Football Betting Bliss or Miss: The Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat
by Josh Nagel - 09/17/2008
Well it's time for the second installment of Bliss or Miss, a brief walk down memory lane from the past weekend's games, a trip that rekindles the glory and agony that accompany a good Saturday of college football betting.
It feels like there were way too many candidates for the Bliss game, as the past weekend was full of games that were clear sailing and low stress for many bettors, even by simply laying the chalk in the high-profile games. True Miss games, the kind that stick in your gut like a day-old doughnut, were harder to come by.
But, alas, I have found the perfect candidates for each.
Bliss: Iowa State +13.5 vs. Iowa. Final score: Iowa 17, Iowa State 5.
This was a Bliss game for all the right reasons; mainly because the underdog side was correct all along, and yet we almost had the cash snatched from our mitts in the final minutes, only to have it return in the most unlikely backdoor cover you can imagine. A walk-off safety.
It came as no surprise that the vastly overrated Kirk Ferentz and his overrated Hawkeyes were their usual two-touchdown chalk in this game, which makes no sense because this in-state rivalry is always close, and Ferentz has an awful record against the Cyclones.
This seemed like a garden-variety cover, as the game was its usual low-scoring grudge match, tied 3-3 well into the fourth quarter. A late Iowa touchdown was no cause for concern … the second late Iowa touchdown, on a punt return, was cause for panic. Now it's 17-3 with just about four minutes left, and we need an Iowa State touchdown to backdoor this spread (the Cyclones obviously aren't kicking field goals at this point).
The Cyclones had moved the ball well most of the day but were unable to get in the end zone. This time, it looked like things might be different. Driving effortlessly down the field, Iowa State found itself with a first-and-goal at the Iowa four-yard line with about two minutes left. The quarterback looked confident and I could tell they were about to punch it in (this game was not televised, and I followed along on the Internet … but I had a clear mental picture of the quarterback's confidence).
Tapping the "refresh" button on a major sports Web site faster than one swings the clever during a whack-a-mole game at the county fair, I fully expected the word TOUCHDOWN! to jump across the screen at any moment. Instead, in very small type, the words "turned over on downs" scrolled across the bottom of the screen.
Like most tragic news, I was frozen and numb. Then, through the tears I wiped off the monitor, I came up with a grand idea and new hope … Iowa could take an intentional safety. This made perfect sense, because the Hawkeyes would not want to risk punting from their own end zone and having it blocked and recovered for a touchdown. A self-inflicted safety would provide the breathing room they needed for the punt, and Iowa State would still need two scores.
But when was the last time you saw a team intentionally take a safety? Just when I started talking myself into the reality that this notion was a pipe dream, suddenly the word popped across my screen like a jolt of lighting … SAFETY!
I clutched my heavily wrinkled Iowa State +13.5 ticket - it had been headed for the waste basket - and incredulously held it up to the light as if I had just found a winning lottery ticket in the trash. I think I cried again. The tears turned to maniacal laughter when I thought of the fate of all those poor suckers who took Iowa and had likely celebrated wildly when it appeared the Hawkeyes were backdooring the spread.
I was reminded of the sage advice once given to me by a wise old sports bettor: he told me watching the suckers lose was sometimes more gratifying than actually winning yourself. Never had this been more true than at this moment.
Miss game: California -14.5 vs. Maryland. Final score: Maryland 35, Cal 27.
I was admittedly on the sucker end of this one, which was fool's gold from the start, but unfortunately this revelation came too late. I knew Cal was going to be a heavy public favorite, but this year I resolved not to back off a side strictly because it's the public side. This can, after all, cost you some games.
Hard as I tried, I could not see this game turning out in any way other than a Cal blowout. After all, this Bears team had scored 38 against a good Michigan State team and hung 66 on an awful Washington State team, while Maryland had struggled to beat Delaware, 14-7, (with one of its touchdowns coming on defense) before getting embarrassed by losing to Middle Tennessee State on the road. Maryland was starting to look like one of the worst offenses in college football since … well, last year's Maryland team.
But this game, and this Cal team, was seductive in the way a buxom, late 40ish, caked-on makeup cocktail waitress looks after you've had a couple free drinks. She might look good for the moment, but when you wake up, you come to your senses.
I put Cal on a parlay card Friday night, and by the time I woke up in time for the 9 a.m. start, I already hated myself. I just knew Cal was the wrong side and there was nothing I could do about my buyer's remorse at this point.
Except cringe and wince in despair as Maryland scored on what seemed to be every play of the first quarter and jumped out to a 21-0 lead faster than coach Ralph Friedgen can go for seconds in a buffet line.
This one felt like a wrestling match with your older, bigger brother, as he puts a knee on your chest and keeps poking you in the ribs even as you beg him to stop. The pain just gets worse and the blows get harder.