The BCS Bowl Series: Playing Favorites with Snacks, Math, and College Football

Beth Dumbauld

The BCS Bowl SeriesBy Beth Dumbauld

Like snacks? Like math? Like college football? Then you are probably in a very happy place this first week of January.

For those who are fans of the snacks and the math, but not so much in the know about the college football, here’s your chance to learn more about the traditions that surround the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) college football week. This is a run down created just for you that promises to be chock full of numbers and salty surprises. Once you’re done reading, as an added bonus, you will be able to interject your new-found BCS knowledge, all casual-like, to surprise your gridiron-loving friends and family.

For those who already have a deep passion for college football, read on – it’ll be worth your while. Pull out a few of these factoids to impress your friends during TV time outs (that is, if you aren’t busy answering the door for pizza delivery).

For Newbies: The When of the BCS Bowl Season and Snacks Consumed

The first week of January is BCS Bowl game season. On New Year’s Day, the premier college football post-season championship series in the United States begins. It culminates on Monday, January 7th, 2013 with the Discover BCS Championship Game.

This year, the BCS bowl games began with the Rose Bowl, pitting Stanford against the University of Wisconsin. In case you didn’t watch the game, Stanford won. The game was close. And poor Bucky the Badger, Wisconsin’s mascot, left Pasadena knocked down a peg or two. Wisconsin, a Big 10 conference team, just couldn’t fend off a Pac-12 challenger. For Bucky and Wisconsin fans everywhere, it’s like the time when Bucky just couldn’t bring down that wildebeest “just standing right there” out on the Wisconsin prairie... Oh wait a minute, wildebeest don’t live on the prairie in Wisconsin. So rather, it’s just like the time when a badger couldn’t bring down a little red bird...

For the Rose Bowl, I ate kettle-cooked chips placed in a University of Michigan (another member of the Big 10 conference) helmet bowl – Go Blue! There was also consumption of ranch dip. The University of Michigan also played on that day, but not in a BCS bowl game. They also lost. But I digress...

There was a second BCS bowl game played on New Year’s as well. The Discover Orange Bowl placed “who-invited-you-to-the-party” Northern Illinois (MAC) against Florida State (ACC). The Northern Illinois mascot is a huskie so its football team was therefore literally and metaphorically an underdog to the ACC powerhouse that is Florida State. Needless to say, the overwhelming underdog that was Northern Illinois lost. This BCS bowl game wasn’t quite the blow-out as some had predicted, but a loss is a loss nonetheless no matter how well you can howl at the moon.

Snack-wise, the game highlights for my friends and family included pistachios and chocolate-covered dried cherries. We ended the night with a bowl full of shells and a belly full of football satisfaction.

The third BCS bowl game, the Allstate Sugar Bowl that played on January 2nd in New Orleans, saw the University of Louisville (Big East) defeat the University of Florida (SEC). The victory by the Cardinals (Louisville’s mascot) was considered an upset. However, for those of you who have played rock-paper-scissors at any point in your life, you surely must realize that, though it doesn’t necessarily make any sense, that sometimes paper beats rock. Likewise, sometimes a Cardinal can beat a Gator (Florida’s mascot), no matter how much PSI (jaw strength) a gator’s jaw can pack on.

On the snack front, this game was accompanied by the college football-watching classic that is pizza. Toppings: half-sausage, half-pineapple. Breadsticks and cucumbers were also consumed.

The fourth BCS bowl game, played on January 3rd, was the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, which faced off the Oregon Ducks (Pac-12) against the Kansas State Wildcats (Big 12). This game had everything going for it: salty snacks (Tostitos!), a party theme (Fiesta!), a duck (Quack!), and a kitty (Meow!). The Ducks won.

Snack-wise, I went with a saucy and spicy crockpot chicken. It was messy and delicious. Nachos were also served.

The Discover BCS Championship Game: January 7th, 2013

This Monday, January 7th the Discover BCS Championship game will be played. The BCS Championship game is designed to match up the two best college football teams of the year (at least that is the intention) as defined by the BCS ranking system. 

This year, the Discover BCS Championship Game pits Notre Dame and Alabama against each other, two schools with storied college football histories. Notre Dame's football mystique however might be more of a tribute to its success in the good 'ole days, and the firm student and alumni belief in the magic of leprechauns (Notre Dame’s mascot). If you are StraighterLine student of history, you may already know it's been 24 years since Notre Dame last won a national championship in football. However, something inexplicably went oh-so-right for the Fighting Irish this year for it to come through the regular season undefeated.

