Top 'Bad Beats' of the 2021 College Football Season
Sport is random. Gambling is hard. And those two pieces of information overlap with unfortunate regularity.
During the 2021 college football season, dozens of games featured a bad beat. If you're not familiar, that means a late-game play—occasionally even the final snap of the contest—reversing the outcome of a bet when the opposite result felt inevitable.
For example, Florida State was a 9.5-point underdog at Clemson. For exactly zero seconds of the game, Clemson held a lead of 10-plus points. But on FSU's desperation play, trailing by four, Clemson scooped up a fumble and scored to win 30-20.
Brutal beat. Maybe even the worst in 2021.
And a fitting place to start recapping some of the most painful losses for gamblers during the recent campaign.
If you picked Florida State +9.5 and under 47.5 for this ACC clash, please know you have my sincerest condolences.
As mentioned in the opener, Barrett Carter's fumble recovery for a touchdown pushed Clemson to a 10-point lead as time expired. That alone is a horrible beat.
But it's only Part 1.
Additionally, the game total closed at 47.5. Entering the final snap, Clemson had a 24-20 edge—so 44 points. Under bettors only needed an incomplete pass or harmless tackle. Instead, they watched in horror as FSU's string of laterals ended with Carter getting pushed into the end zone—and for 50 total points.
That's enough to make you take a break.
North Carolina's Epic Collapse
Later in the ACC season, North Carolina kicker Grayson Atkins seemingly sealed a rivalry win. He blasted a 50-yard field goal through the uprights to hand the Tar Heels a 30-21 advantage (51 total points) over North Carolina State with only 2:12 left.
But the Wolfpack came storming back.
On the second play of the ensuing possession, Devin Leary hit Emeka Emezie for a 64-yard touchdown. Then, NC State recovered an onside kick. Two 15-yard penalties on UNC preceded Leary and Emezie connecting for a second score and a 34-30 NC State lead.
Not only did North Carolina (+184) squander the moneyline, the total (62.5) swiftly moved from a safe under to a crushing over.
Eastern Michigan's Costly Drop
Fast-forward to the 8:10 mark of the accompanying video, and you'll see a painful drop from Eastern Michigan.
In early September, the Eagles visited Wisconsin as a 26-point underdog. They fell behind 27-0 but scored on a pick-six in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 20. Wisconsin answered with a touchdown and pushed its advantage back to 27 with 4:16 remaining.
But, hey, Eastern still had a possession! There was still plenty of time to manage a backdoor cover.
One penalty and a 29-yard catch propelled the Eagles into the red zone, where the promising drive went terribly wrong. Preston Hutchinson absorbed a hit yet threw a perfect pass to I'Shawn Stewart, who dropped the ball in the end zone as time expired.
Wisconsin won 34-7, edging the spread by one point.
Akron's Mishandled Cover
Bad things come in twos, apparently.
While the ACC featured a couple of late changes on the scoreboard, the MAC provided two devastating drops. Two weeks after Eastern Michigan's disappointment at Wisconsin, Akron endured the same fate in a blowout loss at Ohio State.
The 48.5-point underdogs scored first—hooray!—before Ohio State put up 59 unanswered points. But, darn it, the Zips had an incredible chance to answer.
With 14 seconds left, Akron trailed by 52. Zach Gibson rifled a pass between two Ohio State defenders and hit Tony Grimes Jr. directly in the chest for what should have been a touchdown. The problem was a human chest is not an optimal way to catch a football.
Throw in the 66.5 point total, and Akron frustrated two sets of bettors on this play.
Wyoming Kicks Down the Back Door
Boise State hosted Wyoming as a 13.5-point favorite, but the visitors didn't make it easy on the Broncos. It wasn't until the final minute of regulation that Boise State began covering, hitting a field goal to take a 16-point advantage.
Surely, an offense with 213 yards couldn't march the length of the field in 59 seconds, right?
Obviously, you know the answer to that question. Wyoming quarterback Levi Williams threw a simple zone-busting pass to Isaiah Neyor, who suddenly outraced four Broncos defenders for a 74-yard touchdown and gut-wrenching backdoor cover.
Boise State managed a 23-13 victory, but anyone who laid the points left a disgruntled loser.
Iowa Surrenders the Cover
As the saying goes, it's better to have covered and lost than never to have covered at all.
Wait, no, that's even worse. Sometimes, you make a bad pick. Everyone has 'em. But to watch a thrilling turnaround be stolen at the last moment is brutal for bettors.
Illinois had a 10-point lead against Iowa, which entered the Big Ten matchup as a 12-point favorite. Although an Iowa field goal with 1:55 to play effectively sealed the victory, the kick increased the Hawkeyes' lead to 10. Anyone hoping they'd beat the spread needed a miracle.
And it happened! Jack Campbell's pick-six with 1:36 left created a 17-point advantage, and Iowa was finally covering for the first time all game. And then, Iowa's dominant defense promptly gave up a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to shatter that magical cover.
Final-Play Drama for Ole Miss, Arkansas
Ole Miss won but didn't cover.
Arkansas covered but missed a chance to win.
From either perspective, this SEC contest had an exciting finish that disappointed a whole lot of bettors.
Once the Razorbacks evened the score at 24 in the third quarter, the teams alternated touchdowns the rest of the way. Matt Corral's 68-yard strike to Braylon Sanders lifted Ole Miss to a 52-45 lead with 1:07 left, but Arkansas drove right back.
As regulation expired, KJ Jefferson tossed a nine-yard touchdown to make it 52-51 and give the Razorbacks, at worst, a backdoor cover. But head coach Sam Pittman wanted the victory—as did everyone who rode the Arkansas moneyline at +160.
However, the two-point conversion dropped to the grass and sparked a celebration for Lane Kiffin's team. Ole Miss survived, but both the cover and Arkansas' upset bid fell painfully short.
Kentucky's Agonizing Cover
It doesn't matter if you pulled for Georgia or Kentucky. Watching this particular drive was exasperating.
Kentucky scored a touchdown in the second quarter but otherwise moved the ball 20-plus yards on only one possession. Georgia steadily pulled away for a drama-free win and began covering the 21.5-point spread when Brock Bowers reeled in a touchdown from Stetson Bennett. Georgia led 30-7 with 11:27 on the clock.
The ensuing drive took 11 minutes and 23 seconds. Kentucky converted a third down. Then a fourth down. And two more thirds. And another fourth. Georgia's defense could not get off the field.
For UGA backers, the nightmare became a reality when Wan'Dale Robinson tumbled into the end zone on 3rd-and-goal.
Kentucky tip-toed through the back door in a 30-13 loss.
Kent State Misses the Chip Shots
I believe "mortifying" is the correct way to describe the finish to this blowout in College Station.
If you picked Kent State +29.5, then, ugh. Texas A&M started slowly but ultimately cruised past the Golden Flashes, who flirted with a cover multiple times and wasted them all.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Kent State scored a touchdown to move its deficit from 31 to 24. But after an unsuccessful onside kick, Texas A&M running back Devon Achane handled four carries for 44 yards and a touchdown to restore the 31-point lead.
Texas A&M wouldn't score again. But neither did Kent State, despite two high-percentage field-goal chances.
Andrew Glass missed a 25-yard kick with 3:18 to play. And on the final snap of the contest, he slammed the starboard upright on a 24-yard attempt.
For the rest of the season, Glass connected on all six attempts inside of 30 yards and made all 45 extra points. But these two misses provided one of the season's worst bad beats.