I’m taking a broader, more general view of sports these days. We will all remember Clemson’s coup of a 44-16 win in the CFP National Championship Game, but after years pass, some of the 2018-19 games that survive on YouTube as cult favorites will involve lowly teams…who pulled-off terrific upsets.
College Football’s “FBS” can be compared to a long, drawn-out version of March Madness, with about 50 or 60 schools having a legitimate schedule-based shot to reach the playoff and contenders getting picked-off 1 by 1 until the most-resilient is left standing. But quick – what are 2 scenes you might think of first when someone says “The Big House”? It’s Appalachian State, running with the day after blocking Michigan’s field goal attempt and sealing the all-time great upset – and maybe it’s also perpetual-underdog Michigan State blocking a punt and scoring to steal the state championship.
I don’t need to tell you the years or dates of those epic Michigan falls from grace. Dedicated college football fans (and gamblers) can tell you where they were when those special-teams nightmares overwhelmed the Wolverines. More to the point is that more people will remember those scenes than say, whatever play Clemson ran on 2nd and 6 from the 44 yard-line on Monday night. In time, anyway.
Which massive upsets from 2018-19 will etch in our collective brains, and which underdog moneylines struck it richest for the most bettors?
Dabo Dethrones the Emperor
We can’t get through a discussion of upsets without mentioning the most recent upset. The one on everybody’s mind on Tuesday afternoon. THE upset. Clemson shocked Alabama with a 3-quarter domination after a 1st frame that seemed to portend a 5-touchdown blow-out of the Over/Under line. The Tigers kept right on scoring, the Crimson Tide did not.
Nick Saban lost his nerve by failing to trust either his kicker or his QB, Tua Tagovailoa (who coughed-up 2 picks, including a pick-6 on the opening series) when he called a diddy-bump fake FG play on which a backup passer was mauled.
But blown ‘Bama drives set the tone for a bully-beatdown better than 3-and-outs ever could. Clemson’s defense respected the Tide’s brawn and agility on the OL, but it also had the SEC team and its signal-caller hexed. Hexed and cursed and brainwashed, too…by good old-fashioned disguised coverages and penetration up the middle.
Alabama was threatening to kill college football’s top division before Clemson came along. Now the Tigers are going to threaten to kill a weakened and top-heavy version of the ACC. It’s crazy that Boston College and Texas A&M were 2 of the only teams to really fight Dabo Swinney’s squad this season. Notre Dame and Alabama were out-scored 74-19. Just consider that a moment. Oh, and they became the first college team with 15 wins since the Penn Quakers of the 19th flippin’ century.
Swinney’s post-game speech was terrific. Yet as much inspiration as prep programs and smaller colleges must be taking from Clemson right now, who’s ever going to mimic his new slogan?
Maybe that’s his secret. Dabo’s new catch-phrase belongs solely to the Tigers. Nobody rinky-dink prep program can ever have it.
The result would be: “Go Northwest Tigers: Anybody Can Do It.”
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Why Clemson Over Alabama Doesn’t Make the Cut
I’m working on a few restrictions here, including the fact that Clemson vs Alabama must unfortunately be left-off our list of 3 fantastic upsets to rock the casino’s moneyline betting war-chest in 2018-19. The fact is it’s got to be something beyond (+180) or whatever the Tigers’ odds were at kickoff.
But we’d have a lousy article if it were based on math alone – the 3 longest-odds upsets as figured out by an odds-calculator by averaging different lines. For one thing, it would ignore the fact that sportsbooks don’t put markets out when the payoff would break the bank – there were no moneylines to speak of at garden-variety sportsbooks when Clemson played Georgia Southern.
GaSo did cover a superlative point spread, because that’s what you do when all of your women are rich and good looking.
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Each upset of our exalted trio must have had a breath-taking moneyline disparity…but we’re not going to simply select the 3 highest % payoffs. Was there nice action on the contest, and were a lot of highly-invested viewers tuned-in?
Oregon State beat Colorado against super-long odds to give the badly-ailing Beavers a blood rush. But not quite as many high-rollers wagered on that one compared to a scrum involving a school from the Chicago area. It’s only guesswork as to who stuck it to Vegas the most.
Finally, it goes without saying that not all online books offer ML odds on planned thrash-for-cash affairs that can turn into shockers. After all they’re small-risk, huge-reward markets. MyBookie and Sportsbetting.ag are each clever about putting up the occasional crazy moneyline on a big college gridiron mis-match. The lines are (sometimes) out there.
