On paper this wasn’t the most thrilling week of the college football schedule. It marked the beginning of conference play for those who hadn’t started yet, but there weren’t a whole lot of marquee matchups. As always, though, college football provided more than a few shocks, thrills and heartbreaking moments. For bettors, there were also several games in which a win was turned to a loss in the blink of an eye, and a couple of games that oddsmakers weren’t even in the ballpark with.
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Here’s a look back at the best and the worst of the week from a betting perspective:
West Virginia 70, Baylor 63
The Mountaineers really made a statement in their Big 12 debut. They faced a ridiculously high 82.5 point total in their game against Baylor, but they exceeded that by a mere 50.5 points. For a while it looked like West Virginia was going to cover the 70 point spread, but a final Baylor TD with three minutes left gave the underdog the cover. While West Virginia’s offense is obviously beyond potent, there remain obvious concerns about their defense — and their secondary in particular. When they start to face stiffer defenses their offense will be hard-pressed to carry the load, and it could be tough to cover spreads. They are already just 1-3 ATS, so this is a team that you tread lightly with.
South Carolina 38, Kentucky 17
South Carolina covered by just one point, and the way they did it will have Kentucky bettors crying in their beers. The Gamecocks were totally dominating and went up by 18 with five minutes left. Kentucky got the ball back deep in their own zone. They managed only a completely incompetent three-and-out, and then unleashed a monster punt of... 12 yards. That’s not a misprint — they really only punted it 12 yards. South Carolina started on Kentucky’s 22, ran twice, threw an incomplete pass, and then kicked a meaningless 31 yard field goal to cover.
TCU 24, SMU 16
Garrett Gilbert, who you will recall as the guy forced to replace Colt McCoy for Texas in the National Championship Game as a freshman, was as bad as a player can be for SMU on Saturday. He was just 15-of-40, and he threw five ugly interceptions. With his team down 24-10 with just over two minutes left, though, Gilbert looked competent for the first and only time of the day. He completed on a 29-yard TD pass. The team missed the point after, but the damage was done — TCU was favored by 13.5, so SMU had covered the spread. Fittingly, Gilbert got the ball back for one last chance to tie the game and he threw yet another interception.
Texas 41, Oklahoma State 36
After taking the 36-34 lead at home, Oklahoma State fans watched with horror as Texas marched down the field with shocking ease to take the lead for good at 41-36 with under a minute left. Bettors who backed the Cowboys felt just as sick as the fans — Texas was a two-point favorite, so the touchdown allowed them to cover the spread. If the Longhorns had only managed a field goal they would still have won, but Oklahoma State would have covered.
Utah State 35, UNLV 13
Deep into the fourth quarter Utah State, a 21 point favorite, was up by 20 and cruising. The Aggies totally shut things down, and it seemed all but certain the game would end there. But then UNLV running back Tim Cornett had a brain cramp. He took the snap in his own endzone, got a bit too fancy, and was tackled for the safety. Those two points gave Utah State a 22-point lead and a covered spread.
Oregon 51, Washington State 26
Sometimes I hate when good coaches show restraint and class. Chip Kelly’s offense could obviously score pretty much at will against Mike Leach’s defense. With just under 11 minutes left, Kenjon Barner scampered for a very impressive 80-yard TD run to open up a 51-19 lead. Kelly called off the dogs then, and the offense the rest of the way did nothing threatening — by design. The Cougars managed a meaningless touchdown to make the final margin of victory 25 points. The Ducks were favored by 31.5, so this is one of those infinitely frustrating cases where a team that could easily have covered a spread didn’t only because they chose not to. Trying to determine the likely fourth quarter effort is another wrinkle for handicapping strong public teams with inflated spreads. That’s just what bettors need.
Middle Tennessee 49, Georgia Tech 28
The award for the game most poorly handicapped this week goes to this one. Georgia Tech was favored by 24.5, and about two-thirds of bets were on the Yellow Jackets at that price. The game was tied at 21 at the half, but it seems like Georgia Tech forgot to come out for the second half. The final 21-point win means that the Blue Raiders covered the spread by a mere 45.5 points. Ouch.
Texas A&M 58, Arkansas 10
It is stunning how far and how fast Arkansas has fallen. The Razorbacks were ranked as high as eighth in the polls, and people were talking about them as a legitimate threat to Alabama. A month later they have lost four straight, have yet to cover a spread, and this week they fell 35.5 points short of the cover. Hopefully this goes without saying, but Arkansas is not a good team to trust with your betting dollars right now.
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