The One(s) that got Away
The One(s) that got Away
Each week, as you stare at the lines, sometimes there is a line that you can’t understand and feel like something is off. It could be that there is momentum for one team, it could be the national presence of that team or it could be the combination of it all. And, speaking of momentum, sometimes during a game that momentum can kill what was looking like a clear win. This week, let’s take a deeper dive into surefire wins that got away and victories that were had by going against public sentiment.
Case #1: #15 Notre Dame (8-3) @ #6 USC (10-1) Betting Line: USC -4.5
Here is a helpful hint when you take a deep dive into a matchup looking for a winner; don’t let sentiment fool you. There are times when the oddsmakers see a chance to take advantage of marks, devotees to a certain team with national prominence. Every week we see it in the NFL with marquee teams like Dallas and Green Bay. In the NBA, we see it with the Lakers and in the MLB, who better to pull at people’s heartstrings, either for their love or hate, than the New York Yankees? There are teams that will get a lot of money just because of who they are, more so than what they’ve done.
In college football, it can be argued that there is not a more polarizing team than Notre Dame. Heck, they have a major network behind them promoting and televising their home games. The oddsmakers know that, regardless of line, they will get a certain number of bets heading Notre Dame’s way or against them, just because they are the Fighting Irish.
So, let’s just take a look at the variables heading into this game on Saturday night. Notre Dame comes into the game at 8-3 overall. The team had won five-straight games and suddenly found themselves ranked 15th in the country. To put this in perspective, the Irish are ranked 15th and had lost at HOME to Marshall and Stanford. They lost to Ohio State in their opener and the team’s marquee win was over then #4 Clemson at home. A solid win for sure, but the Tigers subsequently lost to South Carolina as well.
On the other side of the field, we have the USC Trojans with just one loss on the season, 7-0 at home and what appears to be the Heisman Trophy favorite at quarterback. The team’s lone loss was at Utah by a point. The Trojans were coming off a resounding win over their arch-rival UCLA and have scored 40 or more points nine times this season. Meanwhile, Notre Dame was coming off a shutout of that offensive juggernaut, Boston College, in a sleet-filled affair at home.
With all that in mind, if you didn’t look, you’d assume the line would be USC -9 or -10 in this game. A quick glance and you see its USC -4.5?! The power of the marquee team is in full effect. Notre Dame lost to MARSHALL at home this season. Yes, they have improved and yes, they’d won five in a row but just over a field goal? The oddsmakers toy with the emotions of the Irish Faithful and I’m sure the money poured in. How could they make us more than a field goal underdog?! Easy money!! If this game was AT Notre Dame, USC should have been a -3.5 point favorite. Needless to say, the Trojans played like a team that may be in the college playoffs, Caleb Williams played like a Heisman winner and USC led 38-21 before allowing a cheap touchdown with a minute left. Be wary of that marquee team hype, it can and will move a line.
Final Score: USC 38 Notre Dame 27 Spread -4.5: Win
Case #2: #9 Oregon (9-2) @ #21 Oregon State (8-3) Betting Line: Oregon +1.5
Sometimes, you are settling down and enjoying a college football game that can’t possibly be going any better. Your pick is comfortably in the lead and, yeah you can admit it, you’re feeling kind of smug. You are feeling like you got one over on those pesky bookmakers and are, quite frankly, the smartest person in the room. I mean, what were they thinking with this line?! This is a laugher and those fools making lines for a living are vastly overpaid. Then you hear something, a knock at the door. You answer the door and groan. Who invited him? I distinctly remember NOT inviting Uncle Mo’ to this party. As well all know, half the family does not like good ol’ Uncle Momentum.
The field goal just goes through the uprights. It is 31-10 Oregon over Oregon State. You smile and offer Uncle Mo a drink. Perhaps he’s not so bad, I mean..what could go wrong. I mean, Oregon State has completed six passes in the game, SIX!!, even Uncle Mo can’t ruin this. Four plays, all runs, and the Beavers go 75 yards for a ridiculously quick score, 31-17. I glance over at Uncle Mo’ and he’s getting a little too comfortable in my favorite chair. Oregon drives down quickly, but stalls and settles for just a field goal. Ok, I feel a bit better but I didn’t say Uncle Mo could take off his shoes. This guy is getting too comfortable.
At least it is the fourth quarter, he’ll be gone soon. The post field goal kickoff is returned for nearly 50 yards. Hey Uncle Mo, put that down, that vase is expensive! Face mask, 15 yards more. Two plays later and a 15-yard touchdown. Uncle Mo just put on my favorite sweatshirt, 34-24. Oregon stalls and sets up to punt at their own 2. The punter drops the ball!! Oregon State takes over at the two. As they plunge into the end zone one play later, Uncle Mo asks if I have anything else to drink. I hate Uncle Mo, I swear, he’s never allowed over again..even if he brings wings! The Ducks face a 4th and 2 inside their own 40, certainly, they won’t go for it and…why is Uncle Mo opening my fridge?! This guy is getting way too comfortable. The Ducks inexplicably run their injured quarterback and he comes up short. Four plays, four runs and it’s a touchdown! Oh for the love of GOD, its 38-34 Oregon State! There are still a few minutes left. I glance over and Uncle Mo’s asleep! There’s hope. Oregon drives down the field and is set up at second and goal from the two!! What could go wrong? When the Ducks get stuffed on second down, I foolishly yell and guess who woke up?! Uncle Mo’ annoyingly asks me the score as Nix’ fourth down pass falls harmlessly incomplete. As the student body storms the field, I escort Uncle Mo to the front door. I politely ask that he never return.
Final Score: Oregon State 38 Oregon 34 Spread Oregon +1.5: Loss
The lessons we learned this week: be wary of the marquee teams that can sway a line. More importantly, stay far far away from Uncle Mo. Nothing good comes from his visits! 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 draftkings.com
By Mark Ruelle