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Heisman Trophy jinxproves to be good bet

Dec 17, 2002 7:17 AM

   We have a light week of bowl games — just a couple this week — before the onslaught begins on Christmas Day, which kicks off a string of 17 games through New Year’s Eve.

   After that there’s a manageable seven games on New Year’s Day, with two orphans, including the big Fiesta Bowl, on January 2 and 3, respectively.

   Rather than try to evaluate all of the bowl games at once, we’ll post analyses and predictions during the publishing week (Tuesday through Monday) in which the games occur. And we won’t leave any games out; we’ll take a look at all 28 of them.

   Before reviewing this week’s Tangerine Bowl match-up, there are some general bowl trends that are worth exploring.

   The first is the Heisman Trophy effect on a college game in which the winner plays. Did I say “effect?” Perhaps a better choice of words would have been “jinx!”

   On Saturday, Carson Palmer of USC won the 2002 Heisman Trophy. I could hardly keep from falling out of my chair laughing. Carson Palmer isn’t even the best quarterback in the PAC 10, let alone the best college player in the country!

   But why should anyone be surprised? Look at a few recent Heisman winners — Eric Couch, Chris Weinke, Ron Dayne, Danny Wuerffel, to name a few — and you’ll agree the “award” is basically a joke!

   But the laugh isn’t necessarily on us bettors! I’ve unearthed a tremendous trend based on Heisman Trophy winners who play in a bowl game.

   In the last 20 bowl games in which a Heisman winner played, his team was a dismal 8-12 straight up (SU) and a pathetic 5-15 against the spread (ATS).

   Moreover, when the Heisman winner was a quarterback, his team was an equally unimpressive 5-5 SU and 4-6 ATS in the last 10 contests.

   This season, Carson Palmer leads the USC Trojans into an Orange Bowl contest with Iowa. The oddsmakers opened the Trojans a 6-point favorite and the number has remained steady.

   With Heisman runner-up Brad Banks calling the signals for Iowa, we expect a big effort from the Hawkeyes, who has our early nod to easily cover the number, if not win the game outright. In addition, the game’s total of 57 points might be too low, as both teams could score into the 30’s.

   Speaking of totals, bowl games have drawn some early action from over/under bettors. While most of the point spreads have shown little movement, a few games have had significant total action.

   Most of the total movement has been toward the over. They include Arizona State-Kansas State, from 56½ to 61½, and Iowa State-Boise State, from 65 to 68.

   Keeping a finger to the pulse of totals, especially since many bowl games tend to go over the mark, can be profitable.

   Now, this week’s games:

   Louisville vs. Marshall -3 over/under 61 (GMAC Bowl): Marshall takes its post-season play seriously. The Herd has appeared in five straight bowls, and has won and covered the spread in four of them. Louisville hasn’t fared as well, losing (both SU and ATS) in three of its last four bowl appearances. This game could be a tremendous match-up between two prolific quarterbacks, Byron Leftwitch of Marshall and Dave Ragone of Louisville. With such high power passing attacks, the 61 point total should probably be in jeopardy, thus a bet on the OVER is in order. Given Marshall’s penchant for winning, the Herd also gets the nod.

   Clemson vs. Texas Tech -6 over/under 65½ (Tangerine Bowl): The line was bet quickly up to -8 before it was bought back to 6. We agree with the move and support laying the 6 points, as Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury is throwing for nearly 400 yards a game.

   Perhaps a better play is the over. Tech has averaged 37 points a game, but its defense hasn’t ever stopped anybody and has allowed 32.6 points of its own. While Clemson is no offensive juggernaut, they’ll be able to score enough to push the total over, with Texas Tech getting the two touchdown victory.

   (Regular season: 60-42-5)