The dust has settled after the first full weekend of college football, and after five straight days of games, everyone can finally breathe as Tuesday provides a much-needed break in the action. It was a weekend without a ton of drama, as every AP Top-25 team came away victorious aside from the one ranked matchup of week one, which we will get to in a little bit.
However, while the casual college football fan enjoyed a largely stress-free weekend of watching their team pick up an easy win, it was a much more intense scene for the gambling crowd. Unranked opponents usually means large spreads, and so while most fans are sitting comfortable with their three-touchdown lead, there are always people in the crowd still watching intently, living and dying on every play as they pray for one more score to cover the spread or hit the over.
The Vegas odds-makers are incredibly good at their job, and that was no more true this weekend as multiple games came down to the very last play to determine the gambling payout. Whether it be a seemingly meaningless touchdown or a huge game-saving play, a late score that completely flips a line is a bad beat. Let’s take a look at some of the gambling misfortune around college football from week one.
Auburn 27 - Oregon 21
(Line: Auburn -3.5)
The No. 11 Oregon Ducks had a ton of hype coming into the only Top-25 matchup of Week 1. Quarterback Justin Herbert returning for his senior season — a guy who most believe will be a first-round draft pick in next year’s NFL Draft — is a huge boost for the team out of Eugene, a program that many expect to win the Pac-12 this year. Herbert and the Ducks gave their fans a lot to be excited about early on, as it looked like it was about to be a runaway victory in Jerry World.
It seemed like it would be more of the same in the second half, as Oregon jumped out to a 21-6 lead. However, things began to change as No. 16 Auburn’s defense started to turn it up, holding the Ducks on their next five possessions. The Tigers put together two long touchdown drives, and just like that it was 21-20.
After yet another punt, Auburn got the ball back with two minutes remaining and a chance to win the game. With just 16 seconds remaining, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix had gotten the Tigers to Oregon’s 16 yard line, and with no timeouts remaining it appeared as though Gus Malzahn’s team would play for a field goal to win the game. Then, this happened:
Even announcer Chris Fowler expected them to play it safe, but the freshman QB had other plans. It was a gutsy play call, and a ball that could very well have been picked off. Had Auburn just kicked the field goal, Oregon bettors would still have covered the 3.5-point spread. However, the surprise decision to air it out flipped that on it’s head, as the Ducks added insult to injury by failing to cover and losing the game outright.
Stanford 17 - Northwestern 7
(Line: Stanford -6.5)
Moving to the lower end of the Top-25, it was a close, low-scoring affair between the Northwestern Wildcats and No. 25 Stanford Cardinal, a game between two well-respected academic schools nicknamed “The Brain Bowl” by fans on social media. As expected, it was a game that played out very slowly and lacked much that resembled offense, with the two teams combining for six turnovers and a 12-for-30 efficiency on third down conversions.
Stanford got on the board first with a two-yard touchdown pass by K.J. Costello late in the second quarter. Unfortunately, the Cardinal’s star QB was injured on the play as a result of a late hit, and would not return for the remainder of the contest. Stanford added to its lead with a 51-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. It would remain a 10-0 lead for the Cardinal until Northwestern found the end zone in the middle of the fourth on a one-yard TD run, to move the score to 10-7. The teams would trade empty possessions, with the Wildcats getting the final drive with a chance to win the game.
At this point, bettors of Northwestern at +6.5 felt pretty confident the team would at least cover the spread, until...
With just 20 seconds remaining, a sack fumble on the first play of the Wildcats’ drive sent the ball flying into their own end zone. Despite a Northwestern player getting to the ball first, he was unable to fall on it, as Stanford recovered it for a touchdown to take a 17-7 lead. The blunder made it a 10-point contest, and a seemingly sure-fire cover for Northwestern with the spread became a stunning loser.
Scan the crowd at any blowout college football game, and you will always find someone locked in, needing a score or a stop to change the outcome of a bet on the over or under. A touchdown that may seem meaningless to the average person, could have a monumental effect on gamblers who bet on the total. There were more than a few instances this weekend of late scores with no impact on the game’s victor, but completely changed the over/under. Here are a few of those bad beats:
Oklahoma 49 - Houston 31 (O/U 79.5, Final Total: 80)
The Sunday night game featured probably the worst beat on any over/under bet. After a seven-point first quarter, bettors of the under probably felt as though they were sitting pretty. They likely began to sweat as the two teams traded points for the rest of the way, but settled back down as the Sooners had the ball up 42-31 with just over a minute remaining. Oklahoma started their final drive on the 42-yard line, intent on running out the clock to end the game. However, on what likely would have been one of the final plays of the game, running back Rhamondre Stevenson broke away for a 21-yard TD — a score that had no impact on the game, but a huge impact on the wallets of under bettors.
Iowa State 29 - Northern Iowa 26 (O/U 42, Final Total: 55)
This one doesn’t look like a bad beat, as the two teams combined for well over the games total line of 42. However, it becomes a tough loss once you look at the box score and see that the total through four quarters was just 26 — well under. Unfortunately for bettors looking for a low-scoring affair, they were almost correct, had the game not gone into triple-overtime. The two Iowa schools combined for 29 points over the course of the three OT periods, sending the total way over and bettors of the under into disbelief.
Ohio State 45 - Florida Atlantic 21 (O/U 66.5, Final Total: 66)
The Buckeyes found their way into a bit of a bad beat when it came to the total. Ohio State looked like they were primed for an absolute dismantling of the Owls on Saturday afternoon, jumping out to a 28-0 lead in the game’s first six minutes. The offense would slow it down significantly from there on out, scoring only 17 total points through the remaining three quarters. FAU could only muster three TDs, and after OSU settled for a field goal with three minutes remaining, the total fell just a half-point short of hitting the over.