Every bettor has had one of those games. More than likely, avid gamblers have at least a dozen bad beats that will never be forgotten.
On Saturday night in Evanston, I backed Northwestern as a seven-point home underdog in a game I had literally been eyeing since June. Everything set up perfectly for the Wildcats, who had two weeks to prepare for unbeaten Ohio State.
The Buckeyes were playing their sixth game in six weeks and fell into a vintage letdown situation. That’s because they had beaten Wisconsin the previous week in their biggest game of the season since the Badgers are the only threat to OSU in the Leaders Division.
Northwestern jumped out to an early lead and was in control of the game for the first three quarters. However, Pat Fitzgerald’s team had settled for three short field goals (23, 29 & 32-yarders) on trips into the red zone.
A 23-13 Northwestern lead late in the third quarter turned into a 27-23 deficit with 10:52 remaining after Ohio St. RB Carlos Hyde scored on a pair of touchdowns runs. The Wildcats answered on a 12-yard scoring strike from Trevor Siemian to Cameron Dickerson for a 30-27 advantage with 9:10 left.
Urban Meyer’s team went back in front 34-30 on Hyde’s third touchdown scamper from seven yards out with 5:22 remaining. Northwestern put together several first downs and was on the move in Buckeyes’ territory facing a fourth-and-inches play with 2:43 left.
QB Kain Colter moved from the shotgun under center at the last second to attempt a sneak. Colter initially bobbled the snap but quickly scooped the ball up and surged forward. Replays clearly indicated that his forward progress went beyond the yellow line for a first-down gain. But Northwestern was given a terrible spot and despite challenging the play, replay officials upheld the inexplicable call.
Northwestern burned its final two timeouts and forced a punt with a three and out. But with just 21 seconds remaining when it got the ball back, there was little hope. At this point, Northwestern backers simply wanted to avoid a pick-six or a scoop and score.
Ohio St. got a sack on the first play. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, there just a few ticks left. Northwestern threw a pass beyond its 20 and then a few laterals, the last of which was deflected by a Buckeye defender sending the ball bouncing toward the end zone.
A Northwestern player had the first and best shot at recovering the ball, which would’ve resulted in a safety and still allowed gamblers on the Wildcats to cash tickets. But the Northwestern player couldn’t secure the ball and OSU’s Joey Bosa recovered it for an unlikely TD.
Therefore, Ohio St.’s 40-30 victory resulted in undoubtedly the worst wrong-side winner of the 2013 college football campaign. In recent memory, I’d say only those that had Duke as a double-digit underdog in its crazy bowl game against Cincinnati last season can claim a more unfortunate loser.
The Buckeyes improved to 18-0 under Urban Meyer, but the win over 15th-ranked Northwestern is their only triumph over a school ranked higher than No. 20. They will be double-digit favorites in every remaining game until the regular-season finale at Michigan.
Meanwhile, Northwestern has zero time to sulk with a trip to Camp Randall to face Wisconsin looming on Saturday. As of early Monday afternoon, most books had the Badgers favored by 10.
Another Week 6 thriller went down at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, where Tennessee had a great shot at beating a ranked team for the first time since a 2009 home win over South Carolina.
Playing without All-American RB Todd Gurley (ankle), Georgia was going to be fine thanks to the presence of back-up Keith Marshall, who would start at just about any other school in America. But Marshall went down in the first quarter with a torn ACL that will keep him out for the rest of the season.
Nevertheless, UGA took a 17-3 lead into halftime and the UT faithful were getting restless. The third quarter began with a three and out for the Vols, and then the Bulldogs promptly marched into the red zone.
But the drive stalled and UGA’s Marshall Morgan missed a 39-yard field-goal attempt. Suddenly UT had life if it could get anything going offensively. And that’s exactly what happened as Butch Jones’s team marched 78 yards on seven plays.
Justin Worley’s 33-yard pass to Alton Howard was the big play of the drive that was capped by a 19-yard scoring strike from Worley to MarQuez North. Just like that, the crowd was back into it and we had a ballgame.
Late in the third quarter, UGA was punting from deep in its own territory when Tennessee got a block. Devaun Swafford scooped up the loose ball a trotted 15 yards into the end zone to tie the game.
From there, UGA players started dropping like flies with injuries. Mark Richt’s team was already without Gurley and Marshall, two of the nation’s top RBs, not to mention leading returning receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who tore his ACL in the season-opening loss at Clemson. Then WR Justin Scott-Wesley went down with a season-ending injury and WR Michael Bennett also left the game.
Aaron Murray was surrounded by third-string players in the huddle, but he responded with a huge play. On a second and five, Murray got first-down yardage on a QB draw and then got greedy. He split a pair of defenders at the second level and went 57 yards before being stopped at the three. Brendan Douglas, a true freshman and ‘two-star recruit,’ punched it in for a 24-17 UGA lead on the next play.
