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Bad Beats / Lucky Wins

   by Larry Ness - 09/06/2006

As sports bettors, we all seem to remember our "bad beats" while taking for granted our "lucky wins." One must remember that for everyone suffering from a bad beat, someone else is celebrating a lucky win. One often hears a bettor talk about having the "right side" or "wrong side" of a game. After more than two decades in this business, I've resigned myself to the proposition that there are no right or wrong sides but rather winning and losing sides. Each Wednesday this football season, I'll look back on some of the past weekend's "bad beats and lucky wins."

The 2006 college football season opened on Thursday, August 31 and in an ironic way, what could have been more fitting than Temple facing Buffalo? Temple entered the game off an 0-11 season and the losers of 12 consecutive games going back to the 2004 season. The Owls also entered on a 14-game road losing streak, having incredibly lost those games by an average margin of 32.1 PPG. Buffalo, a Division I-A school since only 1999, was coming off a 1-10 season and had a combined record of just 10-69 since stepping up in class.

Both schools were also being led by new head coaches, each making their head coaching debuts. Buffalo, the home team, was a six-point choice, the first time the school had ever been favored since moving to Division I-A. So what happened? The Bulls outplayed the Owls all game but failed to score on three trips inside the Temple 20. The game ended regulation in a 3-3 tie but Buffalo won the game on an 18-yard TD run in OT, giving them a 9-3 win and all bettors a 'push'! So what did you expect?

That same night, 'under' bettors in the Toledo/Iowa State game took one in the shorts! The total opened 56 1/2 and closed around 53 or 53 1/2. ISU led 23-15 and was going for a FG that would have put them up by 11 in the mid-fourth quarter but the team botched the snap. Naturally, Toledo promptly drove 79 yards in 11 plays (including a 30-yard competition to the ISU three-yard line on a 4th-and-10 play) to make the score 23-21. Then, as under players held their collective breaths, the Owls converted the two-point play. Under bettors still had a chance when ISU went up 30-23 in the first OT, if the Cyclones had been able to stop the Rockets, but they weren't. The final score in three overtimes was 45-43.

With totals posted on all college football games these days, there are often more than a few games each week of note. I'll mention two from this past Saturday here. Under players were looking pretty good in the Utah State/Wyoming game, which opened 47 and closed 44. Utah State made just five FDs all game, totaling just 129 yards and the game sat 17-7 Wyoming, entering the fourth quarter. However, the Cowboys tossed a 51-yard TD pass and followed less than a minute later with a interception that was returned for a TD. The Cowboys added a late TD and the 38-7 final meant most won on the under, but surely not all.

Another "under the radar" game was East Carolina at Navy. It opened 53 and closed 50 1/2. Navy netted 403 of its total of 409 total yards on the ground (that's SIX yards passing!) and finished the game with 35 consecutive running plays. East Carolina had 359 yards and this game could have easily flown over the total. Navy missed a 37-yard FG in the first half plus fumbled on a first down play at the EC 20-yard line in the third quarter. Down the stretch, East Carolina scored a TD with 4:59 remaining making the score 28-23. The Pirates then went for two and converted, putting the game on 55. However, it was ruled the EC player had been out of bounds and the two-point conversion was nullified. Navy drove deep into Carolina territory near the end of the game but then ran out the clock, leaving the final at 51 points. Some overs, some unders and maybe a few pushes for good luck!

Florida sure didn't have an easy time with Southern Miss on Saturday. The Gators opened as 23 1/2-point favorites and were bet down to 20 1/2. Southern Miss led 7-0 before Florida tied it on the final play of the first quarter on a 21-yard TD pass. Florida led just 14-7 at the half and the Gators led just 21-7 when an interception set up another TD in the early 4th quarter. However, the team missed a two-point try, leaving the game on 20, at 27-7. Southern Miss was stopped on downs at the Florida 14 with just under nine minutes left in the game before the Gators drove the length of the field to go up 34-7. Florida bettors still had a 'sweat" though, as Southern Miss got back to the Florida 19 before again getting stopped on downs.

Penn State's Anthony Morelli had a great debut at QB for the Nittany Lions (3 TDPs) but their game vs Akron fell right on the number. PSU opened as a 23 1/2-point favorite when early numbers were first posted (about a month ago) but on Saturday, the game fluctuated from 17 1/2 to 18. PSU was held to just 76 yards rushing by Akron but Morelli's fine play bailed them out. However, trailing 34-9, Akron drove 65 yards to score with just 2:45 left in the game and the extra-point made the final, 34-18. The 18-point spread could have been 17 (meaning ALL Akron bettors would have won on Saturday) if the Zips didn't miss an extra-point try in the third quarter. That Joe Pa is a lucky guy!

The worst "bad beat" of the entire weekend came Sunday, when Louisville's Michael Bush saw his season ended when he broke his leg in the early third quarter of the Cardinals' game with Kentucky. Earlier that day, Ole Miss led by 127 rushing yards by Green-Ellis (Indiana transfer) and 268 all-purpose yards from freshman Dexter McCluster, led Memphis 28-17 late in the 4th quarter. Ole Miss had opened as a five-point favorite but closed at 3 1/2 or even three. When Memphis scored with just over three minutes left to close to 28-23, the two-point conversion try would determine the ATS winner. Memphis converted and the game ended 28-25.

I'll be back next Wednesday with more "Bad Beats / Lucky Wins" from CFB's second week and Week 1 of the NFL. Look for Ness Notes on Friday morning.

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