Man, I love Las Vegas.
Anyhow, I figured I'd call some of the guys who put together the Las Vegas Oddsmakers Top 25 poll that I've been pumping all season. There are four oddsmakers from Las Vegas Sports Consultants who are responsible. What they said surprised me.
(Aside: You can look at the performance of the coaches' poll voters here. Um, what an utter embarrassment. Who came up with the idea of letting teams vote on themselves? Every voting coach with a team in the top 25 Coaches Poll voted for his team at or above its actual spot in the poll, save Bill Callahan. Way to have some morals, Bill. Most egregious offenders: Phil Fulmer (voted Tennessee 13th, five spots ahead of its average), Mike Riley (voted Oregon State 20th, five spots ahead of its average), Rich Rodriguez (voted WVU seventh, five spots ahead of its average), Greg Schiano (voted Rutgers 10th, seven spots ahead of its average) and Bob Stoops (voted Oklahoma fourth, four spots ahead of its average). And how 'bout Howard Schnellenberger, Mr. Gloop himself, voting LSU 15th? Four spots behind Arkansas? Even though the Hogs have more losses, including two straight, one of which came to LSU? Booo.)
(Aside II: Read this from mgoblog, which quotes a Harris Poll voter admitting he favored Michigan because he lives there! Great system, guys. Some of the other arguments are equally ludicrous. And some Harris voter had Boise State second? Why are we asking dumb poll voters whom they want to see play? I thought we were ranking teams. "... There's still something a bit hanging-chad slimy about the process," writes Pete Fiutak. Yup.)
Anyhow, I called Vegas, seeking some common sense. Here's what COO Kenny White said.
"By the numbers, Ohio State and Michigan should be playing for the national championship; they are the top two teams," he said. "We definitely think Michigan's the second-best team in the land. I should tell you Michigan and Ohio State should be playing."
But.... (But? There's no buts. The numbers don't lie, right?) But....
"I'm glad who's playing right now," he said, knife wound through my heart. "I think a rematch would have matched the top two teams in the country, but since we don't have a playoff system that does that, I'd rather see two teams that haven't played. Because if Michigan beats Ohio State, then they've each won once, and now what do you do? Let's let Florida have a shot at 'em and see what Florida can do."
Tragic. Now, Kenny was saying this both as a fan, who thinks Ohio State-Florida would be more interesting, and as an employee of the gaming industry, who thinks there will be more action on Ohio State-Florida. And since he hopes his poll is ultimately incorporated into the BCS system, he admitted that, intellectually, he would back his Michigan. But Florida seems to be what he feels in his heart.
And senior oddsmaker Mike Seba, who actually had Florida ranked behind both Michigan and LSU this week? Same thing. No interest in seeing Ohio State-Michigan.
"They already played once," he said. "Even though it was a three-point difference in the game, anyone who watched that game could see that Ohio State was clearly a better team. I agree with Tressel; if you don't win your conference, you really shouldn't be in the national title game. I agree with that. Michigan had their chance....They always say you want to get the two best teams in there. You do, except in certain situations, and this is one of them."
As for the real numbers, Seba says he would have Michigan as a three-point favorite over Florida on a neutral field, maybe 2.5 because of Michigan's long layoff. White says he'd probably have Michigan favored by one over Florida. LVSC Odds Director Tony Sinisi would make it a six-point spread. As a four-man group, the difference between the two teams worked out to exactly three points, in Michigan's favor.
"Why Michigan?" I asked.
"Because we think they're a better team," Seba said with a laugh. "How's that?"
Three more quick notes about the oddsmakers (and yes, we'll get the Vegas Top 25 Hoops Poll soon):
1) White says he thinks a team like Georgia could have gone undefeated with Boise State's schedule.
2) The Fiesta Bowl will be a real Vegas-BCS conflict. Vegas has Oklahoma seventh and Boise 16th; the BCS has Boise eighth and Oklahoma 10th. Oklahoma will be favored by about a touchdown. Since undefeated Boise is ranked behind a bunch of teams with losses anyhow, why not just put them where Vegas says they actually belong?
3) Vegas looks pretty smart for never losing faith in LSU despite those two early losses. The first week the BCS standings came out, Vegas said the Tigers were fifth, and the BCS said 18th. This week, Vegas said fifth and the BCS said fourth.
Grand conclusion: I was still right, Vegas should be in charge.