UGA appeared to get a three and out but had too many players on the field for the fourth-down punt. The five-yard penalty made it fourth and one for UT on its own 34. Jones decided to roll the dice and go for it. Rajion Neal made the gamble pay off when he raced 43 yards for a first down and then some.
Five plays later, Neal scored on a one-yard plunge to tie it up again. With 1:54 remaining, Neal scored again on a seven-yard run to cap a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive, giving the Vols a 31-24 advantage.
But Murray didn’t flinch. The senior signal caller calmly marched his team into scoring position. Working without any timeouts, Georgia faced a third and goal from UT’s two with five ticks left. Murray threw a dart to Rantavious Wooten on a short slant for a TD to force overtime.
On UT’s opening possession of the extra session, it appeared to take the lead on a seven-yard TD run from Pig Howard. However, as Howard lunged toward the pylon, replays showed that he lost control of the ball just inches before it would’ve crossed the plane. Therefore, a review of the play accurately overruled the score and declared it a touchback since the ball bounced into the end zone and then out of bounds.
UT’s defense stuffed UGA to force a long field goal for the win. Morgan, who had made a 56-yarder in the first quarter before his 39-yard miss, buried a 42-yarder to complete UGA’s Great Escape from Rocky Top.
Tennessee took the cash as a 13 ½-point underdog after the line moved up from 10 ½ with heavy action on the Dawgs coming into the books on Saturday. Due to OT, the 65 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 64 ½-point total to improve to a perfect 5-0 in Georgia games this season.
But the victory was bittersweet for UGA. Marshall and Scott-Wesley are done for the year and Bennett could miss an extended period of time. Bennett is out for Saturday’s home game against Missouri and will have his knee scoped on Tuesday. Gurley remains ‘questionable’ for the Tigers.
Speaking of Gary Pinkel’s squad, it improved to 5-0 with a 51-28 win at Vanderbilt as a 2 ½-point road favorite. James Franklin threw four TD passes without an interception and accounted for 341 yards (278 passing, 63 rushing). Franklin has a 13/3 TD-INT ratio for the season and two rushing scores.
Florida upped its SEC record to 3-0 with a 30-10 win over Arkansas as a 13 ½-point home favorite. Tyler Murphy continued to exceed expectations with another solid performance. The fourth-year junior threw for 240 yards and three TDs without an interception. Since replacing Jeff Driskel, Murphy has completed 72.2 percent of his passes with a 5/1 TD-INT ratio and two rushing scores.
The Gators will bring their stout defense that’s giving up only 12.2 points per game into Baton Rouge this week to face LSU’s high-octane offense. The Tigers are favored by seven.
Unlike Georgia (at least for ATS purposes), LSU didn’t fall victim to the letdown situation. Les Miles’s bunch overcame a second-quarter deficit and poured it on Mississippi St. in the second half of a 59-26 win as a seven-point road ‘chalk.’
Zach Mettenberger threw for 340 yards and two TDs, Odell Beckham Jr. caught nine balls for 179 yards and two TDs and Jeremy Hill ran for 157 yards and two scores. Also, there was a Kenny Hilliard sighting in Starkville as the MVP of the 2011 SEC Championship Game finally got some touches and responded with three rushing TDs.
Auburn announced its presence as a possible SEC West contender with a 30-22 win over Ole Miss as a short home underdog. Even if AU doesn’t stay in the division mix, it has certainly done enough in its 4-1 start to be considered a potential spoiler. Remember, Gus Malzahn’s team faces Georgia and Alabama on The Plains in November.
South Carolina has crushed the pockets of its backers by allowing three consecutive backdoor covers in wins over Vandy, UCF and Kentucky. The Gamecocks beat UK 35-28 with Jadeveon Clowney sitting out due to bruised ribs. Steve Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward made it clear after the win over the ‘Cats that they weren’t happy with Clowney’s unwillingness to play.
Miami, FL. stayed undefeated and hooked up their backers in a 45-30 win over Ga. Tech as a 6 ½-point home favorite. The Hurricanes get an open date before playing at North Carolina next Thursday.
Florida State finally played a decent opponent and wasted no time in demolishing Maryland by a 63-0 count as a 16 ½-point home favorite. The Seminoles knocked Terrapins’ QB C.J. Brown out of the game with a concussion in the second quarter. Jameis Winston threw for 393 yards and five TDs without an interception to remain in Heisman contention.
The ‘Noles are 4-1 ATS and they’ve seen the ‘over’ cash at a 5-0 clip. They are off this week and therefore get two weeks to prepare for a showdown at Clemson on Oct. 19.
Clemson took care of business and got the money in a 49-14 win at Syracuse. Tajh Boyd, another Heisman hopeful, threw for 455 yards and five TDs.
Virginia Tech has quietly won five consecutive games following its 27-17 win over North Carolina as an eight-point favorite. Senior QB Logan Thomas had his best game of the year, throwing for 293 yards and three TDs without being picked off.