Vegas Backs Up BCS System

From the day it was first announced and instituted, the Bowl Championship Series system has drawn fire from virtually every direction. With each round of tweaks and adjustments to the system, the chorus of detractors seems to grow louder. Never has that phenomenon been more pronounced than it has over the past two seasons, which have produced imperfect seasons, but resounding BCS Championship Game victories for the University of Alabama.

However, an analysis of the wagering trends reveals that the sharps in Vegas tend to draw the same conclusions about football teams that the BCS systems does, and no one questions Vegas' acumen for sports handicapping.

For example, nine 2012-2013 season bowl games featured matchups between teams ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS standings (the BCS officially ranks the Top 25 for purposes of bowl participant selection). In eight of those nine games (89%), the Vegas professionals agreed with the BCS standings, marking the higher ranked team as the favorite. Of the nine games, the more highly-ranked team won five, so the BCS standings, generally affirmed by the betting lines, stood up on their own about 56% of the time.

Of the other four games in which the lower seed won, one game is notable for what it tells us about the BCS. That game is the BCS championship game, which pitted undefeated and top-ranked Notre Dame against one-loss and second-ranked Alabama. In that game, the lower-seeded team arrived on game day as a 9.5-point favorite.  As predicted, Alabama predictably dismantled the Fighting Irish by a score of 42-14 to bring home its third crystal football in four years and earn the label "dynasty."

Oddly, the BCS complainers seemed not to take issue with Notre Dame's selection to participate prior to the game, owing to its unblemished record; just as in 2011, the complaints were centered on number 2 - Alabama, though no one really seems to believe that the teams finishing just behind the Crimson Tide would fare much better than those who completed the regular season ranked ahead of them. Given the results of the past two BCS Championship matchups, which Alabama entered as a favorite and won by a combined scored of 63-14 over previously undefeated and top-ranked opponents, it seems fair to conclude that the BCS generally produces a game between the two best, if not evenly matched, teams, and that the large majority of recent complaints about the BCS as it stands today are based on something other than a serious examination of its ability to produce a legitimate champion.

 


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