BYU buried by Thursday trouble

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

FORT WORTH, Texas – If Joe the Plumber – who isn't a licensed plumber – can become a national authority on presidential tax plans – despite owing back taxes – then certainly I can offer college football gambling advice even though I don't gamble.

Honest, I don't.

And neither do you, of course. Well, unless you are in Nevada. No one gambles on college football except people in Nevada. Everyone knows that.

Not that you need to care about gambling to know one thing – Thursday night on the road is where college football seasons go to die. The latest was BYU's, which with a 6-0 record and a No. 9 ranking was eyeing not just entry into a BCS game but the BCS championship game.

Then TCU horn frogged the Cougars 32-7.

Astute gamblers predicted this because TCU was: a) playing at home, b) playing on a Thursday and c) giving up points (although more on that technicality in second).

Thursday as the Night of the Upset isn't just a figment of your imagination. All those wild scenes of goal posts getting torn down leading into "SportsCenter" is an actual statistically proven trend.

With Thursday's efforts by TCU and North Carolina State (covering against Florida State), the home underdog on this night is 5-1 against the spread this season.

Four of those victories are outright, and all four came against ranked opponents – Oregon State over USC, Colorado over West Virginia, Vanderbilt over South Carolina and this one.

The only home dog to fail to cover on Thursday this year was Rutgers getting blasted by North Carolina.

Want a bigger statistical sample than half a season? Since 2000, the home underdogs on Thursday in major televised games are 33-20 against the spread, according to Straight up, they are 26-28.

The underdogs, mind you. The teams the American betting public determined would lose, often big.

Now, we aren't advocating the good folks in Nevada – the only folks that gamble on college football, of course – might consider these past results a predictor of future ones. If you're crazy enough to wager on the performances on college kids, that's your issue.

Fortunately in the other 49 states the government prohibits people putting money into a system with wild fluctuations, unpredictable results and the very real possibility that underhandedness and dishonesty have fixed the outcome.

Politicians know the stock market is a much safer and honest place for retirement funds.

Of course, if you know any stocks that paid out 62 percent of the time this decade and 83 percent this fall, feel free to pass along the tip.

My friend Chris Vernon gave me the Thursday night home dog one. Vernon hosts a radio show in Memphis – which is not located in Nevada and, as a result, is a place where no gambling occurs. If he happens to buy a new HD television set anytime soon, it's solely because of the big ratings his show gets.

However, upon hearing I was covering the game he said he felt bad for BYU for purely journalistic reasons. The Cougars were a heck of a story that unfortunately had to end because TCU was a home underdog and all of that.

It turned out BYU was just dogs.

This barely qualified as an upset, what with TCU coming in 6-1, with its only defeat coming at then-No. 2 Oklahoma. TCU coach Gary Patterson has a big-time program going here, and with all the hype and hoopla of a top-10 team visiting under the lights and the student section packed and partying, this was a trap for BYU.

Which is how it was for USC and West Virginia and an endless parade of Thursday tragedies through the years.

"We play a whole lot different when those sides (of the stadium) are full," Patterson said. His team merely rode the energy of the evening to a 26-0 lead.

It was more than that, though. Patterson thinks the location of the game is imperative on these short weeks.

"It's a lot easier to play home on Thursday than to play on the road on Thursday," he said, noting his concern over a trip to No. 14 Utah on the first Thursday in November that likely will decide the Mountain West championship.

TCU probably won't be favored in that one, though, so it may not play into this trend. By kickoff against BYU, it was questionable whether Thursday's game did. The line for much of the day was BYU giving two points, but most of the late money went to TCU (does everyone know about this?) and some online books had the Frogs as slight favorites at kickoff.

Whatever the official number, the general pattern obviously lives. The unbeaten No. 9 team in America with the Heisman candidate at quarterback went on the road and watched the season go up in smoke to a better prepared and emotionally hyped opponent.

The best strategy for title contenders? Play on Saturday or risk being another Thursday casualty, another example of this unusual yet reliable gambling trend.

If only people outside Nevada could wager on college football. Joe the Plumber really would have a reason to worry about getting so rich his taxes might go up.

What to Read Next