Collins's Bubble Watch: College Football's Real Money Games

Michael CollinsAnalyst INovember 5, 2008

Thirty-four bowls, sixty-eight teams.  Isn’t college football at this time of year like pre-tournament college hoops?  At least for the BCS conference commissioners who are sweating out filling their bowl contracts, who signed up more bowls this year than last.

BCS conferences have contracted for 48 bowls with another two for the National Championship game.  Eighteen spots for non-BCS football teams.  More than they deserve, but throw them a scrap.  In a good year, non-BCS teams will get 15 percent of the bowl revenues.  When Notre Dame makes a BCS bowl, they get 1 percent. 

The real money games this Saturday are not Alabama – LSU or Cal – USC, but college football’s version of Bubble Games between conference teams verging on bowl-eligibility or being home for the holidays.  More bowl contracts filled means more revenue to be shared for the conferences. 

Who’s doing the most sweating?  (Besides the non-BCS teams wanting to fill an empty contract slot)   Which teams are on the Bubble Watch, while we look at the top games? 

Here’s what the conference commissioners will be watching:  

ACC—(12 teams) 2008-09 - Contracts for 9 bowls (75 percent of teams).                                                                                                         

      Teams In (4)—Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami. 

  Need One Win (5)— Florida State (six wins but two FCS games), Boston

          College, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest.   

   Bubble Teams (1) – Duke (4-4) for a tenth bowl eligible team

         Duke schedule - NC State, @Clemson, @Virginia Tech, North Carolina

   Game of the Week – NC State @ Duke

  Conclusion:  Sitting pretty.  The ACC will fill their contracts and possibly have one extra team, Duke.  Sweet!

  • 2007-08 Bowls, Eight Teams
  • Profit -$19,263,649 
  • Average per conference team - $1.6 Million     


Big East—(8 teams) - Contracts for 7 bowls (87.5 percent)

       Teams In (5)—Connecticut, South Florida, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, West  Virginia

    Need One Win (1) — Louisville (5-3)

        Louisville schedule - @Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, West Virginia, @Rutgers

    Bubble Team (1)—Rutgers (3-5)

        Rutgers schedule - Syracuse, @S. Florida, Army and Louisville

  Game of the Week – Syracuse @ Rutgers -  Pride for Syracuse, everything for Rutgers.  Louisville @ Pittsburgh.


Conclusion:  Sweating it out.  Without Rutgers, the Big East will not fill their contracts.  Each game for Rutgers is an elimination game.  Still six teams would bring in more revenue than last year.  Louisville has three tough games and then Rutgers.  Could this come down to Louisville-Rutgers, an elimination game?

  • 2007-08 Bowls, Five teams 
  • Profit - $14,197,021                                                  
  • Average per conference team - $1.77 Million


Big 10—(11 teams) Contracts for 7 bowls (63 percent) 

      Teams In (5)—Penn St, Ohio St, Michigan St, Northwestern, Minnesota.

   Needs One Win (2) — Iowa (5-4), Illinois (5-4)

   Bubble Teams (1) — Wisconsin (4-5)

       Wisconsin schedule - @Indiana, Minnesota, Cal-Poly

  Games of the Week— Illinois @ Western Michigan, PSU @ Iowa, Wisconsin @ Indiana. Badgers don’t want to be forced to win next week against Gophers.

Conclusion:  Last week’s Iowa-Illinois game result fell perfect for the conference.  Wisconsin should beat Indiana and Cal-Poly.  The Big 10 may have an extra bowl team, unless Penn State goes to the National Championship.  More revenue than last year. 

  • 2007-08 Bowls, Eight Teams 
  • Profit - $24,394,305   
  • Average per conference team - $2.2 Million


Big 12—(12 teams) Contracts for 9 bowls (75%)

    Teams In (6)—Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas

   Need One Win (1)—Nebraska (5-4)

   Bubble Teams (2)—Kansas State (4-5), Colorado (4-5)

      Kansas State schedule - @Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa St.

      Colorado schedule - Iowa State, Oklahoma State, @Nebraska

Games of the Week— Kansas State @ Missouri, Iowa State @ Colorado

Conclusion:  The best the Big 12 can do is fill their contracts if – a big if – both Kansas    State and Colorado win two of their remaining three games.  Should only one of them eligible, the Big 12 would have the same number of bowl teams as last year. 

  •  2007-08 Bowls, Eight Teams
  •  Profit - $21,706,427    
  • Average per conference team - $1.81 million


PAC 10—(10 teams)  Contracts for seven bowls (70 percent)

      Teams In (3)—USC, Oregon, California

    Need One Win (3) — Arizona (5-3), Stanford (5-4), Oregon State (5-3)  

       Stanford schedule - @Ore, USC, @Cal

    Bubble Teams (1) – Arizona St (2-6)

       ASU (@Wash, Wash St, UCLA, @Arizona)

    Probable Out (1)—UCLA (3-5)—needs to win three of Ore State, Wash, ASU, USC

    Game of the Week— ASU @ Washington – an elimination game for Sun Devils, Oregon State @ UCLA – an elimination game for the Bruins, Stanford @ Oregon – beat the Ducks or win out against USC and Cal.  This could be Elimination Saturday for the Pac-10. 

Conclusion:   Pac-10 needs all five win teams to win, and either ASU or UCLA to fill all its contracts.  The probability is that the Pac-10 will again have six bowl teams.

  • 2007-08 Bowls, 6 Teams
  • Profit - $17,647,012  
  • Average per conference team - $1.76 million


SEC—(12 teams) Contracts for nine bowls (75 percent)

       Teams In (6)—Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, LSU

    Need One Win (2)—Vanderbilt (5-3), Mississippi (5-4)

       Mississippi - La-Monroe (Nov 15), LSU, Miss St)

       Vanderbilt – Florida, @Kentucky, Tennessee, @Wake Forest

    Bubble Teams (1)—Auburn (4-5)

        Auburn schedule - Tenn-Martin, Ga, @Alabama

   Game of the Week— Tenn-Martin @ Auburn

    Conclusion:  Hot seat.  Last week’s Auburn-Mississippi game result did not help the conference.  The SEC needs Auburn to win two of three to fill its bowl contracts.  That’s quite a hill to climb against Georgia and Alabama.  SEC should have one less team this year.   

  •  2007-08 Bowls, Nine Teams    
  •  Profit - $28,991,720   
  •  Average per conference team - $2.42 million


Non-BCS Conference Teams:

 Bowl Eligible (12):  Tulsa, Utah, Ball State, TCU, BYU, Boise State, Air Force, C.Michigan, W. Michigan, Rice, Navy (Congressional/Eagle Bank Bowl), San Jose State

Need One Win (8):  Notre Dame (5-3), Troy (5-3), Northern Illinois (5-3), Fresno State (5-4), Louisiana-Lafayette (5-3), Buffalo (5-4), Akron (5-4), Nevada (5-4)  

Bubble Teams (1):  East Carolina (4-3)

Own Bowl (2):  Hawaii (4-5), New Mexico (4-6)

Games of the Week:  Marshall @ East Carolina, Notre Dame @ Boston College.  Hawaii and New Mexico have elimination games. 

   Conclusion:  This week may be more significant for the non-BCS games in determining bowl teams. 


  • Total Profits to Non-BCS schools and Other Distribution, 20007-08 Bowls - $16,670,198 – 11.6% of all bowl profits
  • Independents and non-BCS teams - 55
  • Average per team - $303,095