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by Bryan Leonard - 10/28/2006
We all look at matchups and stats when assessing point spreads and potential winning angles. Another area most noticeable in college sports is emotion. Sometimes things happen on and off the field that can affect a team's attitude. Rivalry games, bounce-back spots and revenge situations are several.
Another factor is emotion. We've seen a lot of this lately in the NFL. The Cardinals were fired up last Monday night, as they haven't been on national TV in a long time and it was the first time their new stadium was on display to the rest of the country. It was also game against an undefeated opponent. The Cardinals, a double digit dog, played with tremendous passion and should have won the game. Regardless of the bizarre finish, Arizona backers got the money with ease. That was a game that statistics said the Bears would roll, but there are times when emotion can trump stats, especially from a handicapping perspective.
The Kansas City Chiefs got smoked at Pittsburgh 45-7 then got chewed out by coach Herm Edwards. The seeds for Sunday's redemption, a 30-27 upset of San Diego, were planted last Wednesday when Edwards verbally shredded the entire team, not just for their performance, but because a handful of players socialized with Passion Party consultants (women who are host to all-female, sex-toy sales parties in their homes) at the Pittsburgh Airport Hyatt, the team hotel, the night before their game against the Steelers. That got Herm's attention! Then he got their attention and they responded on the field.
It doesn't just happen after a loss, either. Last week it was reported that Patriots coach Bill Belichick was furious with Wednesday's practice and let his team know it. They went through twice the normal practice on Thursday, after which players mentioned that they worked hard on improving the passing game, which hasn't been sharp. The Patriots came out throwing the ball Sunday against Buffalo and played crisp and sharp in a 28-6 rout.
We've also seen emotion in college football, especially with teams ranked high losing their first game. Auburn got waxed by Arkansas, then the next week hosted the new No. 2 team in the nation, Florida. The Tigers responded with a passionate game and win. I recall a year ago when undefeated USC dropped to No. 2 behind Texas in the bowl championship series standings after being No. 1 all season.
That motivated them the following week, several players admitted. "It's definitely something in the back of our minds," said WR Steve Smith. "We just have to show them on the field." They did, not only winning but covering as a 30-point favorite. USC amassed a season-high 745 yards and the defense shut down Washington State's high-powered attack, 55-13. It was also homecoming, another factor that can fire up a home team.
It can even carry over a year later with respect to rivalries. Keep this in mind Saturday as Tennessee plays at South Carolina. A year ago, the Gamecocks were getting no respect as a +14 dog against an erratic Tennessee team. South Carolina had never won at Tennessee, and there was the extra emotion of Steve Spurrier against Phil Fulmer. Sparks often fly, both on the field and off, between those two. South Carolina pulled the upset, 16-15. The Vols have been on a mission much of this year, trying to make amends for last year's poor season. Check the newspapers and sports talk shows this week to see if the Vols bring up that tough loss to South Carolina. Channeling emotion can be a big edge, on the field and at the betting window.