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College Football Emotion

   by Bryan Leonard - 11/01/2005

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.

One factor cropped up on Saturday. Last week, undefeated USC dropped to No. 2 behind Texas in the bowl championship series standings after being No. 1 all season. Coach Pete Carroll dismissed the slip, but several players said after the game that they used it as motivation.

"It's definitely something in the back of our minds," said WR Steve Smith. "What are they doing? They're messing us up. We just have to show them on the field." And 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 worked, too, as USC grabbed back two first-place votes from Texas in Sunday's AP poll.

One of the plays I had Saturday was South Carolina. I thought Tennessee was vastly overrated based on its play and erratic offense this season, and the Gamecocks were getting no respect as a +14 dog. 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, when those two hook up. It was also interesting that Randy Sanders resigned as Tennessee's offensive coordinator on Monday, two days after the Volunteers lost their third straight game with another weak performance. Tennessee's offense is one of the worst in the country, averaging 16 points a game. They are 99th in total offense, 98th in rushing offense, 79th in passing offense and 101st in passing efficiency, all factors as to why they have been overvalued.

Emotion certainly played a roll when Notre Dame hosted USC a few weeks ago. All the money came in on the Irish as a double-digit dog, and the public and sharpies were right as Notre Dame not only covered easily but came within a few seconds of winning.

The Miami/Virginia Tech matchup this week is going to elicit emotion, as well. Both teams have a good rivalry and are fighting for the top spot in the ACC Coastal division. This week some players from Miami were talking about their last trip to Blacksburg in 2003, when the Hokies ripped them, ending a long Miami win streak. Players and coaches do recall many times what happened in recent years. Think back to the Oklahoma/Texas game a few weeks ago. The Texas players delighted in pouring it on a Sooners team that had beaten them 5 straight years. Channeling emotion can be a big edge – of course, you then have to have the talent on the field to help make an upset possible.

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