Football Betting Bliss or Miss: The Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat
by Josh Nagel - 10/14/2008
College football can sometimes be like the stock market, with an ebb and flow that tends to reward those who don't overreact to brief trends and those who consistently stick with their strategies on a weekly basis.
Well, this past Saturday the trend of big chalks covering crashed worse than the Dow did the previous day. It was a glorious day of redemption for big underdogs and to revel in watching the public schmoes, who admittedly had the weekend of their lives the previous weekend, writhe in misery as their favorite teams went down one-by-one.
The high-scoring teams that the public loves to love - among them Oklahoma, Missouri Texas Tech and Georgia - each failed to cover humongous spreads, and it was an underdog bettor's paradise. The only chalk of any real high profile to cover was Florida, and by the time the game aired on ESPN, some bettors had changed their allegiance and bet LSU, believing the trend of underdogs was bound to hold up.
Ha! For those who prefer underdogs, it was nice to be back on the correct side again. Here is this week's Bliss or Miss, which chronicles the highs and lows of a sports bettor trying to reach the pylon in the end zone of greatness.
Bliss: Texas +6.5 vs. Oklahoma. Final score: Texas 45, Oklahoma 35.
This one was especially sweet because it helped get the day off on the right foot. At first I wasn't going to bet this one at all. The line just seemed too good. It was tempting to take the Sooners, knowing how Bob Stoops has pretty much owned Texas during his tenure with Oklahoma. At the same time, it was difficult to go against Texas after I had seen them play several times and watched how nobody even got close to stopping them. High-profile rivalries are often good games to leave alone, because the line will be tight and there's plenty of public action.
But I couldn't help myself. While sipping a Starbucks coffee and preparing for kickoff at the local sports book, I could not help see and overhear what looked like a dozen frat-boy tourists types roll up to the window and each one, to a man, bet on Oklahoma. All of them. The bets ranged between about $20 and $200, and all they could do was talk about what a whipping the Longhorns were in for. I just knew these guys couldn't win.
This is when I quietly waited for them to leave and whispered the number of Texas to the writer and plunked a bet down on the Longhorns. It was a tough and sometimes agonizing game as Texas fell behind by two scores several times in the first half, and I had the thought that, while going against the frat boys could never be considered a mistake, maybe they were about to get this one right.
Wrong. As Texas came back and took control of the game, ultimately winning in a convincing fashion, bettors like myself got the glee of winning right along with them. It wasn't just that they covered, which of course was the goal, but the courage it took to stick with an unpopular pick for all the right reasons. Taking Texas here kind of makes you hold your breath, but after turning in another winner, it's time to exhale.
Miss: Wisconsin +6 vs. Penn State. Final score: Penn State A LOT, Wisconsin (a little). It was actually Penn State 48 Wisconsin 7.
I don't understand why part of me wants to believe that Wisconsin is a good team, even with previous evidence, including a colossal meltdown at Michigan that clearly proved otherwise. Coincidentally, the Badgers suffer from a similar problem that faces the Wolverines; a coaching staff that refuses to budge from its game plan despite obvious indications that it isn't working.
I thought the Badgers were a team to keep an eye on this year, with almost their entire offense and defense returning and a strong running game anchored by P. J. Hill. The problem was that running it up the middle three times on every possession against one of the nation's most physical defenses - and one that knew what to expect - was not going to cut it against the Nittany Lions. Unfortunately, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema didn't get the memo. By the time Wisconsin attempted a pass, the Badgers were already down three scores and in serious trouble.
Finally turning to the erratic and turnover-prone Allan Evridge to make a play, the result was a predictable disaster, although he did lead one scoring drive that temporarily put Wisconsin back in the game. He then fumbled and threw an interception that led to Penn State touchdowns and essentially put the game out of reach in the first half. Had Wisconsin just mixed in a few short rollouts and simple throws to keep the defense off balance early, it might have made a difference.
Then again, maybe it wouldn't have mattered. Penn State is simply a more physical and talented team, and probably would have wore Wisconsin down regardless. But it's always disappointing when suspect coaching doesn't even give you a chance. I'll know better next time.