On an otherwise weak slate of college football games Saturday, the only matchup of top-25 teams featured No. 24 South Carolina as a 6½-point home underdog to No. 6 Georgia.
Naturally, Las Vegas sports books needed the ’dog to cover, and the Ol’ Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, and his Gamecocks delivered the outright 38-35 upset win.
We needed 5½-point home ’dog Central Michigan to cover, and naturally, the Chippewas were spanked 40-3 by Syracuse. But we digress.
“It was kind of down a little bit,” Wynn sports book director John Avello said of the college football action. “I felt like the bettors kind of took a week off.”
The Wynn is the first book to post college football lines, at 3 p.m. each Sunday. It opened Georgia as a 3-point favorite, and the line kept rising against a South Carolina squad that was routed at home by Texas A&M in its season opener before edging East Carolina by 10 in a win that looks more impressive after the Pirates’ 28-21 upset Saturday over No. 17 Virginia Tech, which was a 10-point home favorite.
“They have a good quarterback and are well-coached,” Avello said of East Carolina. “They may be a better team than we thought.”
That could be said of the Gamecocks.
“I thought South Carolina would show up (Saturday). If they lost, their season was over,” Avello said. “It was a big game for them to stay in the hunt for a national title or SEC title. Being at home with Spurrier getting just short of a touchdown seemed like a good bet.”
Trailing 10-7 early, South Carolina took the lead for good late in the first quarter on a touchdown pass from Dylan Thompson, who completed 21 of 30 passes for 271 yards and three TDs. The Gamecocks’ defense, without No. 1 NFL Draft pick Jadeveon Clowney, preserved the victory late, keeping the Bulldogs out of the end zone after they had a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line.
There were two other outright upsets involving top-25 teams, as Boston College, a 17-point home ’dog to No. 9 Southern California, beat the Trojans 37-31, and Virginia, a 4-point home ’dog, beat No. 21 Louisville 23-21.
The Eagles trailed the Trojans 17-6 in the second quarter before scoring 24 unanswered points en route to their first victory over a top-10 team in 10 years.
The Cavaliers, who squandered a 20-7 lead, clipped the Cardinals 23-21 on Ian Frye’s 42-yard field goal with 3:41 left.
In games involving top-10 teams, favorites went 1-5-1 against the spread, with No. 4 Oklahoma covering 21 points in a 34-10 win over Tennessee. No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Alabama failed to cover 40-point plus spreads in their respective routs, and No. 10 Louisiana State pushed in a 31-0 romp over Louisiana-Monroe.
“It’s really hard to put a finger on the consistent good teams,” Avello said. “I don’t know if Alabama’s team is as good as some of the Alabama teams of the past. I think Oregon is a good team, but the problem with them is they play good early and the end of the year they fizzle out.
“This thing is wide open right now. That’s kind of the way I like it. I love to see everybody as a contender. (No. 8) Baylor’s a contender. A lot of teams are gonna be in the hunt (for the playoff).”
No. 12 UCLA is still a contender despite three unimpressive wins. The Bruins won but didn’t cover the 8½-point spread in a 20-17 victory over Texas in which they lost quarterback Brett Hundley to a left elbow injury in the first quarter. UCLA trailed 10-3 at halftime.
“For them to have only three points at halftime, that’s just not acceptable,” Avello said. “Especially for this team that came into the season with high expectations of possibly making it to the final four.”
Georgia Southern and Massachusetts were easy underdog winners that nearly pulled out outright upsets at Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt, respectively.
Georgia Southern, a 16-point ’dog, overcame a 28-point halftime deficit to take the lead before the Yellow Jackets recovered a late fumble and drove 72 yards for a winning score in a 42-38 triumph.
Massachusetts, a 16½-point ’dog, led 31-20 before giving up two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including one with 1:08 left, to the Commodores, who were outscored 78-10 in their first two games. The Minutemen missed a 22-yard field goal with two seconds left in their 34-31 loss.
“Vanderbilt must be a flat-out bad team because Massachusetts is not a good football team,” Avello said. “For them to go up there and (almost) win, Vanderbilt has some issues.”
UNLV bettors suffered the bad beat of the day in the Rebels’ 48-34 loss to Northern Illinois. A 10-point home ’dog, UNLV rallied to tie the game 34-34 with 9:18 left after trailing 28-5 early in the third quarter. Down 41-34, the Rebels threatened to tie the score before Blake Decker was intercepted in the end zone. The Huskies then marched 80 yards for a score and the cover, on Cameron Stingily’s 2-yard run on third-and-goal with 1:56 left.
■ NOTE — Handicapper Brian Edwards went 3-1 in his college football betting column in Saturday’s Review-Journal, winning with South Carolina, Arkansas (+1) and Washington (-13) and losing on Minnesota (+16).
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.