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Sportsbooks benefit as Top 25 favorites struggle to cover

On a day when Top 25 favorites took it on the chin, one result stood out for Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito.

“Michigan was one of the larger college (football) decisions I can remember,” Esposito said Saturday via text message.

The Wolverines were given a seven-point head start after Maryland fumbled the opening kickoff and went on to a 34-27 victory, but failed to cover as 17-point favorites.

That was a recurring theme for the nation’s top teams, as favorites ranked in The Associated Press poll went 2-14-1 against the spread, with the results of the late games pending.

“Overall a pretty good day,” Esposito said. “Started early with both Georgia and Michigan not covering.”

No. 6 Oklahoma lost outright 41-34 to Kansas State as 14-point chalk. No. 22 Texas (-7) and No. 25 Miami (-25½) also lost outright to Texas Tech and Middle Tennessee State, respectively.

No. 23 Texas A&M pushed as a 2-point favorite when a field-goal attempt by No. 10 Arkansas with 1:30 remaining hit the top of the right upright and stayed out.

The only Top 25 teams to cover were Alabama (-40½) and Ohio State (-19).

“It was a good day so far,” South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews said via text message. “No huge decisions but we won our share. Good ones were Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Wake Forest, Washington St. Not so good was Texas A&M, UNLV, Iowa, Florida, TCU, Baylor.”

No. 13 Utah (-16½) played at Arizona State late Saturday. No. 18 Washington (-14) and No. 19 Brigham Young (-21½) also played late.

No. 7 Southern California edged Oregon State 17-14 with a touchdown in the final two minutes but didn’t cover as 5½-point chalk. That decision went against Caesars Sportsbook, where the Beavers attracted 63 percent of the spread bets and 85 percent of the handle.

Going low

How low was the total for the Iowa-Rutgers Big Ten slap fight? So low that it was less than the first-half total of 35½ in the USC-Oregon State game.

Iowa-Rutgers closed at 34 at most Las Vegas sportsbooks, which is tied for the lowest total this century, according to Action Network.

Iowa’s game against Wisconsin last season had a total of 34, as did Missouri-Vanderbilt in 2015 and Ohio State-Penn State in 2004. The 1998 Michigan-Wisconsin game also closed at 34.

The total for the Iowa-Rutgers game was briefly at 33½ this week and would have been the lowest since 1995 when the Arizona-Oregon State sparring match closed at 33.

Entering Saturday, no Iowa game this season combined for more than 27 points. But the Hawkeyes scored two defensive touchdowns and beat Rutgers 27-10 to go over the total for the first time in four games.

The over came through when Iowa kicker Drew Stevens kissed a 51-yard field goal off the left upright with 6:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Misery from Missouri

It’s tough to determine which was the bigger gut punch to Missouri money-line bettors. The one at the end of regulation or overtime.

Missouri was +230 on the money line and fell behind 14-0 early but responded to tie the score in the second quarter and held Auburn scoreless in the second half. After stopping Auburn on a fourth-and-1 with 1:30 remaining in regulation, Missouri drove 62 yards in nine plays and set up a 26-yard field goal for the win.

But kicker Harrison Mevis pushed the chip shot to the right, sending the game to overtime.

Auburn was held to a field goal on its possession, opening the door again for Missouri. On second-and-5 from the 20-yard line, Missouri running back Nathaniel Peat broke free down the left sideline and looked to be on his way to the winning touchdown.

Before Peat reached the goal line, though, he fumbled the ball and Auburn recovered in the end zone to seal a 17-14 victory and deal an epic bad beat. Missouri still covered the spread as a 7½-point underdog.

Justice served

The rare double-backdoor cover took place at the end of the Oregon-Washington State game.

The Ducks, who were 6½-point favorites, took their first lead with 1:21 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 50-yard pass from quarterback Bo Nix to receiver Troy Franklin. Oregon then tacked on an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Mase Funa to go ahead 44-34 and temporarily cover.

But Washington State bettors ended up on the right side of the spread after all.

The Cougars took over with 55 seconds left and drove 75 yards in seven plays. Running back Nakia Watson went over the pile for a touchdown with one second remaining to get the cover in a 44-41 loss.

“Crazy finish!” Esposito said.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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