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One of the worst bad beats in recent memory took place last week in the Belk Bowl between Duke and Cincinnati to the point where if you had Duke, you might want to take a break from betting for a while.

Duke was getting 9 points and with the game tied 34-34 was on Cincinnati’s 5-yard line, ready to take the lead with less than two minutes to go. The Blue Devils then fumbled the ball and Cincy recovered. If you have Duke, you’re saying, “No problem, I’m still covering, even if it goes into overtime. There’s not enough time for me to lose.”

With 44 seconds to go, the Bearcats connected on an 83-yard TD pass to take a 41-34 lead. But if you have Duke, you’re still covering and feel good because you get the ball back with only seconds left. But then it happens, a Cincy pick-6 going the other way with only 14 seconds left. 48-34! There goes the cover.

Suddenly the 9 points you had with Duke were worthless.

The good news is the majority bettors had the favored Cincinnati side. The sports books took a pretty good lump on that one. So from the betting gods, straight to Santa, those who had the Bearcats got the gift of the season. Merry Christmas!

Early indications are that most sports books in town did poorly with their season win totals. Bettors siding with the Jets, Chargers and Saints UNDER did well, along with those taking the Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks OVER. The combination of differing numbers around town and a small window with a 16-game schedule – where you can essentially make every team 4-4 from the beginning – make this a routinely bad risk for the books.

The bettors will always have the edge here.

Bowl Selections

Rose: Wisconsin (+6) vs. Stanford

Orange: Florida State (-13½) vs. Northern Illinois

Fiesta: Oregon (-8½) vs. Kansas State

Cotton: Oklahoma (+3) vs. Texas A&M

Here are some ATS trends from teams you don’t hear much about:

• Home favorites have been the best betting propositions this season in college hoops thus far, going 472-430-15 ATS (52.3 %) through Saturday among all games where a spread was offered.

• Appalachian State may only be 3-8 on the season, but when a number has been posted on them, they have covered every game. They are 7-0 ATS, with six of the covers coming on the road.

• UAB has been awful against-the-spread this season, covering only three of their 10 games (1-6 road) offered, but when a total has been offered, they have far exceeding their rating, going OVER in six of eight games.

• Cal-State Northridge has been having a good run this season with a 9-4 record, but they have also been covering regularly, especially at home where they are 4-0 ATS. Overall, they have covered nine of their 11 games when a line was posted.

• Connecticut may be 10-2 this season, but against-the-spread they have cost their backers at the window going 2-5-1.

• Creighton is 12-1, and they get the job done against their rating also. They have covered nine of their 11 games when a line if offered, including all three on the road.

• Drexel was such a good cover team last season, but a lot has changed this year. Not only are the Dragons 4-7 in the standings, but they have covered only two of their 11 games. However, they can be counted on the run. They have gone 7-1-1 to the OVER.

• Illinois State and Illinois-Chicago are both having great starts at 9-3 each, which has also translated well at the betting windows, combining to cover 15 of their 21 games when spreads were offered.

• Richmond has a fine 9-5 record, but bettors have gone 2-9 ATS backing them.

• Marshall is a respectable 7-6 on the season, but an awful 0-8-1 ATS.

• Washington State is 8-4 on the year, and a very good 7-2 ATS as well.

• Nice OVER Squads: Boise State (6-0), Boston College (5-0), Old Dominion (6-1).

• Reliable UNDER teams: UC Irvine (0-6), Miami-Florida (1-7), Northern Illinois (1-9), Oklahoma State (1-8), Southern Miss (2-6). Arizona (1-7-1), Wisc-Green Bay (1-5). 

Random thoughts

• I appreciate ESPN offering the ticker on the bottom of their coverage to keep me updated on all the scores, but I’m still miffed at their insistence on including women’s college basketball as part of their rotation. You can’t bet on it, and there aren’t too many people who are interested in seeing what the top-25 women teams in the country are doing.

Worst of all, I get a sudden heart attack when seeing a school I bet on with a whacked out score, only to realize moments later it’s in the NCAAW category. To show just how clueless ESPN is about what people want, they shorten the soccer scores by only offering “Notable European Soccer” scores. Those are real betting events. They should have done it the other way around and displayed “Notable Women’s basketball” scores with a random update on Stanford-UConn, and that’s it.

ESPN has an interest because they show a few games a year on television and then have the Women’s NCAA tournament – games you can bet, but the scores need to be rotated much differently and less than the men. I don’t remember ESPN being involved in Title IX.

• These sports leagues are trying to fight a losing battle with legalized sports betting in America. It’s going to happen and somehow I think all they want is a piece of the pie. They don’t care about the morals of our country. The only thing these pro leagues care about is making money. And, the fact that entities such as sports books would be making money on their sports when they get nothing out of it is the real reason for putting up such a stiff challenge.

If they were smart, which they are despite their ridiculous testimonies, they would organize their own sports books where they were the key beneficiaries of revenues gained. Or they would partner with some of the existing books and agree to get a share of the percentages with the agreement they won’t push a lawsuit.

As for Nevada, they are already locked in, but to gain access into other states without the pro sports taking them to court, it might serve them well to strike up a conversation and let the leagues “wet their beaks” a little, like Don Fanucci, the Black Hand in Godfather II, said.

Clips making noise

While the Lakers are still getting all the attention for their ups and downs, despite being very mediocre, the rest of the world is starting to take a serious look at the Clippers. All it took to steal some of the headlines away from the Lakers was a franchise best 16-game winning streak they took into Sunday’s home game against the Jazz. The Clips now have the best record in the NBA at 23-6.

The Clippers are winning games, but they have been covering the spread at a torrid pace despite the ratings being rapidly increased to catch up with their nightly blowouts. They are currently on a run of covering 10 of their past 13 games through Saturday.

Over their 16-game win streak they have beat teams by 12 points or more 11 times. There hasn’t been any individual standout for the Clippers during their rise to the top of the league, but their bench could be singled out as their most improved asset compared to last season’s squad. The leader of that bunch has been Jamal Crawford, who has scored 20 points or more 12 times this season.

Another new addition, Matt Barnes, has found a home where his contributions have been greatly appreciated, more so than anywhere else in his 10-year career. Barnes scored 20 points last Tuesday night against the Nuggets and has been averaging a career high 10.6 points off the bench. The Clippers are 16-0 this season when Barnes has scored in double-figures.

The Clippers have seven players averaging over 9 a game and that doesn’t even include Lamar Odom who has been very active in his 17 minutes per game. The Clips still have Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill injured – veterans who will fit in nicely with their leadership and attitude when they return down the stretch.

It’s still early to be talking about championship, but the Clippers have the look of a team that can contend with the Thunder in the Western Conference and may currently have the best value on the Las Vegas boards. The LVH Super Book has the Clippers at 12-to-1 to win the NBA Title.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Contact Micah at [email protected].

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