Friday, August 21, 2009

Great expectations

The Wiz of Odds posted early Thursday that Florida was listed by USA Today as a 73-point favorite over Charleston Southern, which ... ummm, yeah.

Dr. Saturday did some fact-checking and discovered that the line was actually 63 points, but the shock value remains the same. I have never seen a line above 60, and there's a reason for that: According to the Wiz, the highest lines in history were 59.5 points (Hawaii over Northern Colorado in 2007) and 59 points (Houston over SMU in 1989), although it's a little difficult to keep track of lines that often fluctuate or are never posted in Vegas (the sports books don't post lines for FBS-FCS games).

But whether or not this is the biggest in history, 63 points is a ton. The sad part is that I don't think anyone would be surprised if Florida covers, and that has little to with the the fact that Charleston Southern plays in a lower division. Personally, I have a hard time getting up in arms over FBS-FCS matchups, and this one is no different. The preseason No. 1 team -- which returns almost everyone, is the defending national champion and has a dominating offense led by a Heisman-winning quarterback -- should obliterate a significantly inferior opponent, regardless of that school's classification. Do you think the line would be lower if Florida was playing Western Kentucky or North Texas? I doubt it.

And believe it or not, there are positives that come out of these games: has an interesting story up about how this one game will pay for Charleston Southern to build a fieldhouse that will include lockers and an academic resource center, both things the school's athletes currently lack.

I'd always rather see FBS teams playing each other, but unfortunately for us, fan entertainment isn't the top priority for athletic directors. And don't bother criticizing Florida for scheduling a cupcake: Some research in the comments on the original story shows that after Sept. 5, Notre Dame will be the only FBS school to have never played an FCS opponent. "Everybody's doing it" is a crappy excuse, but the reality in college football is that money dictates everything. In other words, there's a reason everybody's doing it.

The only thing that the NCAA should do, in my opinion, is expand the rule that limits the number of FCS wins each school can count toward bowl eligibility. The current rule is that only one win over an FCS team can be counted every two years, so all this really does is stop schools from scheduling an FCS opponent two years in a row. Personally, I don't see why any of these wins should count toward bowl eligibility. If you want to schedule what amounts to a warmup game, that's fine. But if you want to play in a bowl, you should have to beat at least six FBS teams (yes, I wish the standards for postseason play were higher, but that's an argument for another time).

As for this particular game, I'm taking the under. I can't really bet on it, obviously, but season openers can be a little sloppy at times, and you know Urban Meyer won't be taking any chances with Tim Tebow and the rest of the first-teamers. For historical reference, Florida has beaten three I-A/FCS teams in the past three years, and none of those wins has been by more than 62 points.

But whether the Gators end up winning by 40, 60 or 80, the fact that we're even discussing the likelihood of them covering a 63-point spread just demonstrates how ridiculously good this team is expected to be. I don't see a game on the schedule in which they'll be favored by fewer than 10 points, and that's saying something.

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