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Vegas's National Championship Game Picks

Last week was the season's best test of the Vegas pollsters, whom we need now more than ever with at least three valid claimants on national championship game berths. Let me briefly state my original intentions here: since judging multiple one- or two-loss teams is extremely difficult, and since the real pollsters who actually decide these things occasionally make questionable judgments, I decided the best deciders would be the people who make their livings comparing teams: the Vegas oddsmakers. Thus, the Oddsmakers Poll, featuring 30 teams and the not-to-be-contested wisdom of Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which tells you which college teams are the best, scoreboard and polls be damned.

Now, I'm not judging the Oddsmakers to be successful merely when favorites win; these ratings don't take into account bettors moving the line, nor do they take into account home-field issues or late-breaking injuries or the like. Rather, my general theory is that if two teams play each other, and if Vegas believes Team A is better and the BCS believes Team B is better, Vegas is more likely to be proven correct. Thus, our most important week ever.....

* The BCS ranked Arizona State ahead of Southern Cal, and Vegas disagreed. Southern Cal won by 20, on the road.

* The BCS ranked Kansas ahead of Missouri, and Vegas disagreed. Missouri won by eight.

* The BCS included both U-Conn and West Virginia in its Top 20; Vegas didn't even have U-Conn in its Top 30. West Virginia won by 45. (A bigger indictment of the BCS rankings you'll never find.)

* The BCS had UVA and Virginia Tech just eight spots apart in the Top 20, but Virginia couldn't crack Vegas's Top 30. Virginia Tech won by 12.

* The BCS didn't rank Kentucky and loved Tennessee, while Vegas had the two schools rated virtually even. It took four overtimes to settle that one.

There was one hiccup; the BCS preferred Hawaii to Boise State, and Vegas disagreed, but Hawaii won by 12, although its massive home-field edge caused Hawaii to actually be favored in Vegas. Still, with six perfect test cases, Vegas went 5-1 in being an accurate judge of team strength, and the BCS went 1-5. Which is why, when trying to figure out which two teams are best suited to meet for the national championship, you might want to ask Vegas. The answer after the jump.

The answer? West Virginia and Ohio State. Missouri is a mere sixth. If the Tigers lose this week, all will be well. If they win, an injustice will be perpetrated against the true second-best team in the land. Here are the rankings, with BCS rankings in parentheses.

1. West Virginia (2)
2. Ohio State (3)
3. Oklahoma (9)
4. Southern Cal (8)
5. LSU (7)
6. Missouri (1)
7. Florida (10)
8. Virginia Tech (6)
9. Georgia (4)
10. Boston College (11)
11. Brigham Young (19)
12. Kansas (5)
12t. South Florida (21)
14. Arizona State (13)
15. Clemson (16)
16. Texas (20)
17. Illinois (15)
18. Michigan (NR)
19t. Texas Tech (NR)
19t. Hawaii (12)
19t. Boise State (25)
22. Wisconsin (18)
23. Oregon (17)
24. Arizona (NR)
25t. Arkansas (NR)
25t. California (NR)
27. Cincinnati (23)
28. Auburn (24)
29. Tennessee (14)
30. Kentucky (NR)

Not ranked by Vegas: Virginia (22nd in the BCS).

Biggest Frauds: Tennessee is ranked 15 spots too high by the BCS. Hawaii and Kansas are ranked seven spots too high. Oregon is ranked six spots too high, since the BCS refuses to take into account obvious things like injuries. Missouri and Georgia are ranked five spots too high.

Biggest Sleepers:South Florida is ranked nine spots too low by the BCS. BYU is ranked eight spots too low. Oklahoma and Boise State are ranked six spots too low. Teams like Michigan and Texas Tech are also severely underrated.

(Also, my LVSC contact sent me 23 reasons Hawaii should NOT be in a BCS bowl, in the form of 23 teams that would have gone undefeated had they played Hawaii's exact schedule, which includes Boise State [since they would have been at home against Hawaii in this imaginary scenario], Oregon [assuming a healthy Dixon, which isn't hard to assume against that schedule] and Cal [whose injury concerns also would have been less severe had they been facing, say, Idaho].)

