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The Ins and Outs of Football Revenge

   by Bryan Leonard - 10/14/2008

In sports betting, revenge is a tricky angle. On the one hand, there are many times in college and pro football where a team is itching to stick it to an opponent. Two years ago Tennessee flattened Cal in the opener, but last season the two met again and Cal, at home, flattened the Volunteers. Revenge was clearly a factor on the minds of the Golden Bears.

Four years Texas was tired of losing to Oklahoma and had a weapon like QB Vince Young to help get it done. The Longhorns crushed the Sooners 45-12 as a 12-point favorite. Revenge can be a powerful motivator in sports.

However, you can find just as many situations where a team might be motivated by revenge, yet they fail to get it done or cover the number. Remember, while Texas got its revenge on Oklahoma in 2005, the Sooners had steamrolled Texas 5 straight years! Where as the Longhorn revenge-angle during that long drought? And where was the Oklahoma revenge angle in the rematch, which Texas won and covered again? 5 Sooner turnovers decided the game far more than any revenge angle.

It's far better to use revenge with many other factors when analyzing a football game. For instance, last year everyone was talking about the Chargers getting revenge on the Patriots in Week 2, as the Pats had upset San Diego in the playoffs the previous January. However, the Patriots offense rolled over the Chargers, crushing any upset minded backers.

Again, it's best to utilize several wagering angles on a game that might include revenge. For instance, I recall a game from 2006 when I had South Florida over UConn. Revenge was one part of the reason. UConn had beaten South Florida 15-10 the previous season in very cold conditions, a loss that took the Bulls out of the running for a BCS bowl. But there was more to it than that.

In addition, Connecticut was a one dimensional team with no passing game. They had yet to throw for 200 yards in any game and were actually held to 27 yards through the air at Indiana. Connecticut had managed just 5 touchdowns versus their three Division 1-A opponents. South Florida was a solid defensive team against the run, holding 4 of 5 opponents to under 150 rushing yards. And the UConn run defense had not played well, something South Florida I felt could take advantage of.

If you watched South Florida play, you have to be impressed with QB Matt Groethe. He's quick, athletic, makes good decisions and is an excellent runner. Finally, South Florida has a strong coaching staff and had an extra day to prepare and faced the tougher schedule. I expected the Bulls to win that one easily, which they did 38-16 as a 7-point favorite. They had 205 yards rushing and totally shut down the UConn running game.

Other times, betting lines can be too high because the oddsmaker has factored in revenge. That same day I gave out SMU against UTEP, even though it was a revenge spot for the Miners. I noted, “Is UTEP capable of winning by a big margin? UTEP can't run the football, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. They have managed just 311 rushing yards in four games. It's really hard to extend a margin if you can't take time off the clock, especially when you are a weak defensive team against the pass. San Diego State is pitiful offensively yet threw for 275 yards against UTEP. New Mexico State feasted on this pass defense for 506 yards. SMU has put up 133 points the last three weeks, passing for 248, 231 and 261 yards through the air.

“They also have shown the ability to run the football. SMU went into the Superdome and beat Tulane in a very emotional setting for the host. In doing so they held the Green Wave to a negative 33 yards rushing. It's obvious that the Miners will not have success on the ground. That makes them a one dimensional offense with a very weak defense. Not a great combination for a double digit favorite. Not only did we feel SMU would cover, we put a little of our bankroll on the money line on a +13 dog.â€쳌

I didn't cash on the money-line, but easily got the cover as UTEP squeezed out a 24-21 win, still turning a nice profit. SMU played poorly with 4 turnovers, but still almost won. Again, revenge in football can be an important wagering element, but only when other factors support that team, too.

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