (at-large)
11. TCU (at-large)
12. Houston (AAC Champion)
13. Western Kentucky (C-USA Champion)
14. Bowling Green (MAC Champion)
15. San Diego State (MWC Champion)
16. Arkansas State (Sun Belt Champion)

So, in my system 9-3 Ole Miss is the "first team out" and I can't imagine anyone suggesting they should be included.

Not surprisingly, this would give us some spectacular week one matchups:

8 Notre Dame vs. 9 Florida State
5 Stanford vs. 12 Houston
7 Ohio State vs. 10 North Carolina
6 Iowa vs. 11 TCU

And while there would be, on paper, the usual blowouts, March Madness logic comes into play and you have to assume that, more often than not, there would be a major upset in the works.

I realize that there is no way that this will ever happen.  The Power 5 Conferences are basically being allowed to run rough-shod over quality sports TV and have been allowed to by the toothless and ineffectual NCAA for years now.

But still, one can dream right?

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