It’s down to conference titles in NCAA football

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The excitement levels in Vegas sports books from last week’s epic college football action will be hard to top, but there are a couple of games this weekend that could come close.

Those conference title matchups will decide the fate of who will be participating in the BCS Championship game Jan. 7 at Pasadena. All eyes will be on the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis, as well as the SEC clash from Atlanta. Although the SEC is outside looking in at the moment, the big question everyone will be waiting for until announced on Sunday is whether Ohio State can get leap-frogged by an SEC team even if the Buckeyes should beat Michigan State.

The Golden Nugget has been posting possible BCS matchups for the last month and last Sunday they posted just one game – the likely scenario – with Florida State a 9½-point favorite over Ohio State.

On the LVH Super Book future board to win the BCS National Championship Game, they have Florida State favored at 1-to-3, followed by Ohio State (7-2), Auburn (5-1), Missouri (12-1) and also list Alabama as a long shot dark horse at 60-1.

Last week, before their stunning loss at Auburn, the Crimson Tide were the 110 favorite to win it all. Their loss sent shockwaves through the entire country, and even though Auburn covering 10½ wasn’t in doubt late in the game, the missed field goal return for a touchdown was the loudest I’ve ever heard a sports book roar. That shows the passion for great college football moments doesn’t get diluted by those who usually live and die by only the point spread.

It could also be several of the loudest cheers were from those who were holding Auburn 60-1 BCS bets placed two weeks ago.

That one moment gave hope to the Buckeyes, and while I didn’t hear of any couches being burned in Columbus because of it, I can assume the combination of beating Michigan and Alabama losing (which now gives them the fast track to Pasadena) was cause to burn an entire living room set on the streets.

If Ohio State beats Michigan State this Saturday – and that’s a big if – they should make the title game. Even though many experts feel the Big Ten is weak in competition, they still are undefeated at 12-0. Okay, so their toughest non-conference win was against Buffalo and none of the Big Ten teams they beat have any quality non-league wins, and the team they’re about to face – Michigan State – lost to four-loss Notre Dame, which didn’t beat any top-20 opponents this season.

Those are all good points that give the SEC some reason to lay claim to having the right for the champion to be in the title game like what has occurred the past seven seasons. Auburn’s only loss was to LSU and they beat Alabama. The Bama win is a good enough resume on its own for any one loss team to make an argument, but what about Missouri?

The Tigers skated through the weakest SEC schedule ever seen, avoiding LSU, Alabama and Auburn – until now – which leads me to believe an Auburn win over Missouri might not carry as much weight to pass Ohio State. And a Missouri win certainly wouldn’t pass the Buckeyes.

We may be getting too ahead of ourselves here with Ohio State because they have to play a very good Michigan State defense that has allowed only 11.8 points per game this season. And while their competition has been questioned, the Buckeyes are still going to be in a dogfight as they have underachieved defensively in two of their last three games, failing to cover the number in all three.

The Buckeyes defense was shredded by Michigan in a 42-41 win, and they also gave up 35 points three weeks ago at Illinois. The Wynn opened Ohio State as a 5-point favorite in the Big-10 title game, and Buckeyes money pushed it to -5½.

The Wynn opened Auburn a 1-point favorite over Missouri and it was bet up to -1½. These two teams have been top cover teams in college football this season with Missouri 11-1 ATS and Auburn 10-2 ATS, including their last nine games played. Missouri lost at home to South Carolina in late October, but now have their star QB James Franklin healthy. Franklin did not play in the Carolina loss.

I have been doubting Missouri all season, and wrong most of the time, but even their signature win on the season at Georgia doesn’t look all that impressive anymore after now knowing how wrong most of us were about the quality of the Bulldogs.

Now, the fun scenario will be if Ohio State and Auburn lose, which could possibly put Alabama back in play. Alabama is currently No. 4 in the BCS with a .8539 rating compared to No. 5 Missouri at .8428. An idle Alabama would seem unlikely to stay ahead of Missouri. That would be adding their best win of the season to their resume but, as we’ve seen before, this awful BCS system that will be going away after this season doesn’t always have logic factored in.

I still never understood how their ratings never thought to incorporate any ratings we use in Las Vegas to make point spreads– ratings that really count.

The real fun after this weekend will begin in the bowl season when all the suspensions begin for players failing grades, or in Florida State freshman QB Jameis Winston’s case, being on the wrong side of the law. Florida State is a massive 28-point favorite over the great story of Duke in the ACC Championship game, and while the Seminoles should win convincingly, there is a cloud of nervousness over Tallahassee that Winston could be charged with sexual assault.

Tallahassee city officials have been waffling with a decision to charge Winston, but an announcement of some kind is sure to come before Jan. 7. Winston, a Heisman Trophy candidate, is worth about 6½-points to the spread.

Only because I’ve grown fond of Ohio State, and the city of Columbus because of family living around the area, will I be rooting for the Buckeyes to not only win this week, but also against Florida State in the BCS title game. I love the plight of them against the world, and I’ve felt their pain as they’ve been humiliated in recent big games with the entire country piling on about how the Big-10 can’t compete.

There likely will be no SEC team this season playing for the title and the team they will be facing – Florida State – is good. However, let’s not get carried away with praising the ACC or FSU’s schedule. Beating Clemson, Maryland and Miami isn’t any better than Ohio State defeating Wisconsin, Northwestern or Michigan. So 7-2 to win it all sounds pretty good. However, the 6-1 offered last week before the Alabama loss sounds better.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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