Jay Christensen covered college football, among other sports, for the
Los Angeles Times and produces the popular college football blog TheWizofOdds.com.If you’re in a quandary over which teams to bet this week, save yourself some time and look at the Associated Press Top 10.
Consider that last Saturday, nine of the Top-10 teams covered the spread. The 10th - Wisconsin - was idle.
The top nine outscored opponents by an average of 46.8 to 12.5 (34.3 points a game) and covered the spread by an average of 14.4 points.
Boise State had the largest margin of victory, winning by 50 points against Fresno State and covering the spread by 29. Clemson had the closest margin, winning by 22 against Boston College and covering the spread by a point.
Oklahoma State scored 70 points, Boise State 57, Oklahoma 55 and Stanford 48.
And it’s not a one-week trend. Check this jaw-dropping statistic: If you’re only strategy this season was to bet teams in the AP Top 10, you’d be 41-12-1 against the spread.
That’s 77.4 percent.
The numbers don’t lie. College football in 2011 has been reduced to the haves (teams in the Top 10) and the have-nots (everybody else).
So what gives? Why is there such an imbalance of power in the sport?
In short, it’s all about style points.
After the 2001 season, framers of the Bowl Championship Series decided to tweak the system by eliminating margin of victory as a component in the computer rankings, which account for one-third of the BCS formula. Thus, Boise State’s 57-7 victory over Fresno State last Saturday is to be treated the same as if the Broncos won 13-7.
While this might have looked good from a public relations standpoint, it did nothing to deter teams from running up the score. That’s because two-thirds of today’s BCS formula - the Harris Interactive and USA Today coaches polls - are of the human variety.
Don’t think for a second that voters in the two polls aren’t keeping an eye on margin of victory. That’s why elite teams are willing to lay the smack down Saturdays. They are jockeying for poll position and the more decisive a victory, the better chance of moving up and securing a berth in a coveted BCS game.
Nine of the top 10 teams are playing this Saturday and totaled, they are favored by 200.5 points or 22.3 points a game.
Don’t be surprised to see Wisconsin, a 40-point favorite, cover the number against Indiana. One only has to look at last season’s game between the teams, when coach Bret Bielema had backup quarterback Jon Budmayr throw deep to receiver Jared Abbrederis with the Badgers clinging to a 69-13 fourth-quarter lead. Although the play worked for a 74-yard touchdown, Bielema wasn’t finished. He tacked on one more touchdown and Wisconsin held on for an 83-20 victory.
The Badgers are not alone as huge favorites. Oklahoma is spotting 34.5 points to Kansas, which ranks 120th (dead last) in total defense. The only thing holding back the Sooners Saturday will be themselves.
Then there’s Boise State, which is favored by 32.5 points against Colorado State. It’s critical that the Broncos pile up points and impress voters because there’s no margin of error playing in the non-BCS Mountain West Conference. One loss and Boise State is looking at the Las Vegas Bowl - not that there is anything wrong with Vegas.
As we stand today, there are 13 undefeated teams. Given the remaining schedules, a maximum of only seven can finish the regular season without a loss. For example, Louisiana State and Alabama play Nov. 5 in what is expected to be a battle of unbeaten teams. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, also currently undefeated, square off Dec. 3.
That’s the state of college football in 2011, where every opponent of a Top-10 team is nothing more than a tackling dummy.Week 6 impressions:
- So far, the Pacific 10 adding Colorado and Utah has been like the PGA Tour giving playing privileges to Charles Barkley and Ray Romano.
- Ohio State being 3-3 and Illinois being 6-0 entering their Saturday matchup can mean only one thing: The Detroit Lions are good.
- If Alabama, Oklahoma, Stanford, Wisconsin, Boise State, Clemson and Houston are all unbeaten on Dec. 3, someone might suggest college football needs a playoff.
- Hunch Play of the Week: I’ll take the best team T. Boone Pickens’ money can buy on Saturday in Austin. Oklahoma State, giving the points, over Texas. You can follow
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