Jay Christensen covered college football, among other sports, for the Los Angeles Times and produces the popular college football blog TheWizofOdds.com.
It has been a memorable couple of weeks in college football.
Kansas, in a stunner, hired Charlie Weis, Boise State and San Diego State became members of the Big East Conference and somebody finally figured how to get Craig James off the air by telling him he would make a terrific U.S. Senator. Imagine that, James actually believed the guy.
Is this a great country or what?
To top it off, bowl season started Saturday with three games. One had the sense that the moment they teed it up in Boise, this was going to be the most exciting Famous Idaho Potato Bowl ever. And see, it was!
But here’s the part of bowl season that bettors struggle with. Although 35 games are packed into 23 days, most of the activity comes after Christmas. This year, only seven contests are being staged before Christmas Day.
That’s not good for the hardcore bettor looking to make three or four wagers a day, but frankly, there are other things going on. Just ask the ticket manager at Nevada, which plays Southern Mississippi in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
As of Sunday night, Nevada had sold all of 10 tickets to the game. That’s right - 10! When the team played in the 2009 Hawaii Bowl, it had between 150-200 fans in Aloha Stadium. That shows how thankless a job it is spending the week before Christmas trying to peddle Hawaii Bowl tickets.
Television executives know people are distracted this week, and television calls the shots these days. Why else would the Mid-American Conference schedule teams to play on a Tuesday night during the season?
So the main course of bowl games comes after the Christmas holiday. In fact, you can take it a step further. Twelve of the 35 games are being played on Jan. 2 or later.
Call me ancient, but I’m actually old enough to remember when nearly every game was played on Jan. 1. I’m also old enough to have purchased music on something called a cassette, but that’s a story for another day.
The bottom line is that bowl games are cheap programming that garners relatively good ratings. Remember that when you see a half-empty stadium in the coming weeks. That stadium, in essence, is nothing more than a big TV studio.
Yes, this might be the quietest week of the bowl season, but that doesn’t diminish its importance. Even if you can’t find a side to wager on, there are story lines to follow that will impact upcoming games.
Consider what happened at Penn State over the weekend. Starting quarterback Matt McGloin suffered a concussion in a fight with a teammate after practice and he might not be medically cleared to play in the TicketCity Bowl against Houston on Jan. 2.
Fighting among teammates is never a good thing, but then came word that backup quarterback Rob Bolden was cited this week for retail theft by university police. Bolden’s crime? He took a bottle of Gatorade from a campus convenience store.
Freshman Paul Jones, the next quarterback on the Penn State roster, was academically ineligible in the fall, but could play if his cumulative grade-point average is above 2.0.
That means it’s possible Penn State might have to find a fourth-string quarterback to play against Houston. No wonder nearly every sports book in Nevada pulled the game this week.
Another story that will start cropping up is key players being declared ineligible.
It happens every year. A team loses a big-time player for a bowl game because they were unable to cut it in the classroom.
Understandable, given the demands put on players these days. But heck, how tough can it be to pass Introduction to Basket Weaving or whatever other sham courses many of these star players take in the fall?
Then there are players who simply can’t resist the urge to start cashing in early. These are the guys who will have their name called on the first day of the NFL draft.
Instead of waiting a month or two, the player gets involved with an agent. The team finds out and the player is declared ineligible.
Who can forget Alabama’s Andre Smith, who was suspended for the 2009 Sugar Bowl after he dealt with an agent. The Crimson Tide went off as 9.5-point favorites, but were drilled by the Utes, 31-17.
Yes, consider this your final warning. There will be plenty of surprises this holiday season, and not all of them will be found under the Christmas tree.
You can follow The Wiz of Odds on Twitter @JayChristensen.