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Title games are reserved for tight point spreads and competitive football games. The best teams in the sport should rarely be separated by more than a field goal if the system is designed to pit the best teams against one another. However, the BCS isn’t built to create the most compelling match-up in the eyes of oddsmakers but rather include the 2 most “deserving” teams based on a season’s worth of results. If Alabama meets Notre Dame in Miami on January 7, the opening point spread will be among the highest ever seen in the 15 year history of the national championship game.
There’s no disputing the longstanding legacy and tradition both of these storied programs bring to a title game. One of the leading journalists responsible for covering the gambling industry, David Purdum, spoke to iconic Las Vegas Bookmaker Jimmy Vacarro who offered up some interesting thoughts about what a Crimson Tide vs Fighting Irish national title would mean for bettors: “Obviously, from a business standpoint, we’re rooting for an Alabama-Notre Dame matchup to become a reality. If we get that game with the intrigue already built in between the two storied programs, and the length of time that it will be on the (betting) board from early December to almost mid-January, it will be the single biggest handle on any college football game ever booked.” Vaccaro shares the exact same power number that I do, believing the Tide would open -11 making them the 2nd largest favorite ever in a title game behind only the 2002 Miami Hurricanes who were 12.5 point favorites against Ohio State.
Before Tide fans make space in their university’s trophy case, realize being a heavy favorite may not actually be a good thing for Alabama if history is any indication. The only 2 two teams to carry such a heavy impost in BCS history were the afore mentioned Hurricanes in 2002 and Seminoles in 2000. Both schools lost their games outright in rather unimpressive fashion. Of course, 2 defeats from double digit favorites is hardly a significant sample size to draw major conclusions yet it begs the question does a team with such a perceived advantage entering the championship come in overconfident? There’s so much time leading up to the game that the underdog has nearly 6 weeks to take on the us against the world mentality for an added intangible edge.
In the 14 previous national title games, favorites are 8-6 against the number and 8-6 straight up. The pointspread has come into play exactly ZERO times thus far.
1999: Tennessee (+5.5) 23, Florida State 16
2000: Florida State (-5.5) 46, Virginia Tech 29
2001: Oklahoma (+11) 13, Florida State 2
2002: Miami (-8.5) 37, Nebraska 14
2003: Ohio State (+12) 31, Miami 24
2004: LSU (+6.5) 21, Oklahoma 14
2005: USC (-1) 55, Oklahoma 19
2006: Texas (+7) 41, USC 38
2007: Florida (+7) 41, Ohio State 14
2008: LSU (-3.5) 38, Ohio State 24
2009: Florida (-4.5) 24, Oklahoma 14
2010: Alabama (-3.5) 37, Texas 21
2011: Auburn (-1) 22, Oregon 19
2012: Alabama (-2.5) 21, LSU 0
To take the growing anti-Irish sentiment one step further as far as linemakers are concerned, nearly 10 teams power rate ahead of the Golden Domers. That list includes the obvious SEC powers Georgia, LSU, and Texas A&M but also contains defensive lightweight Clemson hailing from the much maligned ACC. Irish fans take a deep breath; our job in Vegas is to offer a betting line that attracts action on both teams involved in any given game not to pick the winner.
As for all of the Georgia fans who think I’m selling their title game prospects short, a win over Alabama in Atlanta makes all of this discussion moot and you’d open as a 5 pt favorite against Notre Dame yourselves.
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