National Championship Game: Alabama is an Overwhelming Favorite. Since When?

I need you, dear reader, to help me with something. It's something that's been kind of bothering me ever since I began to hear this meme emerge in the initial couple of days after the BCS standings were released, and a topic that has cropped up again as we draw closer to the Citi Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game That Has Too Many Names.

I need you to help me find out when Alabama became an overwhelming favorite to win the CBCSNCGTHTMN.

I know Alabama became an overwhelming favorite, because ESPN's analysts keep talking about how Texas can draw motivation from the fact that Alabama is an overwhelming favorite and Burnt Orange is being "disrespected," and they would certainly never make something like that up to either add intrigue to the game or to help one team at the expense of another. After all, their decision to remove Craig James from being part of the broadcasting crew for a game in which his son would play only after his son got the head coach fired showed that ESPN's journalistic ethics are unassailable.

Please don't get me wrong; I've said before that I'm "fairly confident that the Tide will defeat Texas when all is said and done." But that doesn't translate into margin of victory or giving the Longhorns no chance. I think Alabama will win, but I think the Tide's victory will be by a fairly narrow advantage, meaning Texas will definitely have a chance to win the game.

But no media narrative driver am I. Perhaps Vegas has placed a huge line for Alabama, favoring them by seven or ten points or more? No; most oddsmakers have the Tide as a 3.5- or 4-point favorite. Unless you're listening the fans -- and there are homers and overconfident fans on both sides -- the only source of "disrespect" I can find for Texas is coming from computers. And if your team has to draw on "Let's prove AccuScore wrong!" to get motivated for the national title game -- well, suffice it to say I think your football team is in trouble.

If you want a real case of disrespect, go back to the 2007 Tostitos Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game That Has Too Many Names, when Ohio State was favored to defeat Florida by as much as eight. That seemed even too small a spread for the Buckeyes, who were almost universally expected to make the game a footnote after winning what some said was a de facto title game against Michigan more than a month earlier. When analysts started to say shortly before the game that Florida might make it closer than expected, there was no real thought that the Gators might actually win -- just that the game might not be over by halftime.

Or try the 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and Southern Cal, when ESPN actually broadcast a series of SportsCenter segments about whether Southern Cal was the greatest team of all time -- before the national title game had been played. In that case, the Longhorns rightly felt a bit overlooked by the national media. Even then, though, they needed a last-minute drive from Vince Young and Co. to win.

I'm certain that Mack Brown is trying to make his players believe that everyone in college football thinks the Tide will win, just as I'm sure Nick Saban is using the narrative to his motivational advantage, telling his players that they are being "set up" to lose the game. But that doesn't mean that ESPN should buy into the narrative, or report it without any indication that anything they say is playing into it.

Apparently, it's not interesting enough to have a Heisman-winning running back, Colt McCoy's final college game and the national title contest in one of the most historic venues in the sport. Better to just make something up that seems to have very little real basis in fact.

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