Who knows: maybe Brian Kelly (Notre Dame’s head coach) caught one of those greedy green elves that scamper around Notre Dame’s football stadium by its toe in the off season and received 3 wishes? Seems plausible to me. I can just imagine he made his first wish to have a winning season for ye ‘ole gold dome; his second wish, a trip to the Discover BCS Championship Game; and his third wish, for Notre Dame to not have to share any of the gold that is associated with a BCS berth. Oh, wait a minute, the BCS already gives Notre Dame the sole and exclusive right, as an independent team, to not share any of its BCS money earned (unlike every other team in the BCS playoffs who are associated with a football conference, and therefore must share any BCS profits with its entire conference). Maybe Brian Kelly’s last wish will be the simple wish of peace on earth – after all, he’s going to get paid his millions no matter what happens on the field.

Alabama, with rich football traditions of its own, may undeniably be considered the most successful football program in recent college history. Monday will mark Alabama’s 3rd quest for a BCS Championship in 4 years. That’s a lot of National Championship bling for a blushing southern belle-ephant. (Alabama’s mascot is the Crimson Tide, though on game-day this is manifested by Big Al, a red-shirt wearing elephant).

The championship snack victor, at least for our family, is a no-brainer. We’ll be having my husband’s chili and a bowl full of corn chips. An asparagus spear may make an appearance. 

The Math of BCS College Football Bowl Games

Though it may seem that there is an endless supply of college football bowl games being broadcast this year, from the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, there is an actual limit to the bowl madness. From December 15th to January 7th:

  • 35 college football bowl games will be played.
  • 5 of those college football bowl games are part of the prestigious BCS (Bowl Championship Series).
  • 10 teams total are chosen to compete in one of the 5 BCS college bowl games
  • 6 of those teams receive automatic berths to a BCS bowl game by winning their respective conferences. College football conferences receiving automatic bids are: Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-12 (Formerly Pac-10), and the South Eastern Conference (SEC).
  • 1 team, Notre Dame, though not part of a conference, also receives an automatic bid for a BCS bowl if it manages to earn a spot in the top eight of the final BCS standings (this is known as the Notre Dame rule). This year, Notre Dame is ranked #1.
  • 4 teams can theoretically be chosen to participate from non-automatic-qualifying conferences.
  • 5 conferences are considered non-automatic qualifying conferences (or mid-majors). These include the following: Conference USA, Mid-American Conference (MAC), Mount West Conference, Sun Belt Conferences, Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
  • The highest ranked champion from a non-automatic qualifying conference (mid-major) will receive an automatic qualification for a BCS bowl game if their end-of season BCS ranking is in the top 12 or ranked in the top 16 and higher than a champion of an automatically-qualifying conference. This is how Northern Illinois earned a berth in the Discover Orange Bowl. The Big East Champion, Louisville, was only ranked #21 in the final BCS standings. Northern Illinois (MAC), meanwhile, was ranked #15).
  • 2 teams automatically qualify for the BCS National Championship Game by ranking 1 and 2 respectively in the final BCS standings
  • 4 teams (or fewer depending on the number of automatic qualifying teams per the rules above) are eligible for at-large bids. These teams can be from the same or different conferences. This year Oregon, and Florida earned the at-large bids.

Why does College Football matter? Why does knowing Accounting help you know College Football better?

If you do the math, even factoring in the collective joy (or sorrow) college football brings to fans of college football throughout the United States, you quickly realize college football bowl games are partly about college and the competitive spirit, but mostly about the money:

  • $23.6 million: the amount each automatic qualifying school earns for playing in a BCS game. This money, however, is shared by all other members of that team’s football conference (that is, it is shared after the basic accounting principle of reducing the overall shared total dollar amount by costs incurred by a team to participate in the BCS bowl game (such as travel and other associated expenses – these costs can and do run into the millions). As a result the fewer members of a conference, the more money each member of that conference will have to share. Also, the better the conference, the higher the likelihood that more than one team from that conference will make a bowl game, and the more money for all to share.
  • $6.2 million: according to a recent ESPN blog post, this is the amount the Notre Dame will receive by participating in its BCS bowl game this year. Notre Dame is in the unique position of not having to share its BCS money because, as an independent, it's in its own conference of me, myself, and I; its own magical conference of 1 where there really is a pot of gold at the end of a gridiron rainbow.
  • Non automatic-qualifying (mid-major) conferences have agreed to share any BCS money among the 5 non automatic-qualifying conferences.

Financially speaking, however, the major source of college football revenue is from lucrative television contracts. Sure, BCS money is a good thing for the schools involved, but a good television contract can be a great thing.

The Best News for College Football Fan and Fan-Nots 

Fortunately, no matter who you choose to cheer for this BCS season, the availability of low-cost online college courses with StraighterLine is not dependent on a BCS college bowl berth or a football program's success. This allows a StraighterLine student to cheer on their favorite college football team all the way to the bank. With no school loans hanging over their heads, StraighterLine students can take online classes whenever they want to, wear whatever team jersey they choose, and have complete and utter control over what snacks to consume while they watch, or not watch, any or all of the BCS Bowl games.

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Beth Dumbauld is a writer who is passionate about helping others save money and time. She received her MBA from the University of Colorado and currently lives near Cincinnati, Ohio.

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