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Parity strikes college football

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The NFL is about parity, the Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams not withstanding.

But now college football is looking a lot like the NFL, especially in the SEC where parity is becoming the norm.

Florida beats Tennessee and then falls as a 23-point favorite against Mississippi. The following week Mississippi loses to South Carolina, which had a tough home matchup against Alabama-Birmingham from the weak Conference USA.

Vanderbilt has joined the ranks of tough SEC teams. It’s not just in the SEC, though.

South Florida barely got past Florida International as a 29-point favorite. USC actually lost to Oregon State as a 25-point favorite in the upset of the season so far.

“For a team like Oregon State, which is just an average team, to upset USC tells you that anybody can do it to anybody,” said Mike Seba, a senior linesmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the company that supplies betting numbers and information to many of Nevada’s sportsbooks.

Seba said he dropped his power ratings 3 ½ points on the Trojans and Gators following their upset losses.

“You used to have 40-point favorites,” Seba said. “Now you hardly ever see a 40-point favorite. All the ratings for the teams are much tighter.”

The only matchup this week with a pointspread of more than 30 points is Fresno State hosting Idaho, the last-place team in the Western Athletic Conference. The Vandals haven’t covered a spread all season.

The second most lopsided spread is USC laying 27 at home to Arizona State. The Trojans, though, are the rare team with such tremendous depth that their second-stringers could beat many schools.

“It used to be that all the good players would go to the top 10-15 schools,” Seba said. “Now they’re all spread out. It’s an evolutionary kind of thing.”

Causing this evolution is an 85-scholarhip limit and a heavy increase in televised games representing many different conferences.

Troy and Florida Atlantic, for example, received big exposure on Tuesday from being on ESPN2. Those are two Sun Belt Conference schools. Suddenly a lot of people, with nothing to do on a Tuesday night, became interested in the Trojans and Owls.

The lone Wednesday game featured Louisiana Tech and Boise State on ESPN. They are Western Athletic Conference schools.

Great high school players don’t want to wait. They want exposure and they want to play immediately. So the talent becomes more evenly distributed.

The top rusher in the nation, Donald Brown, plays for Connecticut. The second-leading wide receiver, Jarett Dillard, plays for Rice.

The second-leading passer, Case Keenum, plays for Houston. The quarterback who has thrown the most touchdown passes this season, David Johnson, plays for Tulsa.

Connecticut is in the Big East Conference, while Rice, Houston and Tulsa are all in Conference USA.

Good players will get noticed whether they compete in a powerhouse conference or a lesser one.

“There are just so many good players now and practically all the games are on TV,” Seba said.

It’s enough to make you think underdog first in your handicapping.

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