Rain saves books from taking bath on Michigan

In his debut as Michigan coach, Brady Hoke put one in the win column, and that was no surprise. The betting aspect of the game, however, was to many a bizarre and cruel joke.

One weekend into the college football season, we’ve seen a circus of events that could make your head spin faster than Linda Blair’s in “The Exorcist.”

The setting for Saturday’s strangest scene was Ann Arbor, Mich., where intense heat gave way to driving rain, lightning and a game that was called with the Wolverines leading Western Michigan 34-10 with 1:27 to play in the third quarter.

Michigan, a 14-point favorite, was on the way to a cover while a majority of bettors counted their winnings. But school officials opted to stop the action and declare it a Wolverines win for the record books.

Of course, Nevada’s sports books view it differently. According to the posted rules, there was no winner and wagers were refunded. For betting purposes, a football game is considered action after 55 minutes.

“It was kind of wacky. There have been some crazy weather games, but I’ve never seen that,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said. “I would rather have seen the game get in and played than end the way it did, when maybe some people feel like they were cheated.

“We were going to lose on the game. That was by far the biggest public-backed game on the board. The ticket count was ridiculous, like 20-1 for Michigan.”

So the first weather-shortened game in the 132-year history of Michigan football was a money-back guarantee for both sides, even the lucky non-losers on the underdog.

The rule is not mandated by state gaming guidelines but it’s fair and square, and I found it posted at both books I visited Saturday.

“I would bet everybody has the same rule,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, director of operations for Lucky’s sports books. “You always get the same phone calls, but it’s very plain. It’s a standard rule everywhere.”

Tell the bad beat story to friends if it makes you feel better, but don’t whine about getting ripped off.

It was nothing like Wisconsin-UNLV in 2002, when a mysterious power outage at Sam Boyd Stadium ended the game with 7:41 left and the Badgers leading by 20. Refunds led to mini-riots in the sports books as conspiracy theories were spawned.

“In this case, most people understood,” Rood said. “I worked the night the lights went out on the Wisconsin game, and those people did not understand.”

I was on the Wolverines, for the record. I was hoping a tornado would tear the roof off the Georgia Dome during the second half, while Boise State was putting a beating on Georgia, but no such luck.

Kellen Moore was a surgeon, as usual, completing 28 of 34 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns as he sliced up the Bulldogs in a 35-21 victory in Atlanta. The fifth-ranked Broncos, 3-point favorites, dominated after falling behind 7-0.

Betting against Boise State is as hopeless as Mark Richt’s future as Georgia’s coach. Skip Holtz, meanwhile, is a rising coaching star.

South Florida was my sharpest bet of the weekend and plenty joined that party. The Bulls attracted lots of action as 11-point underdogs at Notre Dame, the subject of overwhelming preseason hype.

But the Irish imploded, and coach Brian Kelly’s head almost exploded. Five turnovers, three inside the South Florida 10-yard line, led to Notre Dame’s 23-20 loss in a game delayed for almost three hours by severe weather.

Kelly switched quarterbacks, from Dayne Crist to Tommy Rees, but I didn’t get to see the final two minutes because the local NBC affiliate switched to an infomercial about the Contour Core Sculpting System (stronger, firmer abs are important.)

Auburn, a 24-point favorite, pulled off an amazing rally to stun Utah State, 42-38. The Tigers won only because several Utah State players reacted to an onside kick as if they were hit by electroshock from a Taser.

Alabama and Oklahoma rolled to lopsided victories, as expected. Louisiana State, a 3½-point underdog, surprisingly rolled over Oregon, 40-27.

UCLA, a 3-point underdog most of the week, missed an extra-point kick with 1:24 left in a 38-34 loss at Houston. Southern California coach Lane Kiffin is still calling for 2-point conversions, and his Trojans, favored by 24, failed on two before sneaking by Minnesota, 19-17.

Brigham Young got a miracle one-point win at Mississippi. New Mexico almost won. Hawaii covered another home game. It was a dizzying weekend.

Next up is Notre Dame at Michigan — bet the game and hope for a break in the weather.

Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts the “Las Vegas Sportsline” weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and thelasvegassportsline.com.

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