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The Black Heart Gold Blogpoll Bowl Challenge: December 15-25

In which we lose all of our money out of hubris.

Otto Kitsinger III

The BHGPoll had a good year. It identified Notre Dame early on, promoted Florida to the top five before the naked eye of observers could see its skill, and identified Utah State and San Jose State as the true mid-major darlings over such teams as Louisiana Tech. In theory, the Poll should end the season with the same ranking as any other poll: Any preseason notions of talent should be devoid from both. In practice, the human tendency of voters to resist admitting they are wrong about a team means preseason polls still matter at the end of the season, so we continue to win "awards" for being contrarian.

In any case, we felt it was time to put the poll to the test, not as a study in statistics but as a predictive tool. The BHGP actuarial service took three years of Blogpoll data, compared it to future results, and regressed it to find a point spread formula. We then ran this year's bowl games through the formula and identified the outliers, where our data does not match Vegas' interpretation of the contest.

Here's how we are going to do this: For every one-point difference between our projected results and the Vegas point spread, we're putting up 10 Internet dollars. At the end of the year, we'll see how much fake money we make or lose. Here's where we're putting our cash this week:

Arizona (-7.5) vs. Nevada
Our projection: Arizona -10
Final score: Arizona 49-48
Bankroll ($25)

Weird game. Arizona came out flat, got into a sideline fight, and won with an onside kick recovery. I'm not one to dwell on the dime store psychology of which team "wants it more" or has "quit on its coach" during the season, but there is something to it in bowl games. When you're from Arizona and playing a non-BCS team in an environment colder and less hospitable than your home city, there could be some motivational issues.

Utah State (-10) vs. Toldeo
Our projection: Utah State -6
Final score: Utah State 41-15
Bankroll ($65)

Two Blogpoll darlings here, and we just didn't adore Utah State enough.

BYU (-3.5) vs. San Diego State
Our projection: BYU -1.5
Our wager: SDSU $20

I want to put $Texas on this game, because we don't have a home/away factor for bowl games and San Diego State is playing this in their backyard. If there's a 3.5-point advantage for home field, Vegas has BYU -7 in a true neutral site game, and that's too high.

UCF (-7) vs. Ball State
Our projection: Ball State -2
Our wager: Ball State $90

Here's the next problem: The North-South effect. The Big Ten plays almost all of its bowl games in its' opponents' region, mostly because nobody wants to go to a bowl game in the Midwest in January. Same goes here, where Ball State is going to be playing a glorified road game against UCF, whose campus is 106 miles away from the bowl site. Nevertheless, we think UCF is grossly overrated in this game, so we'll take our friends from Muncie.

Louisiana-Lafayette (-5) vs. East Carolina
Our projection: Louisiana-Lafayette -6
Our wager: Louisiana-Lafayette $10

Not much to say here: We are right in line with Vegas on this game. Some books already have Louisiana-Lafayette at -6, actually, which would make this a non-bet.

Boise State (-5.5) vs. Washington
Our projection: Boise State -6.5
Our wager: Boise State $10

Again, there's virtually no difference between the current spread and our projection here. This could be one of those motivation games, with neither team meeting expectations this season. We're actually higher than most on both, which nullifies what would otherwise be a good gambling opportunity.

Fresno State (-12.5) vs. SMU
Our projection: Fresno State -14
Our wager: Fresno State $15

This is a dangerous game. The Hawaii Bowl has a history of rewarding underdogs, mostly because the underdog is usually Hawaii, the favorite is usually from somewhere else and populated with 20 year olds in Hawaii, and the game is on Christmas Eve. This one is particularly intriguing because SMU coach June Jones, the longtime Hawaii coach before moving to Dallas, is making his return to the islands. Still, Fresno State is really good and SMU really isn't, so we're going to use the data and cross our fingers.