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Week 1 Rewind

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All college football fans, especially those fond of making wagers, are always fired up for the Thursday slate of Week 1 games. However, we’re rarely treated to the excitement we got with this year’s set of contests.

In the lid-lifter, South Carolina took control against North Carolina early in the first quarter by racing out to a 17-0 lead. The Tar Heels were fortunate to get a bogus facemask call when the Gamecocks had them stopped in their own territory on a long third-down play.

UNC capitalized on the opportunity and sliced the deficit to 17-7 by finishing the drive. The Tar Heels trailed 20-7 at intermission but got a field goal on their opening drive in the third quarter.

South Carolina answered when running back Mike Davis busted off right tackle for a 75-yard touchdown drive. The scoring stalled at that point and the ‘Cocks held a 27-10 advantage with 8:20 remaining when lightning in the area forced the game to be temporarily postponed.

For gamblers supporting South Carolina as an 11-point favorite and ‘under’ backers, this provided for more than an hour of anxiety. As I learned in 2002 when the lights went out in Vegas for a Wisconsin-UNLV game, a game is not official for betting purposes until it has been played for 55 minutes.

Therefore, the game was more than three minutes shy of being official. Like that night at Sam Boyd Stadium, if the game wasn’t resumed, all wagers would be ruled no-plays (the same as a push).

That didn’t happen, but the anxiety for South Carolina backers remained when UNC was threatening with a first-and-goal opportunity in the final two minutes. But the ‘Cocks were able to mount a goal-line stand and when Kelcy Quarles stopped UNC quarterback Bryn Renner at the one on fourth and goal, at last South Carolina supporters could relax.

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Next, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss waged what was probably the most entertaining game of Week 1. Facing a second-and-10 play with 1:20 remaining while trailing 35-32, Rebels’ coach Hugh Freeze called a draw play for RB Jeff Scott, who somehow found the corner and raced for a 75-yard TD run.

Ole Miss took the cash as a three-point road favorite and the ‘over’ was an easy winner. But the Rebels weren’t all smiled following their comeback victory. They lost their best offensive lineman Aaron Morris to a season-ending injury, while leading returning tackler, LB Denzel Nkemdiche, suffered an injury that’ll keep him out for the next 4-6 weeks.

Thursday had one more thriller that went deep into Friday morning on the East coast. Fresno St. played from behind for most of the night yet captured a 52-51 overtime win over Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but a potential game-winning field goal sailed wide right. The Bulldogs scored on the first play of the extra session, but RU answered with a TD of its own. At that point, Kyle Flood elected to go for two and I was fine with that decision.

The conversion failed, however, and the Scarlet Knights had to check into the Heartbreak Hotel before heading back to New Jersey. They did easily cover the number as 10.5-point underdogs, but their money-line backers were unable to cash a ticket in the +330 to +380 range.

Fresno’s Derek Carr threw for 470 yards and five TDs. RU’s Gary Nova also had five TD passes.

Clemson has now won back-to-back games over two of the SEC’s premier programs in LSU and Georgia. Tajh Boyd threw three TD passes and ran for two more scores to lead the Tigers to a 38-35 win over UGA as two-point home underdogs Saturday night.

Boyd might be the early Heisman leader following that performance, but junior WR Sammy Watkins could be in that mix, too. Watkins had six receptions for 127 yards and turned a short pass into a 77-yard score.

When UGA’s Aaron Murray provided the final score of the game on a one-yard plunge with 1:19 left, ‘under’ backers (closed at 71 points) had to rip up their tickets as the 73 combined points slipped ‘over.’ The onsides kick failed and Clemson ran out the clock.

Georgia doesn’t have any time fret over the defeat because South Carolina will invade Athens on Saturday. The Bulldogs have dropped three in a row to the ‘Cocks, who will have two extra days to prepare compared to UGA.

Alabama’s Christion Jones stole the show at the Ga. Dome by scoring three TDs in a 35-10 win over Va. Tech as a 21-point favorite. Jones had a pair of special-teams scores and Vinnie Sunseri had a pick-six, but the Hokies actually produced more offense (212-206) compared to the two-time defending national champs.

Nick Saban had to be furious by the mediocre play of his offensive line. The Crimson Tide has two weeks to get the offense right before a monster game at Texas A&M.

The total had a wild result for ‘Bama-VT. The number was 45.5 for most of the week and a few spots spent some time at 46. Therefore, my pick on VI of the ‘over’ (at 45.5) was a loser. However, the total closed at 45 and some books were offering 44.5 early Saturday afternoon.