So with that, here goes nothing, 3 times in a row. Did you happen to score a straight-up winner bet on any of the glorious FBS upsets on scroll? I didn’t. But even if you also didn’t pick them…enjoy the memories.
Purdue Hosts, Clobbers Ohio State (+400 ML Upset Odds)
The OSU Buckeyes have had a certain fatal habit under Urban Meyer. Once a year, the team goes on what should be an ordinary Big Ten road trip and gets its collective face kicked-in.
The October 20th, 2018 trip to visit the Purdue Boilermakers in not-so-metropolitan Indiana may have hypnotized the Scarlet & Gray with its colorful leaves and rolling scenery. Just like Iowa at Kinnick Stadium the previous autumn, the Boilermakers destroyed the Buckeyes. Dwayne Haskins had a big day but far, far too many pass attempts with no running game to keep defenders honest. David Blough handled the Purdue passing game bravely while handing the rock to a hot D.J. Knox.
The result was another blow-out loss to a mid-tier team…and an exit from any serious conversation about a College Football Playoff bid.
Akron Wins at Northwestern (Underdog ML: (+4200)
Sentimental choice. I know, I know…no mainstream betting site (or likely underground betting site) offered a real moneyline on this one. But I wish they had.
I have felt bad for Akron ever since the Tom Osbourne era at Nebraska. Tom always spliced the Cornhuskers’ non-conference schedule into marquee match-ups and regional romps, and I can’t tell you how many times a September TV broadcast featured Osbourne scowling for the cameras while the lonely scoreboard reported “Akron” losing by 44 points on the other sideline.
Akron joined Eastern Michigan in some big-time upset action in 2018, a much-needed recruiting boost to the entire MAC conference. The Zips’ turn came on a September kickoff at Northwestern. The burgeoning Big Ten powerhouse would go on to finish runner-up in its league and kick Utah’s tail all the way back to SLC in the Holiday Bowl. But in Week 3, the MACtion was too much. Akron intercepted Northwestern’s wild, streaky QB Clayton Thorsen and rolled to a 39-34 win.
It was one of the year’s biggest straight-up upsets in Vegas when judging by the point spread (+21).
Wake Murders NC State at 9-to-1 odds ((+900) Payoff)
We know that CFB betting sites put this moneyline out often, because it was a conference game between Power-5 programs and conferences are expected to have some type of parity and gamblers are supposed to be able to take their traditional favorites to win.
The Wake Forest at NC State contest came at a time when the Demon Deacons had suffered blow-out losses in 3 out of 4 games – to Clemson, Florida State and Syracuse. North Carolina State was highly-ranked in the AP Poll and led by athletic receivers like Kelvin Harmon. But Wake has been gaining some type of slow momentum for its program over several trials and blown years. The simmer finally came to a boil as Jamie Newman out-gunned Ryan Finley for a 27-23 upset in Raleigh.
Final Thoughts on Final Sentences
Honorable mention must go to Old Dominion, which avoided being a moneyline underdog market for just about every big-time bookie…thanks to not getting any respect at all when hosting the VT Hokies. Virginia Tech had issues, had had issues and will continue to have them, but the Monarchs were on a mercy-kill mission.
When ranked teams collapse against huge underdogs, it doesn’t always wind up affecting the College Football Playoff or even the Vegas futures lines all that much. Typically, we can look back and say that a QB or a program who took a gut-punch from a mid-carder was doomed to minor bowl bid-dom to begin with in 2018. (Unless we’re talking about Ohio State.)
But not only do thrilling upsets (and big payoffs – for more obvious reasons) stick with me the most from season to season, the almost-upsets. Here’s a few of my favorites from the recent past:
Appalachian State nearly taking-down another Big Ten institution. This time, Penn State.
Army taking Oklahoma to overtime in Norman.
Oklahoma vs Texas, Round 2: I like Texas and everything, but I’m not attached to the Big 12 Championship Game reel because I like Texas. It’s because I like OU. The Sooners were faced with the Hook ‘Em hex at a bad time in the season, and just when the conference and CFP were on the line Kyler Murray came through like a miracle-worker.
The Longhorns went on to whip Georgia in the Sugar Bowl as a (+330) moneyline ‘dog, demonstrating that excellence begat excellence in the Big 12 this year.