The One(s) that got Away-Bowl Games

The One(s) that got Away

In a week that gave us our College Football Championship game matchup, we had some insane finishes in other matchups that absolutely stole defeat out of the jaws of betting victory. Let’s take a look at two classic games that got away.

Case #1: #16 Tulane (11-2) vs. #10 USC (11-2) Betting Line: USC -2

This was a good matchup pitting the underdog Green Wave of Tulane battling the goliath that is USC. Tulane is thrilled to be in the Cotton Bowl as evidenced by the hugely one-sided Tulane crowd at Texas Stadium. USC was a disappointing loss to Utah in the Pac-12 title game from being in the College Football playoffs. I was banking on the angry giant to take down the ‘happy to be there’ underdog. I mean, two points, this is too easy.

USC wastes little time in taking out their frustrations on the Green Wave and it is 14-0 early in the second quarter. Suddenly, the vaunted Tulane secondary looks completely overmatched. This one is already looking very good. I forgot one thing, however, USC’s defense can sometimes be as bad as their offense is good. With roughly five and a half minutes left in the half, Tulane bounced right back and tied the game at 14. Ok, one nice drive and USC can take the lead into halftime. Would you believe two good drives? USC’s lightning quick offense scores TWO touchdowns in the final five minutes and it is 28-14 at the half. Yeah, I’ll puff my chest out a bit if you don’t mind.

Someone forgot to tell the Green Wave at halftime that this game was over. Halfway through the third, the score is now 28-24 USC. I’m resigned to the fact that this team isn’t going away. But oh how that USC offense can go. Touchdown USC with just over a minute to go in the third. Well at least we’ll have a 10-point lead going into the…wait, a quick strike from Tulane gets his team down in USC territory. Ok, still, they’ll need time to…touchdown. Not even the fourth quarter and it is 35-30 USC.

USC scores the first ten points of the fourth quarter and its 45-30. Ok, this has to be good. Tulane has completed four passes in the entire game and there is under five minutes to go. Of course, a streaking Tulane receiver rumbles all the way inside the ten. A four-yard touchdown run and the plodding Tulane offense has just scored in 23 seconds. Well, just over three minutes left. Probably an onside kick. Nope, they kick it deep. Even better, what could go…fumbled out of bounds!! At the one!! Biting my lip. Just get it out of there and get any yards…ANY yards. First play, run stuffed, barely out of end zone. Well, they won’t run again after that I mean…run, stuffed in the end zone! Safety! 45-39 and USC has to kick it back.

I look at the score, it is a mere formality at this point. I can see the writing on the wall. The blood on this hideous loss. Tulane converts two different fourth down plays and a pass in the end zone is caught between the tight end’s legs. Of course it is. One PAT later…victory stolen.

Final Score: Tulane 46 USC 45 Betting Line: USC -2

Case #2: #22 Miss St. (8-4) vs. Illinois (8-4) Betting Line: Miss St -3.5

Ok, this was the ULTIMATE bad beat game of the year. Full disclosure, I fell on the right side of this one. It was perhaps one of the least entertaining games that turned into the most entertaining game ever, for about 35 seconds. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Bad Beat Game of 2022. (Let’s forget that 2023 was upon us by game time.)

This game was supposed to be about emotion. The emotion of a Mississippi State team dealing with the loss of their coach. I was fully invested in the notion that the emotion of a team playing for their coach would carry the day. The point total seemed very reasonable and was mine for the taking.

A scoreless first quarter turned into a 7-3 Illinois’ lead at halftime. By the end of the third quarter it was 10-3 Illinois and I started to feel like perhaps the emotion was too great for Mississippi State. Early in the third quarter, the Bulldogs had tied it and suddenly, one touchdown was all I needed for a victory. The fourth quarter sludged along and it didn’t look good. Then the Bulldogs took over with two minutes to go and suddenly, it seemed like we had something. Inside the 30, Mississippi State looked like they were just looking to grind it out for a long field goal. A simple handoff turned into… could be…should be…then at around the five-yard line when it appeared a touchdown was there, the Illinois defensive back literally grabbed the running back by the hand, maybe even the fingers. Pulling down the ball carrier with 12 seconds left at around the three. I was literally a finger or two away from a touchdown!! When Miss. State came back from a timeout and knelt on the ball to set up field goal position, I had a finger for them! Kick is good. A finger away!

A kickoff turned into a downed ball. Now I’m really cooked. A few laterals could have been something. Now I’m going to have to suffer through a Hail Mary pass and a knockdown and a half point defeat. Wait, a quick dump-off to a receiver, then a lateral, then another. Oh well, I guess that’s that. Let me get up and…wait a second!! The lateral hits the ground. A scoop by a Mississippi State defender and he’s got room. He’s running, he’s not going out of bounds! He’s running…he could..go..all..the..way!!! No way, no way!! I blink a few times. A flag on the field. I kid you not, I change the channel. This is too good to be true. I can’t hear a penalty about illegal forward lateral or block in the back. I put on another game. I sit, I pace a bit. Then the highlight comes on during the other game I’m staring at, but not watching. I see the field goal and I wait. Is that it? No, they’re showing the laterals. It’s true, it’s true! Bad Beat USA, but not for me!

Final Score: Mississippi State 19 Illinois 10 Spread Mississippi State -3.5: Winner!

The lessons we learned this week: College football is inarguably the most unpredictable sport to bet. We lost one game on the heels of a safety and we won another game on the heels of a bumbled lateral. Check in next week for another sampling of ‘The One(s) that got Away’. Also, be sure to check out my premium bets and packages here for all the inside knowledge in baseball, the NBA, the NHL, the NFL and college football.

*College football lines courtesy of

By Mark Ruelle

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Mark Ruelle

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.