In our weekly look back at the highs and lows of the last weekend in college football betting, we have isolated six games that had a particular ability to either thrill or frustrate depending upon which side you were on. They all turned around in the closing seconds, and they all raised some blood pressure in the process:
Rutgers 28, Army 7
I was on the wrong side of this one so I found it particularly frustrating. Army isn’t a great team, but they run the ball relentlessly, and they are good at it. That slows down the game and can frustrate opponents, so that makes them tough — or at least tougher than their record might suggest. For much of the game Army was slowing things down and keeping it close. In fact, they were tied up until six minutes into the fourth quarter. But then things opened up. Rutgers scored twice within less than two and a half minutes, but that still kept Army within the 17-point spread. Army slowly moved down the field, and within the last minute they were Inside the Rutgers 30 and could run out the clock. But then disaster struck. Rutgers recovered a fumble and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown with just 40 seconds left on the clock. That meant Rutgers covered a game that it never really looked like they would. Ouch.
Virginia 41, Miami 40
For much of this game it seemed like the last team that scored in this crazy shootout would win. In fact, that’s just what happened. With just six seconds left Virginia scored on a 10-yard pass to go up 41 -40. That gave them the moneyline win, but it wasn’t yet enough to cover the two-point spread. The single point would have led to a push, but Virginia correctly decided to go for two — just in case Miami was able to return the kickoff into field goal range. They failed on the two-point conversion, and they failed to cover as a result.
Nebraska 32, Penn State 23
Michigan fans like myself were huge Penn State fans this weekend because the Huskers need to lose to give the Wolverines any chance of winning the Big Ten. Penn State had more than their fair share of chances here, but the Nittany Lions just couldn’t hold on to the lead on the road. They also couldn’t hold on to the cover despite being nine-point underdogs. They were up by three heading into the fourth quarter, but a touchdown gave Nebraska the lead they never gave up, a safety pushed the margin to six points, and then the final nail was a 33-yard field goal with just 23 seconds left that gave Nebraska the nine-point win and turned the game into a “push”.
Vanderbilt 27, Mississippi 26
Ole Miss kicked a field goal with less than three minutes left to go up by six as 2.5-point home favorites. Vanderbilt had been streaky offensively, so it seemed like the Rebels were positioned to win and cover. Not so fast, though. The opportunistic Commodores struck again, scoring the winning touchdown in the final minute on a 26-yard pass that came about only after Vandy had gambled on fourth-and-two at midfield. That put Vanderbilt up 27-26, and it gave them not only the cover but also their sixth win and bowl eligibility. Most frustrating for Ole Miss backers is that receiver Chris Boyd couldn’t possibly have been more wide open on the winning score. It was blown coverage of the most frustrating variety.
LSU 37, Mississippi State 17
Mississippi State backers need to find a new team to trust their money with. After starting out a strong 5-2 ATS the Bulldogs have failed to cover their last three games. The way it happened this time, though, is enough to make guys quit betting on sports. LSU was favored by 14.5. With well under two minutes remaining Mississippi State was down by 13 and deep in LSU territory threatening to score to narrow the gap and secure the cover. An ugly interception right at the goal line led to a rare 100-yard interception return and, with 1:13 left on the clock, a 20-point LSU lead and a cover for the favorites. Mississippi State QB Tyler Russell had been reasonably effective up until that point to make the outcome even more frustrating.
BYU 52, Idaho 13
Idaho has been so bad this year that they have already gotten a coach fired, and were just 1-8 ATS heading into this one. This time, though, they just weren’t quite bad enough. BYU was favored by a whopping 40 points, and a field goal with less than two minutes left put them up by 42. Unfortunately for the majority of bettors who had backed BYU, though, Idaho picked a frustrating time to look more competent offensively than they had all game. They marched down the field and, with no time left on the clock, kicked a 35-yard field goal. It meant nothing in the game — and BYU put up little resistance because they were playing fifth stringers and water boys by this point — but it did mean that Idaho lost by only 39, and covered the spread as a result.