Bizarre Point Spread Outcome in Stanford/USC
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 11/17/2008
Was it simply gamesmanship between two coaches who have grown ire for each other or was something more significant involved?
A back and forth tussle between USC and Stanford Saturday night had the backers of the Cardinal sitting comfortable as their team had a decent chance to pull off another stunning upset, and an even greater chance of covering the 24-point spread.
Once the USC offense got ignited, however, the Stanford deficit continued to grow until a late rushing touchdown by USC put the Trojans ahead, 45-17, as USC backers rejoiced at an improbable ATS comeback. But Jim Harbaugh, formerly known as the comeback kid from his day's quarterbacking the Indianapolis Colts, had something else in mind. He watched as his team drove down the field and in the closing seconds he decided to send out Aaron Zagory for a meaningless field goal.
In the world of betting, points always matter and that last second field goal could have messed up a teaser or a pleaser or any other number of bets but the point spread remained safe. That is until Pete Carroll decided to try and one-up Harbaugh by calling a timeout to potentially "ice" the Stanford kicker on a meaningless field goal.
The history between the two coaches really just stems from last year's biggest upset in college football history or potentially any sport for that matter. As a 40+ point underdog, Stanford went into USC and stunned the nation with a 24-23 win on the strength of two fourth-and-long completions on the winning drive of the game in the waning seconds.
The effect of that game lingered over into this one. After Carroll called his timeout, Harbaugh had a change of heart. TV cameras showed backup quarterback Alex Loukas pleading his case to Harbaugh to go for it. Why would a 20-year old sophomore in college so badly want to throw another meaningless pass at the end of the game that could potentially cover a point spread? Well, that may be an issue for another story or maybe even investigation.
Harbaugh agreed and let Loukas lead the offense back out on the field for one more play with many in the betting world watching intently while normal sports fans were changing the channel. Loukas took the snap, rolled to his left and found a seemingly wide open receiver in the end zone. Austin Gunder made the play on a low pass and cradled it for an 18-yard touchdown pass as time expired to send Stanford backers to the pay window -- that is if they had not ripped their betting stubs already.
These instances that affect millions of dollars across the country seem to happen more and more often. Who can forget Chris Duhon's last second three-point heave at the buzzer in the Final Four against Uconn? With the world watching this epic Final Four showdown, Duke as a two-point underdog had the game and spread wrapped up early on but a meltdown down the stretch allowed UConn to seize the lead and an Emeka Okafor free throw iced the game, making it a four-point lead. But Duhon decided to launch up a three at the buzzer. UConn backers could not have been worried, after all Duhon was 0-for-5 from behind the arc on the game. He shot 5-of-13 field goals on the game and even missed two free throws, yet he managed to bank home a shot that had bettors not able to believe their own eyes regardless of which side they were on.
Just a day after the Stanford pass heard round the betting world, officials in the Steelers game cost Steeler backers a combined $38 million. After ruling a last second Troy Polamalu defensive touchdown as a score, the officials at the game reviewed the play even though there was no time left on the clock and ruled that it was not a touchdown. The Polamalu score would have given the Steelers a 17-10 win or 18-10 depending on the extra point and it would have covered the five-point spread.
Instead Head Official Scott Green overruled the call saying erroneously that the Chargers had committed a forward pass and the play could not go on. Almost immediately after the game, when talking to a pool reporter, Green admitted that the call was a mistake and said the Steelers should have been awarded a touchdown. Since score differential is all the way down at the bottom of NFL tiebreakers (it is the seventh determining factor) the score will stand as 11-10, much to the delight of Chargers backers who took the five points.