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Vegas Always Wins: Clemson covers, but ‘Bama busts

The worst bad beats from Week 3 of college football.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We are now through three weeks of the college football season, with teams starting to establish themselves as the bulk of conference play encroaches. By this time, you are either starting to build up a bankroll for the rest of the year, or finding a good excuse at work for why you’ve been mysteriously losing money each Saturday. Whichever path the early season has taken you thus far, there remains a ton of time to get on some winners.

There were a few scares this week, but all the teams at the top got the job done. The biggest upset of the weekend was No. 18 Michigan State falling 10-7 at home to unranked Arizona State, missing a 47-yard field goal at the end of regulation after a penalty pushed them back five yards following a initial 42-yard make. A few teams at the bottom lost as well, with No. 21 Maryland’s offense disappearing in a 20-17 loss to Temple and No. 24 USC coming up short in a 30-27 loss at the hands of BYU.

Despite a lack of huge upsets, there was certainly not a lack of bad beats, including two of the nation’s top teams. Vegas certainly knows what they are doing when they make these lines, so let’s take a look at how they took your money this week.

Alabama 47 - South Carolina 23
(Line: Bama -26.5)

Alabama took on their first SEC opponent of the year, traveling to Columbia, SC to take on the Gamecocks. Coming into the game as heavy favorites, nobody really expected South Carolina to keep it close, but they were able to do so at least in the opening quarter, finding themselves down just 14-10 after the first. That is when things began to fall apart.

The Crimson Tide would score 10 unanswered points in the second quarter. After SC was able to get back on the board with a field goal in the third, the No. 2 team in the nation turned it up, winding up with a 47-16 lead with under two minutes remaining. Cruising with a 31-point lead and little time left, it appeared as though Alabama was about to cover the spread. The Gamecocks, however, had other plans...

With under 15 seconds remaining, South Carolina was still intent on getting into the end zone despite the large deficit. The 11-yard touchdown pass had no impact on the final outcome, as Alabama remained undefeated through their first three contests. However, those seven points trimmed the margin of victory to 24 points — just not enough for the Tide to cover.

Clemson 41 - Syracuse 6
(Line: CLEM -28)

Syracuse was actually the last team to beat Clemson in the regular season, a 27-24 upset of the then-No. 2 Tigers in 2017. With a shaky start to the season, and coming off a blowout loss to Maryland, not many people expected Cuse to pull off the miraculous feat yet again. Right from the get-go, it was clear that the Orange did not have another upset in them.

After touchdowns on both a pass and a run from Trevor Lawrence, Clemson jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The two teams traded field goals back and forth until halftime, before the Tigers found the end zone against to start the third quarter, extending their lead to 24-6. The No. 1 team in the nation added another field goal and a touchdown in the fourth, but then seemingly took their foot off the gas as they stayed off of the scoreboard for what initially looked like would be the rest of the game.

Up a ton, and having possession of the ball with under a minute left and the backups on the field, Clemson seemed content to just run the clock down to zero. Then, Chez Mellusi happened.

A poor effort tackling by a tired and defeated Syracuse defense, mixed with a motivated backup running back for Clemson created a nightmare scenario for bettors of the Orange who would've just been happy coming away with a push. Instead of the Tigers winning by 28, the exact number of the spread, they instead won by 35 to cover on a play that had no intentions of reaching the end zone.

Florida 29 - Kentucky 21
(O/U: 46)

It seems like every year a top-10 ranked Florida team struggles with lesser competition on more than a few occasions. This game was one of those such occasions, as unranked Kentucky had a real chance to come away with a victory over the No. 9 team in the nation. Unfortunately for the Gators, despite escaping with a win, they lost quarterback Feleipe Franks for the rest of the season with a dislocated ankle.

Kyle Trask came in to relieve Franks late in the third quarter, trailing 21-10. The junior was able to immediately lead Florida on a 62-yard touchdown drive, cutting the deficit to 21-16 after a failed two-point attempt. Two possessions later, the Gators took the lead on a four-yard TD run by Trask, again failing to get the two but now up 22-21. With four minutes remaining, Kentucky just needed a field goal to win the game.

Driving all the way down to Florida’s 17-yard line, the Wildcats were all set up for a game-winning field goal. Unfortunately for the home team, the 35-yard attempt went wide right, and the Gators maintained the lead with just 54 seconds remaining. With the spread never really in doubt — Kentucky was +9.5 in the game — bettors of the under also felt they'd be able to rest easy, as Florida just had to get one first down to ice the game. Well, they got the first, and a bit more...

In an effort to pick up a first down to put Kentucky away, Florida ran a simple end around play. Some good blocking and some poor tackling led, instead, to a 76-yard touchdown run in the game’s final 40 seconds. With the over/under set at 46, the Gators could have just gotten the first and ended the game with the total at 43. Instead, the long TD pushed the total to 50, putting a dagger into the hearts of under bettors.

Texas 48 - Rice 13
(Line: TEX -32, O/U; 57.5)

The ending of this game was an absolute roller coaster of emotions for bettors on both sides and those on the total, with the potential for a crushing double-loser. Texas was heavy favorites in this matchup with Rice, and showed that they were the much better team right out of the gate.

By the time halftime rolled around, the Longhorns already held a substantial 31-0 lead. They continued to add to it out of the break, with another touchdown in the middle of the third quarter. Rice got their first points of the game early in the fourth on a shirt TD pass, cutting the deficit to 38-6 after a failed PAT. Texas added a field goal to make it 41-6, and the spread seemed safe. However, with just a minute remaining, the Owls put up a garbage time touchdown to make it 41-13 — a 28 point lead that would be insufficient for Longhorn bettors.

That is when things got a little crazy...

The 97-yard kick return touchdown completely turned this game on its head from a betting standpoint. The score gave Texas a 48-13 lead, good enough to flip the script and cover the 32-point spread with under a minute remaining. The points also put the game total at 61, just 3.5 points over the total set by the oddsmakers. Anyone who bet Texas and the over came out a miraculous double-winner, and those with Rice and the under a languishing double-loser.