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Vegas Always Wins: Spartans and Tigers and Flames, oh my!

San Jose State highlights college football’s week five bad beats

NCAA Football: San Jose State at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The fifth week of the college football season saw, for most, the beginning of conference play. While this usually means an end to the cupcake nonconference schedule so many teams in the country begin the year with, the vast majority of ranked teams took on opponents at the bottom of their conference, seeing little resistance in what was a week devoid of almost any upsets.

There were a few close calls, including the former No. 1 team in the country almost falling to a UNC squad that lost to Appalachian State the week prior — which we will get to in a little bit. The only true ranked upset was Arizona State taking down No. 15 California is some Friday night Pac-12 after dark action. Otherwise, teams handled business against subpar opponents. The higher seed won in the only two ranked matchups of the day, with No. 10 Notre Dame defeating No. 18 Virginia, and No. 17 Washington beating No. 21 USC.

Ranked teams escaped week five without too much drama, but not all of them covered the spread. A couple teams, like Texas A&M which struggled in a 31-27 win over Arkansas, failed to cover large spreads (-23), but there were not all too many late-game bad beats this time around. Let’s take a look at a few of them, starting with the worst one of them all.

Air Force 41 - San Jose State 24
(Line: AFA -19.5, O/U 58)

One of the few games on the Friday night slate saw the San Jose State Spartans taking on the Air Force Falcons at the USAF Academy in Colorado. The service academy was a heavy favorite, and after falling behind 7-0 early on, began to take control. Air Force scored three unanswered touchdowns, including a surprise 64-yard pass play, to take a 21-7 lead. The Spartans got a field goal just before half, but it was more of the same after the break as the Falcons scored three more times, now firmly in charge with a 41-10 lead late in the fourth quarter.

With just under four minutes remaining, SJSU finally found the end zone again, albeit with the game already over at 41-17. It seemed as though Air Force would have no problem covering the 19.5-point spread, but then something happened. For no reason at all, the Falcons went for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 22-yard line with under two minutes left. The Spartans took over with excellent field position, and just a few plays later...

The baffling decision to go for it basically gift wrapped San Jose State a touchdown, moving Air Force’s margin of victor to 17 points — not enough to cover the 19.5 line. Not only did that score make the Falcons not cover, but it pushed the total from 58 (the exact total set by oddsmakers) to 65, making the game hit the over as well. Those who took Air Force and the under instantly found themselves a double-loser.

UCF 56 - UConn 21
(Line: UCF -42)

Heading into last week’s game against Pittsburgh, UCF was one of the best teams in the country against the spread since the start of 2018, holding a 12-4 record ATS. The Knights obviously did not cover their 10-point spread with a stunning loss to the Panthers, but would have a chance to right the ship as big favorites against UConn in the Civil Conflict.

Things got out of hand quickly for the Huskies, as UCF already had a 28-0 advantage before the end of the first quarter. The pure domination continued for the Knights, ballooning the lead to 56-0 nearing the end of the third quarter. UCF took the foot off the gas and put the backups in as UConn found the end zone twice, but with under a minute remaining still led 56-14. This would have been good enough to push, but the Huskies weren’t finished.

On a fourth down play with under 20 seconds remaining, UConn found a man wide open in the end zone to make it 56-21, moving the UCF margin of victory to 35 — not enough to cover. The Knights led 56-0 with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter, and while the three late scores by the Huskies had no effect on the outcome of the game, it killed UCF bettors nationwide.

Liberty 17 - New Mexico 10
(Line: LIB -7)

Even in one of the lowest scoring games of the day, a bad beat was had. In one of the handful of games outside of conference play, a Mountain West New Mexico squad took on Independent Liberty in a bit of a snooze fest. The game featured three turnovers and a whopping nine punts between the two schools as both teams struggled to find the end zone for the majority of the contest.

The Flames got on the board first, with a short passing touchdown as time expired in the first quarter. The Lobos answered with a field goal of their own early in the second, but Liberty again got points at the end of a quarter with yet another short passing score to end the half, heading into the break up 14-3. The only points by either team in the third came on a lone field goal from the Flames to extend the lead to 17-3, and it looked as though that score would hold the rest of the way. That would not be the case.

On a drive that started on their own 14-yard line with under three minutes remaining, New Mexico drove the ball on the way down the field and scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 53 seconds to go to narrow the gap to 17-10. Liberty would not cover the spread after doing so for the entire second half, as bettors of the Flames would walk away with a push.

Honorable Mention: Clemson 21 - UNC 20
(UNC ML +1500)

UNC had every chance to knock off the defending champs on Saturday. Trevor Lawrence and the rest of the Clemson Tigers really struggled for the majority of the afternoon, taking a narrow 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter on a nice 38-yard pass from Lawrence to Tee Higgins. The Tar Heels kept fighting, and after scoring a touchdown with about a minute to go, Mack Brown made the correct choice to go for two to try and win the game. The incorrect choice, however, was made on the play call.

The option play was an awful choice, and never really had any chance to find the end zone as Clemson held on to remain undefeated. A $100 bet on UNC to win straight up would have netted $1500.