Conference Domination in Bowl Games
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 12/16/2009
With the structure of the current bowl system, college football fans are given a clear indication of how conferences truly stack up to one another. Bowl games are tied into deals with conferences to take a certain placed team and pit them against a certain placed team from another conference. It has been this way for years and, luckily for bettors, this may be the easiest way in all of sports betting to track trends.
Players and coaches come and go but it always seems that conference strengths and weaknesses hold true and those manifest themselves every late December and early January during bowl season. Here are the top five conferences you can bank on in their matchups on the upcoming bowl game schedule.
Big Ten in the Rose Bowl vs. Pac-10
That may seem like a head scratcher but look at the facts. Yes, the Pac-10 has dominated this series lately, and the games have not even been that close. However, there is one obvious reason for this and it has three letters: USC. In the last four Rose Bowls pitting a Pac-10 team against a Big Ten team, USC has won all four, with three of the wins coming by a margin of 14 and one was by 32 points. In that time span the cream of the Big Ten crop, Ohio State has not played in Pasadena. They have either been sidetracked in a national title game or in the Fiesta Bowl.
This will be the Buckeyes first trip to Pasadena since 1997 when it defeated Arizona State. Before USC came to prominence under Pete Carroll, it was actually the Big Ten who dominated this matchup, going 7-1 against the Pac-10 in the 90s. This year substitute USC for Oregon and substitute undermanned teams like Michigan, Illinois and Penn State with Ohio State and the tables have turned on the Pac-10. The Rose Bowl is the Big Ten's to lose when the Trojans are not invited.
Big East in the International Bowl vs. Mid-American Conference
This bowl, in its third year, likely will not last much longer and this has as much to do with the mismatch of the Big East and the MAC conference as it has to do with fans getting passports and crossing the border on such short notice. Since its inception three years ago the Big East is 3-0. After a 27-24 Cincinnati win over Western Michigan in the inaugural International Bowl, Rutgers pounded Ball State, 52-30, and Connecticut pounded Buffalo, 38-20.
The speed and athleticism of the Big East team, even the fourth- or fifth-place team who falls here, is too much for any MAC school to deal with let alone someone who is not even the champion of the conference. The MAC school is usually the team motivated to actually be here while the Big East team is dealing with a letdown but not even the motivation factor can overcome the physical differences.
ACC vs. Big East in the Meineke Car Care Bowl
The former Continental Tire Bowl and current Meineke Car Care Bowl has been dominated by the ACC regardless of what vehicle service sponsored it. Last season West Virginia's 31-30 win over North Carolina was the first time in seven years that the Big East defeated an ACC school. The game is played in the ACC's backyard, right in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the ACC schools have protected their home turf for the most part.
Besides North Carolina's loss last year, the only other time an ACC school failed to cover in the game was when Boston College defeated a non-Big East school, Navy, in 2006 by only one point. Aside from that the ACC has had an easy time and mostly due to the fact that the Big East representative comes into the game on a slide and, with the exception of West Virginia, brings very, very few fans, giving the ACC school a decided home field advantage.
SEC vs. ACC in the Music City Bowl
Another small sample size but it's clear the best thing to happen to the SEC in this matchup was the bowl starting an affiliation with the ACC rather than the Big Ten. Since the Music City Bowl started pitting the SEC against the ACC, the SEC is 3-0 SU and 3-0 ATS including two wins as outright underdogs.
The SEC had gone 1-6 in the bowl since it began in 1998. They struggled against competition from the Big East and later the Big Ten. The ACC presents a much better matchup for the SEC. The SEC enjoys both a size and speed advantage against the ACC and playing the game in Nashville does not exactly hurt the SEC, either.
SEC vs. ACC in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl
The SEC advantage is even more widely apparent here in this bowl than in the Music City Bowl because the teams playing in the Georgia Dome, in what used to be known as the Peach Bowl, are higher-quality opponents from the conference. The SEC has always had more depth than the ACC but its skill level is even more apparent at the top of the conference.
It was not always this way, though. The ACC had a successful run in this bowl, winning four in a row from 1993 to 1996 and four in a row again from 2001 to 2004. But the ACC as we know it, after the purge of the Big East and the slide of Florida State, has lost four straight Chick-Fil-A Bowls. Twice in the last four years the SEC team has run its ACC competition right out of the Georgia Dome. LSU defeated Miami (Florida) 40-3 in 2005 and LSU hammered Georgia Tech last season, 38-3.
The SEC domination the last four years has not gone unnoticed by the oddsmakers. No. 11 Virginia Tech (9-3 SU) is only favored by 4.5 points against 7-5 SU Tennessee. Not only has the SEC won the last four bowls but they have also covered in all four.
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