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Glancing at the scoreboard won't tell you the whole story in most games. Here are the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in the opening weekend of college football. Each week there are several teams that cover despite not necessarily deserving it, as well as other teams that played much better than the final score shows, get the details in this weekly column.
South Carolina (-6½) 17, Vanderbilt 13 (44): The Gamecocks actually trailed 13-10 entering the fourth quarter as the offense went stagnant with starting quarterback Conner Shaw banged up. South Carolina would use three different quarterbacks in the game before Shaw eventually battled through the pain to get South Carolina back on top. The front door cover looked eminently possible as the Gamecocks had the ball twice in the final minutes in Vanderbilt territory but eventually were able to just melt the clock, leaving the home underdog with the cash.
UCLA (-16) 49, Rice 24 (60): The final score and the box score makes this game look like it was a blowout but UCLA led by just 11 entering the fourth quarter. Rice actually got within two points early in the second quarter after a wild first quarter and while the Bruins posted 646 yards in the game; Rice also was able to move the ball with relative ease. UCLA incredibly had three extra-point attempts blocked and the UCLA defense firmed up in the second half to allow the Bruins to pull away with two fourth quarter touchdowns to get past the spread.
Minnesota (-9½) 30, UNLV 27 (52½): While the underdog cover looked secure most of the way, anyone on the 'under' can claim they have their 'bad beat' for the year out of the way. This game went to overtime tied at 13-13, leaving plenty of room to spare at less than halfway to the closing total. Both teams would score touchdowns in each of the first two overtimes to send the game over the total as 31 points were scored in overtime after just 26 in regulation.
Michigan State (-8.5) 17, Boise State 13 (47): Michigan State dominated the statistics in the big Friday night showdown but shaky quarterback play from the Spartans kept Boise State in the game with a couple of big interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Both defenses held in the third quarter as Boise State took a 13-10 lead into the final frame before the Spartans took the lead, finally finishing a drive. Boise State got within Michigan State territory on its final possession but was stopped short, giving the Spartans the chance to run out the game. Michigan State put together a great drive and ended up deep in Boise State territory as those with action on the game sweated. A Spartans touchdown would shift the cover, a field goal would earn a push for many, and running out the clock would leave the underdog with the cover. Getting a first down to the Boise State four-yard line eventually allowed the Spartans to kneel and burn the clock, leaving the game without the late spread changing score.
Northwestern (+2) 42, Syracuse 41 (53½): The line on this game varied throughout the week with Northwestern opening up as slight favorites before the game moved to a pick, and then eventually in the closing hours Syracuse emerged as a slight favorite. When the game was played, those slight differences would ultimately prove critical as this was one of the wildest games of the opening weekend. Northwestern seemingly was on cruise control after two scores early in the second half to move up 35-13 but Syracuse, en route to nearly 600 total yards for the game, started to turn it on. The Orange would put together back-to-back scores to cut the deficit to just eight points entering the fourth quarter. While there was amazingly no scoring for the first eight minutes of the final frame the momentum stayed with Syracuse with a touchdown to get within two after a failed 2-point conversion. Four minutes later Syracuse connected again and got the conversion to move up by six. After punting on its previous three possessions Northwestern put together a 10-play 75 yard drive on pass from Trevor Siemian and the extra-point kick sealed the win, but not necessarily the cover.
Ohio State (-26) 56, Miami, OH 10 (50½): The Buckeyes had a very slow start to the Urban Meyer era, actually punting in their first four possessions but by halftime it was 21-3. Although the game was starting to get out of hand after a fumble return touchdown put Ohio State up 35-3, Miami scored in the third quarter to get within the closing spread. There was no scoring in the final 10 minutes of the third quarter as Ohio State backers had to be getting a bit nervous but the Buckeyes piled on three more touchdowns in the fourth quarter including one with less than a minute to go to pad the final statistics and give the appearance of a more dominant blowout.
Illinois (-10) 24, Western Michigan 7 (50): Illinois only ended up with 248 yards in the game and with starting QB Nathan Scheelhaase eventually knocked out of the game things were looking a bit bleak for those on the favorite after Western Michigan got its first touchdown late in the third quarter to put the margin right on the number at 10, though 9½ was also common on game day. Illinois would wrap up the game and the cover in the fourth quarter with a 60-yard interception return, one of three interceptions for Bronco QB Alex Carder.
Clemson (-2½) 26, Auburn 19 (54½): While Clemson had a lot more yardage, this match-up of Tigers was locked at 16-16 entering the fourth quarter. Auburn took the lead early in the final frame with a field goal but the Clemson offense kept going, delivering 75-yard drive for a touchdown to take the lead back and then after forcing another Auburn punt, Clemson got its own field goal drive to go up by seven. Auburn did not get close on its final possession and the ACC got a big victory over the SEC as Clemson was able to shake off the ugly bowl effort.
Washington (-16) 21, San Diego State 12 (55½): Washington led 21-6 entering the fourth quarter which was either just past or just short of the spread depending when you played the game. The yardage was almost exactly even in the games as turnovers were costly for San Diego State. Washington's offense scored on its first two possessions of the game and then not again as the offense greatly struggled in the second half. The third score for Washington came on a 44-yard fumble return but San Diego State was able to find the end zone again early in the fourth quarter to get back within the spread. San Diego State opted to go for two on that score and then opted not to kick a field goal on its next possession from the Washington eight-yard line with close to five minutes still left in the game, two decisions that might have cost the Aztecs a chance to actually get the outright upset.
Oregon (-33) 57, Arkansas State 34 (70½): Oregon led this game 50-3 just before halftime so the final score was a bit misleading. Arkansas State has a good offensive team and the Red Wolves kept at it, often going against Oregon reserves in the second half. By the start of the fourth quarter Arkansas State was back within the spread, down only 30 at 50-20. Oregon would add another touchdown early in the fourth quarter to get past the spread momentarily with its back-ups in the game but Arkansas State added two more touchdown drives against an indifferent Oregon defense to create the underdog cover and misleading box score with the Red Wolves posting 530 yards.