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Mandel lays out the winners and losers in the new five-bowl BCS system. Winners? The Big 12! ( A collective groan follows from both coasts...) Losers? The Big East. Following the losses of Virginia Tech and Miami and this latest rebuke from the college establishment, the Big East as a football conference is starting to look suspiciously like the skinny hyena who can't nudge into the feeding frenzy.

Why grant the Big 12 such a subsidy? Because it pays off at the ground level. Big 12 fans travel like Bedouins to bowl games, partly out of devotion, partly out of a desire to escape places like Norman, Oklahoma and Lincoln, Nebraska in December and January. (No blame there. We've seen Fargo enough times to see what happens when you don't get out for a bit of sunshine in the dead of winter. People end up in the wood chipper. )

The natural conflict here is between ground revenues--the tickets, the hotels, the restaurants overwhelmed by middle-aged guys in jean shorts getting loaded on 2 for 1 margaritas at the Applebees down the street from the stadium--and the revenues generated by the other big investor in this enterprise, networks. Bowl committees, governed by paunchy men in loudly colored jackets with all the accountability of the Illuminati, try to balance the two. However, if the choice must be made, committees will choose a bigger name matchup over the more competitive one, which could negatively affect ratings in the long run and therefore ad revenue for the Worldwide Leader and others.

Insert tired, oft-repeated, and futile request for a playoff here.