College Football's Bowl Bubble Games

Michael CollinsAnalyst INovember 11, 2008

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.


Thirty-four bowls, sixty-eight teams.  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 are 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: 


***Overall records are listed behind the Bubble Teams.  Conference records are in parentheses after the team’s schedule. 


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

         Teams In (8)—Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida State, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest. 


   Bubble Teams (3) – Virginia (5-5), Duke (4-5), Clemson (4-5)


         Virginia (3-3) schedule – (Clemson (11/22), Virginia Tech)


         Duke (1-4) schedule - (@Clemson, @Virginia Tech, North Carolina)


         Clemson (2-4) schedule - (Duke, @Virginia, S. Carolina)


  Games of the Week – Duke @ Clemson, two bubble teams - Blue Devils in Death Valley


  Conclusion:  Sitting pretty.  The ACC already has as many bowl-eligible teams as last year and will fill their contracts.  Sweet!  Only one team, NC State, has no chance at a bowl. The ACC may well have two more bowl teams than last year with an outside chance at three.  Cha-ching!


2007-08 Bowls, Profit - $19,263,649 (eight teams)

– Average distribution per conference team (after expenses) - $1.6 Million     


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


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


   Bubble Teams (2)— Louisville (5-4), Rutgers (4-5)


        Louisville (1-3) schedule – Cincinnati, West Virginia, @Rutgers


        Rutgers (3-2) schedule - @S. Florida, Army and Louisville


    Games of the Week – Cincinnati @ Louisville, Rutgers @ S. Florida


 Conclusion:  Sweating it out.  Big East may not fill their contracts and has as many teams as last year already.  The conference would like Louisville to clinch prior to the Rutgers game and for Rutgers to win two of three.  Losing this weekend would mean Rutgers would need to win the Louisville game. 


2007-08 Bowls, Profit - $14,197,021 (five teams)                                                     - Average distribution per conference team - $1.77 Million


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


        Teams In (6)—Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa.


   Bubble Teams (2) — Illinois (5-5), Wisconsin (5-5) 


         Illinois (3-3) schedule – Ohio State, @Northwestern


        Wisconsin (2-5) schedule - Minnesota, Cal-Poly


   Games of the Week— Ohio State @ Illinois, Minnesota @ Wisconsin


Conclusion:  Wisconsin with a losing conference record should qualify with a win over FCS Cal-Poly.  Illinois may have to win at Northwestern to qualify.  The Big Ten will meet its contracts with possibly an extra bowl team.  With eight, you get the same number as last year.


2007-08 Bowls, Profit - $24,394,305  (eight teams) 

– Average distribution per conference team - $2.2 Million


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


      Teams In (7)—Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Nebraska


  Bubble Teams (2)—Kansas State (4-6), Colorado (5-5)


      Kansas State (1-5) schedule - Nebraska, Iowa State


      Colorado (2-4) schedule - Oklahoma State, @Nebraska


Games of the Week— Nebraska @ K-State, Oklahoma State @ Colorado 


Conclusion:  Hot seat.  Every game now is an elimination game for Kansas State.  For Colorado, the Buffs will probably lose to the Cowboys and then have to go into Lincoln and win.  Should both fall short, the conference will have one less team than last year.  Both teams will have losing conference records and will have relied on their non-conference games to qualify.


2007-08 Bowls, Profit - $21,706,427 (eight teams)      

- Average per conference team - $1.81 million


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


       Teams In (5)—USC, Oregon, California, Oregon State, Arizona 


    Bubble Teams (2) – Stanford (5-5), Arizona St (3-6)


       Stanford (4-3) schedule - USC, @Cal – two tough teams


       ASU (2-4) schedule - Wash St, UCLA, @Arizona – three winnable games


    Probable Out (1)—UCLA (3-6) - Wash, ASU, USC – Bruins need to win out


    Games of the Week— USC@ Stanford, Washington St@ ASU, Washington@ UCLA


Conclusion:   Pac-10 needs Stanford and ASU to win.  UCLA winning out is very improbable.  The probability is that the Pac-10 will again have six bowl teams.


2007-08 Bowls, Profit - $17,647,012 (6 teams) 

-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


   Bubble Teams (2)— Vanderbilt (5-4), Mississippi (5-4)


      Vanderbilt (3-3) schedule – @Kentucky, Tennessee, @Wake Forest


      Mississippi (3-3) schedule - La-Monroe, LSU, Miss St


   Probable Out – Auburn (5-5) - Georgia, @ Alabama.  Tigers need one of two.  Either would be a huge upset.  Tigers are 2-4 in conference play.


   Games of the Week— Vanderbilt @ Kentucky


Conclusion:  Hot seat.  Mississippi should qualify with a win over La-Monroe (3-7).  Vandy should win one of  last three.  Since the SEC had two BCS teams last year, Alabama or Florida going to the National Championship and a second BCS bowl team will not increase bowl revenue.  SEC should have one less team this year and less bowl revenue. 


2007-08 Bowls, Profit - $28,991,720  (nine teams)  

-Average per conference team - $2.42 million


Non-BCS Conference Teams:

Bowl Eligible (15):  Utah, Ball State, Boise State, TCU, BYU, Air Force, C. Michigan, W. Michigan, Tulsa, Rice, East Carolina, Navy (Congressional/Eagle Bank Bowl), San Jose State, Troy, Buffalo


Bubble Teams (11):  Notre Dame (5-4), Akron (5-5), Bowling Green (5-5), Northern Illinois (5-5), Memphis (5-5), Houston (5-4), Fresno State (5-4), Louisiana-Lafayette (5-4), Nevada (5-4), Hawaii (5-5), La Tech (5-4)  


Need Two Wins (6):   UTEP (4-5), S. Miss (4-6), Colorado State (4-6), Fla Int’l (4-5), Ark State (4-5), Fla Atlantic (4-5)


Games of the Week:  Notre Dame @ Navy, Buffalo @ Akron, Tulsa @ Houston, Louisiana-Lafayette @ Florida Atlantic.


   Conclusion:   Non-BCS conference teams may have more than 26 bowl-eligible teams for 18-20 spots.   The SEC may be the sole conference that does not meet its bowl contracts, though the Pac-10 and Big 12 are struggling.  


Total Profits to Non-BCS schools and Other Distribution, 2007-08 Bowls - $16,670,198 – 11.6% of all bowl profits

Non-BCS Conference Teams - 55



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