With ‘Bama leading 28-10 at intermission for 38 combined points, ‘over’ supporters were looking good. But A.J. McCarron’s TD pass to Jones midway through the third quarter was the last score of the game. Therefore, some gamblers pushed but most ‘over’ backers who got their bet in early suffered a bad beat.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Week 1 Goat Teams: Oregon St. lost at home to Eastern Washington, UConn lost at home to Towson (by 15!), South Florida lost at home to McNeese St. (by a 53-21 count!!), Kansas St. lost at home to North Dakota St., Iowa St. lost at home to No. Iowa and San Diego St. went down to Eastern Illinois.

-- Week 1 Studs: Tajh Boyd (Clemson QB), Marcus Mariota (Oregon QB), Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville QB), Lache Seastrunk (Baylor RB), Brett Hundley (UCLA QB), Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell (Florida d-linemen), Derek Carr (Fresno St. QB), Khalil Mack (Buffalo LB), Jordan Taylor (Rice WR), Collin Ellis (Northwestern LB) and Jordan Matthews (Vandy WR).

-- Week 1 Duds: Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina DE), Colton Browning (ULM QB), A.J. McCarron (Alabama QB), Tyler Tettleton (Ohio QB) and Georgia long snapper (on crucial bad snap on short field goal in second half).

-- Georgia WR Malcolm Mitchell is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered during an end-zone celebration during the loss at Clemson. Mitchell was UGA’s leading returning receiver after snagging 40 catches for 572 yards and four TDs last season.

-- Northwestern starting CB Daniel Jones was lost to a season-ending injury in Saturday’s 44-30 win at California. The Wildcats host Syracuse this week and might do so without QB/WR Kain Colter, who is listed as ‘doubtful.’ Also, keep an eye on the status of RB and special-teams ace Venric Mark.

**Games to Watch**

-- Florida at Miami – The Hurricanes are 3-0 ATS as home underdogs during Al Golden’s tenure, while UF is 2-1 ATS as a road favorite on Will Muschamp’s watch. The Gators were missing three defensive starters when they blanked a quality Toledo offense in a 24-6 win. All three of those guys (LB Antonio Morrison, CB Loucheiz Purifoy and DT Darious Cummings) will return this week. Also, starting RB Matt Jones is expected to return (‘probable’). Miami will be without last year’s second-leading WR Rashawn Scott (shoulder). The key for Florida will be containing Miami star RB Duke Johnson. Heat will be a major factor for this noon Eastern kick on ESPN. Most spots have UF favored by three as of Monday afternoon.

-- Texas at BYU – These teams met in Austin two years ago with Texas winning a 17-16 decision, but BYU took the cash as a seven-point underdog. Most spots have the Longhorns favored by seven. BYU had more offensive yardage (362-223) and won the turnover battle (2-1), but it still dropped a 19-16 decision at Virginia as a 2.5-point ‘chalk.’ The Cougars were missing their best player, WR Cody Hoffman, who remains ‘questionable’ for Texas due to a strained hamstring. BYU has been a home underdog just five times during Bronco Mendenhall’s nine-year tenure, going 2-3 ATS. Since 2008, Texas has compiled an 11-6 spread record as a road favorite.

-- Oregon at Virginia – These schools are meeting for the first time. On Monday, most spots had Oregon installed as an expensive 21.5-point favorite. UVA now owns a 3-6 ATS record in nine previous home underdog situations under Mike London. The Cavs will be facing a much more dynamic offense that the one they held in check (BYU) last weekend. The Ducks have playmakers galore in QB Marcus Mariota and RB De’Anthony Thomas. They have covered the number in eight consecutive games as road favorites.

-- Notre Dame at Michigan – Most books have Michigan as the 3.5-point ‘chalk.’ The Wolverines blasted Central Michigan 59-9 in their opener. Meanwhile, Notre Dame failed to cover in a 28-6 home win over Temple. The Irish won 13-6 as a six-point home favorite when they squared off in South Bend last year. In the last encounter at The Big House in 2011, Denard Robinson rallied the Wolverines to a 35-31 win as a 3.5-point home underdog. As a home favorite on Brady Hoke’s watch, Michigan owns an 8-5 spread record. Notre Dame is 4-1 ATS as a road ‘dog during Brian Kelly’s tenure.

-- San Jose St. at Stanford – When these schools met in Palo Alto last season, San Jose St. nearly pulled an upset in a 20-17 loss as a 24.5-point underdog. The Spartans had more total offense (287-280) than the Cardinal. San Jose St. beat Sacramento St. by a 24-0 count in its opener. The Spartans, who finished 2012 with an 11-2 record both SU and ATS, have one of the nation’s best QBs in David Fales, who threw for 4,193 yards and 33 TDs last season. Stanford star LB Shayne Skov won’t play due to a one-game suspension. The Cardinal didn’t play in Week 1. Most books have David Shaw’s squad favored by 26.5.

  
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