Bliss or Miss: The Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat
by Josh Nagel - 09/10/2008
Now that football season officially is in full swing, it's time to introduce a weekly feature we'll call Bliss or Miss. It's a brief recap of two games on the opposite ends of the sports betting emotional spectrum.
The Bliss game will be one in which a fairly obvious winner was just that. You saw what appeared to be a vulnerable line, pounced on it, and reveled as your team covered wire-to-wire, putting a smile on your face, money in your pocketbook and giving you that smug feeling that comes with the notion that this sports betting business isn't quite as difficult as it's cracked up to be.
Needless to say, we all know what a Miss game feels like. Everything looks so good on paper, you are convinced that you have made the pick of champions. You then look on in disbelief as your game falls apart, and you find your teeth clattering as your hard-earned money suddenly depends on the leg of an 18-year-old college freshman who has never performed before 80,000 fans and appears to have a liquid substance running down his leg as he jogs onto the field.
We all know how this one ends, but sometimes it's comforting to know that others feel your pain. So in a nod to sports bettors everywhere who can relate to just how agonizing - and sometimes rewarding - this endeavor can be, we present the first installment of Bliss or Miss now that final touchdown of the first full week of football has been scored.
Bliss game: Penn State -16.5 vs. Oregon State. Final score: Penn State 45, Oregon State 14.
This line seemed about seven points off from the start, and as it turns out, it was. Oregon State has been annually dreadful in September under Mike Riley, and the Beavers generally don't fare well against superior teams. Although, to their credit, they always seem to rebound late in the season, this was not a spot in which they appeared poised to bounce back from the loss to Stanford. At home, maybe, but not at Penn State.
Sure, the Nittany Lions had a few players out due to suspensions, but they weren't missing enough valuable personnel for it to affect this game. And it didn't. Penn State bettors hardly had to break a sweat as their team licked the Beavers, going up 28-0 by the 11-minute mark of the second quarter and never letting the underdogs threaten the spread. Having action on the correct side of this type of game can add years to your sports betting life.
Miss game: Miami Fla. +21.5 vs. Florida. Final score: Florida 26, Miami 3.
The set-up seemed so perfect for this one: Florida laying three touchdowns in a nationally televised game against in-state rival Miami. The public figured to have a huge backing in the Gators and, while nobody would mistake these Hurricanes for the perennial national-title contenders of yesteryear, it stood to reason that they would at least give a respectable showing and that their improved defense would help them cover the number.
For a while, everything went as planned. The Hurricanes settled down after allowing an early touchdown, and their defense clamped down on reigning Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and friends, limiting their big plays and keeping them out of the end zone. While Miami struggled to move the ball behind its freshman quarterback, this hardly seemed to matter. It was 9-3 Florida well into the third quarter, and all the Hurricanes had to do was avoid the signature late onslaught by Urban Meyer-coached teams to bring home the money.
And they did. Well, almost. They should have, at least. After Florida punched in two late scores to go ahead 23-3, Miami turned the ball over on downs around its own 35-yard line with just under 2 minutes left. All Florida had to do was run the ball a couple of times and the game was over, as the Hurricanes had just one time out.
Much to horror of anyone with a bet on the Hurricanes, Meyer chose to throw the ball. On … EVERY … PLAY! While most coaches would have been happy to run it into the line a couple of times then take a kneel down, Meyer "wanted to make a statement," according to the ESPN broadcasters. Evidently that statement was that those who bet his team were going to be rewarded with a win. When the cameras flashed on Meyer, his rosy cheeks seemed to get even redder, and I could have sworn I saw sprouting horns before the angle panned back top the field.
Gratefully, the Miami defense held, leaving Florida with a fourth-and-5 and just a few ticks left on the clock. Again, most sane coaches just run the ball here and let the game end. Not Meyer. He sends out the field goal unit. You had to turn away from this; like a nurse approaching your arm with a large needle, you knew it was going to hurt. This is all so unnecessary, so unsportsmanlike, so unfair, so Urban Meyer and so … IT'S GOOD!
Florida wins 26-3 and backdoors the spread in almost improbable way. The lump has yet to clear form my throat.