Submitted by Jim Feist on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM
by 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 Florida State took on South Florida last month it wasn't just a battle for the pride of the state of Florida. It wasn't even a conference battle, but South Florida was home and getting respect from oddsmakers as an 8-point home dog. Sure, the bulls were motivated, playing at home, however it was a difficult spot for them because of emotion on the other side of the field. The Seminoles were off an embarrassing shellacking by Louisville, 63-20, the most points ever allowed by Florida State. They had to watch lighlights of Louisville all week while watching their team tumble in the national rankings. Yes, they had a chip on their shoulder as they pounded South Florida with ease.
Other times revenge can come into play. When Missouri won its SEC showdown with South Carolina a few seasons ago, 21-20, it was a game with emotional angles all over the field. South Carolina had shocked the Tigers the year before, 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.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is a master at finding motivation. When they had a Big 10 showdown against Wisconsin, 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.
That year Wisconsin gave the Buckeyes all they could handle in Madison before falling 21-14 in overtime, and Ohio State won again the next year, 31-24 (leading 31-7 after three). Meyer saw an opportunity to provide some extra motivation to his team against the Badgers, implying that Ohio State was the underdog even though they had beaten Wiscy the last two years!
Rivalry games can provide extra incentive -- as well as emotional go-against spots the following week. When underdog Iowa State upset state rival Iowa, 20-17, they were fueled by rivaly. However, the next game Iowa State got steamrolled by Baylor, 49-28, getting outgained 601-339.
Texas/Oklahoma is another big rivalry contest. Remember a year ago when the Sooners lost 23-17 as a 16-point favorite? Kansas State remembers, because that's who the Sooners blew out the following week, 55-0 as a 4-point favorite.
Other times off-field factors can weigh in on whether a a team is ready to play or not, such as suspensions or coaching changes. Iowa State and Texas were involved in an emotional game like that 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 spot on the field and in the stands, as Texas went on to win, 33-7, as 10-point chalk.
Sports handicappers long to find information or situational spots where a team is more motivated than usual, such as rivalry and revenge games. 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.