The One(s) that got Away -College Football

The One(s) that got Away

Last week we reviewed another aspect of betting that can’t be understated, the intangibles. Teams can be motivated by an Us vs. the World mentality or they can be undone by another dangerous foe, Mother Nature. Well not to be forgotten in our list of intangibles and something that can be even more true of young men whose emotions can ebb and flow is the dreaded Hangover Game. Be wary of a team coming off an either enormous win or a deflating loss and how it might affect them the following week. This week, let’s take a deeper dive into surefire wins that got away thanks to the dreaded Hangover Game.

Case #1: #6 LSU (7-2) @ Arkansas (5-4) Betting Line: LSU -5

What was not to like about this line? LSU comes into the game with their highest ranking of the season, fresh off of a huge home-win over Alabama and sitting in the driver’s seat to earn a spot in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta in a month. Oh, and all-everything quarterback KJ Jefferson of Arkansas is out with a shoulder injury? Wait, five points is all? Book this one in the easy money column.

Ahh yes, but these are young men fueled on emotion from week to week. Did you forget to factor that in? So last week, in front of a raucous Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and playing the all-mighty Alabama Crimson Tide, of course the Tigers could generate the necessary energy. Blocking was sharper, decision-making was at an all-time high and emotions were at a fever pitch. So, of course, the Tigers prevail on a 2-point conversion to send their fandom into a frenzy that likely lasted all week until…a road trip to Arkansas.

Live in Arkansas and soon you discover that the Razorbacks dangerous dual-threat quarterback Jefferson is out. Motivation drops a few notches. Game time is at noon. Yeah, go ahead and take a few more notches off of that fever pitch. Did anyone mention how cold it is out here? There’s chicken soup on the sidelines??! Chicken soup is for post-sledding on a winter’s day not for SEC football!

By halftime, you just know you’ve made the wrong call. It’s 6-3 and LSU can’t get out of their own way. That same offense that shredded the vaunted Alabama defense can’t get anything going. Arkansas defense is playing their best game of the season and are vibing off of the Razorbacks’ faithful. Wait, there’s hope. Despite being sacked repeatedly and looking out of sorts in the pocket, the Tigers drive down and get a touchdown late in the third, 13-3. That five-point margin makes all the sense in the world, we are home free and a hangover? Forget th…oops, 40-yard strike from the backup Razorbacks’ quarterback and it is suddenly 13-10. As the quarter drags on, you realize that LSU has no intention of scoring, they just want to survive. Emotionally drained, they hang on for a 13-10 win. Hangover 1 Emotion 0

Final Score: LSU 13 Arkansas 10 Spread -5: Loss

Case #2: Purdue (5-4) @ #21 Illinois (7-2) Betting Line: Illinois -6.5

Hangover games aren’t restricted to games following a big win. Disheartening losses can also leave a mark and carry over to the next week. A lesson I learned the hard way this past weekend. Illinois was, prior to the Michigan State game, arguably playing as well as anyone in the Big Ten and amongst as well as anyone in college football. Their defense was dominating and the culture at the school had seemingly shifted towards football for the first time in decades.

The Fighting Illini fell to Michigan State at home and now were facing a painfully inconsistent Purdue team back on their home turf. The feisty Illini defense would surely be up to the task of taking on Purdue’s pass-happy offense, especially one week after the Boilermakers through five interceptions. A spread of less than a touchdown seemed like child’s play. The Fighting Illini just lost a game they surely thought they would win, they would be ready.

Alas, I failed to take into account how much emotions can be drained by a loss. The Fighting Illini went from a six-game win streak with a shot to earn a New Year’s Day bowl to a demoralizing home loss. A week trying to recover from that and get emotionally prepared for Purdue was clearly not enough. With control of the Big Ten West no longer a lock, the Illini wilted.

At halftime, the game was knotted at 14. Illinois had scored first and perhaps they thought that punch in the mouth would stagger the Boilermakers. Funny thing though, Purdue has been here before and never flinched. Heading into the fourth quarter it was 21-21 and you just kind of knew. Purdue suddenly looked like the experienced veterans in this situation and the Illini looked like a team that was new to the dance. You can’t just conjure up the emotional fight to that championship level if you didn’t come in with it. Purdue came in with it and they took advantage. By the time the fourth quarter was over, Purdue was the winner and suddenly tied with Illinois in the standings and firmly in prime position to win the Big Ten West.

Final Score: Purdue 31 Illinois 24 Spread -6.5: Loss

The lesson this week, emotions are real. They are raw, they can be fleeting and they can’t be discounted. 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.