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 26, 2007; 2:23 PM ET
Categories:  College Football  
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I don't exactly understand how the Uva-Virginia Tech game validates Vegas versus the BCS. Winning by 12 isn't exactly a blow-out, and the BCS did have Viriginia Tech clearly rated above Viriginia, I would probably just throw that one out.

Posted by: Chris | November 26, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

The question will be after Mizzou beats OK, will Vegas give them enough credit to move them up enough for both to be in agreement?

And since I have no idea how it works, is there a difference in that Vegas accounts for who is playing best now, as opposed to BCS accounting for who has had the best season up until now?

Posted by: MO Native | November 26, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for posting these rankings each week - They are much better (truer?) reflection of reality.

What are the "23 reasons Hawaii should NOT be in a BCS bowl" (or who are the teams that could've gone undefeated with UH's schedule)?



Posted by: Tom | November 26, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

You have got to be kid'n me. Did you watch the Hawaii/Boise game? And you have them ranked the same? What are you going to say after Hawaii spanks Washington, the same team that spanked Boise? Why don't you stick with the slot machines, because you suck at sports analysis. Cha-Ching.......

Posted by: | November 27, 2007 9:39 PM | Report abuse

You can bet that if the coaches and writers (and maybe even the computer geeks) had to put their paycheck on the line each week to back up their rankings, they would be paying a heck of a lot more attention to these rankings and less to their regional bias. This should be THE poll used for the B(C)S as it is validated by billions of dollars at risk each week. Better yet, let's take the top 16 and have a playoff!

Posted by: Howard | November 27, 2007 10:27 PM | Report abuse

There are many teams that are favored in each of their games.... doesn't mean upsets don't happen... in fact, this season, not only have the upsets been a possibility, they've been running rampant... see stanford over USC, syracuse over Louisville, Colorado over Oklahoma, etc.... all of which Vegas had no F'en clue would happen... in THIS YEAR, beating the people you're SUPPOSED to beat is REALLY worth something... Hawaii derserves a shot.

Posted by: .... | November 28, 2007 2:15 AM | Report abuse

Using the Vegas numbers for ranking the teams into the National Championship is one of the worst ideas I have ever heard. Sure make sure that teams and fans themselves can influence the process for their favorite teams by being able to place bets to bump up their numbers. Utterly fantastic idea...

Posted by: You Have to Be Kidding Me Howard... | November 28, 2007 6:05 PM | Report abuse

your argument stating 23 teams playing Hawaii's schedule does not take into consideration of Placing Hawaii into a Pac 10 schedule. How would they fair then?
They beat Arizona last year and with their passing attack there is not one defense that can contain a Healthy Colt Brennan.

Posted by: Jay | November 28, 2007 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Your analysis of hawaii couldn't have been more on. Comments from the post on this board from Hawaii fans are laughable at best. It seems to me that if Hawaii played in the PAC-10 they wouldn't even have a winning record. Sure their gimmick offense would put points on the board but lets be serious they play in a conference that is known for having the worst defenses in the country. It isn't hard to score when the oposing team can't play a lick of defense. Hawaii is soley undefetaed because they play I the WAC and their OOC was weaker then many D-2 teams this year. They have only two wins over teams with a winning record. They have struggled to beat bottom 25 teams on numerous occasions. The Hawaii vs BSU game showed only one thing and that was that BSU is overrated this year. I think come bowl time we will all see that Hawaii nor BSU should even remotely be ranked this year.

Posted by: Judge | November 30, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

MO Native, how's that win going for you over Oklahoma?

This just proves the BCS is BS and it's time for it to go away. Let's get a 16-team playoff so the real national powers will get a fair shot and the jokes like Missouri go home.

Posted by: Sooners are true #1 | December 2, 2007 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Not many defenses can contain Hawaii, true. Not many offenses outside the WAC can be contained by Hawaii, also true.

Posted by: Anonymous Jones | December 3, 2007 2:55 PM | Report abuse

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