Friday kicked off college football’s postseason, and the weekend had a few surprises, including Florida Atlantic and Kent State, who were both bowl game winners. Those two schools came into their respective contests as seven-point underdogs, but won their games outright.
Florida Atlantic pulled off what was arguably the biggest upset of the nine weekend bowl games, beating SMU by a score of 52-28 in the Boca Raton Bowl.
The Owls were without head coach Lane Kiffin, who left to take the Ole’ Miss job. Then, interim coach Glenn Spencer announced that three starters, wide receivers Deangelo Antoine, Tavaris Harrison, and linebacker Akileis Leroy, weren’t playing because of academic reasons. The team was also without All-American tight end Harrison Bryant, who had been ill.
Those developments sparked a pregame betting frenzy on SMU. Mirage sportsbook shift manager Scott Shelton told Covers.com that the action was all on SMU.
“MGM books suspended game for much of Friday, in wake of Florida Atlantic suspending key players,” Shelton said. “Went back up at SMU -8. “Money is all SMU, and tickets 10 to 1 SMU.”
The Underdog Bites Back
One glaring statistic could have foreshadowed the outcome of the Boca Raton Bowl. SMU was 1-21 in its last 22 games away from home when playing teams with winning records.
Saturday’s loss took their record to 1-22, and rewarded bettors that took them on the moneyline at +230.
After the game, Spencer told reporters that the week’s adversity actually helped motivate Florida Atlantic on game day.
“This is just one of those feel-good things that the game of football brings out every now and then,” Spencer said. “It’s all about relationships. I was telling those guys in there, no matter what happens tomorrow they’ve got a friend for life. It’s just an emotional night.”
Kent State Smokes Jordan Love and Utah State
The other big bowl-game stunner occurred on Friday. Kent State defeated Utah State in the Frisco Bowl in Frisco, Texas. The Golden Flashes scored 25 fourth-quarter points en route to a 51-41 victory.
Utah State QB Jordan Love was playing after being charged for marijuana possession last week. There was speculation that the junior, who announced he was turning pro after game, would be suspended for the Frisco Bowl, but school officials did not punish their star quarterback.
Kent State took care of that instead, and became surprise bowl game winners as a result. The upset marks the first bowl victory in the school’s history.
Kent State quarterback Dustin Crum led the offense in the victory, and told reporters after the game his team overcame a lot to get to the bowl game.
“I’m just so happy for the university,” Crum said. “We weren’t supposed to be here, but here we are.”
Other Bowl Go Stick to the Script — Mostly
There were a couple of mild upsets in the weekend’s other bowl games. Liberty was a 4.5-point underdog to Georgia Southern in Saturday’s Cure Bowl in Orlando, and won, 23-16. Arkansas State was getting a point from Florida International in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. on Saturday. Arkansas State prevailed, 34-26.
Otherwise, Buffalo, Washington, San Diego State, and North Carolina A&T were all favorites in their respective bowl games, and posted victories across the board.
Stat of the Week
William Hill reported that 82 percent of tickets written, and 91 percent of money bet was on Appalachian State in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday. The Mountaineers, who won 31-17, were favored by 17 points against the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Appalachian State was the only one of five favorites that didn’t cover the spread in their victory.