Courtesy of Jim Feist
Motivation is such an enormous part of athletic competition, particularly in college sports where young players aren't always as self-motivated as pros, who are playing for a paycheck. This is where coaches play such a huge roll, in harnessing situational spots for opportunities to get their football team supremely focused.
When Missouri won its SEC showdown with South Carolina last month, 21-20, it was a game with emotional angles all over the field. South Carolina had shocked the Tigers a year ago, rallying from a 17-0 fourth quarter deficit to hand Mizzou its first loss. One year later the Tigers turned the trick with a remarkable late comeback from a 20-7 deficit.
Missouri's lowest in-game win probability was 5% when the Tigers started their first of two fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Last year when playing Missouri, South Carolina's lowest in-game win probability was 4% before coming back to win in overtime.
A year ago at this time Ohio State had its first Big 10 showdown against Wisconsin. Buckeye coach Urban Meyer made it a point at a press conference of referring to the Badgers as "King of the Big Ten.: That was a reference to the previous season when Ohio State was banned from postseason play at 12-0, so Wisconsin represented the Big 10 in the Rose Bowl again.
That year Wisconsin gave the Buckeyes all they could handle in Madison before falling 21-14 in overtime, and Ohio State won again last year, 31-24 (leading 31-7 after three). Meyer saw an opportunity to provide some extra motivation to his team against the Badgers.
Iowa State has been involved with several emotional game in recent years, including this one. The Cyclones started 0-2 but came up big in a win over state rival Iowa, 20-17, last month. It was an emotional game, but the next game Iowa State got steamrolled by Baylor, 49-28, getting outgained 601-339. The team also had two huge motivational situations against Texas the previous two years. Last year the Cyclones, an 8-point dog, should have beaten the Longhorns, but made several key errors and had an official's call go against them late. Coach Paul Rhoads blasted Big 12 officiating after a Texas fumble at the goal line ended up being ruled down by contact.
"I've got the privilege as the head coach of this football program to face my players, win or lose, and look them in the eye and tell them how proud I am of the work they put forth, the effort they gave," Rhoads said. "And to make a play on the 1-yard line, with their backs against the wall -- clear to everybody -- and have it taken away from them - that's hard to express. You don't just put an arm around a guy and tell him it's OK when that happens to him. I'm so proud of the effort my kids gave to win this football game tonight."
It was as an emotional speech as you could find in the best Hollywood sports movie. It also sent a message to his players that he was behind them - an 'us against the world' moment that could pay dividends down the road when he asks them to give it their all against another opponent, perhaps in a rivalry or revenge game.
Iowa State and Texas were involved in another emotional game in 2012. The Cyclones visited the Longhorns the week Texas legend Darrell Royal past away. Coach Mack Brown told the team in the middle of the week they would open the game in the Wishbone as a tribute. The crowd went wild, especially when the play went for a 47-yard TD! It was an emotional Cyclone that Iowa State had no chance against and Texas went on to win, 33-7, as 10-point chalk. Keep in mind Iowa State plays at Texas, October 18.
Sports handicappers long to find information or situational spots where a team is more motivated than usual, such as rivalry and revenge games. The rematch between Iowa State and Texas certainly looked like a revenge spot, as Iowa State should have won the game as a +8 home dog.
College football features countless examples each season, homecoming games, revenge spots, conference showdowns, angry coaches, teams that are holding grudges, all of which can show up on the gridiron in a super-human team effort for a big win. Matchups, home field and betting trends are all important to examine, but motivation can also be a huge edge on game day, one that successful sports bettors are eager to find and exploit at the betting window.
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