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2005 Florida Gators Handicapping Review

 

By Tom Wilkinson

 

The Florida Gators were a money machine, or so it seemed, under head coach Steve Spurrier, as it seemed that the sports betting odds makers could not post a line high enough against the Gators. With the departure of Spurrier, however, those sports handicapping trends suffered a near immediate change as new coach Ron Zook proved to not be the cash cow that Spurrier was. This was a dangerous sports handicapping dynamic to the casual college football bettor who relied on “name brand” or power teams. To put it another way, the Gators still carried the Florida “brand” but lacked the machinery (Spurrier) that made it work. After Zook split his first two games against the odds upon taking over in 2002, Florida went 7-14 against the online sports betting sites and sportsbooks the rest of the way heading into the 2004 campaign. Zook was on the hot seat before coaching his first game in “The Swamp” and don’t for a minute think that his performance against the number wasn’t a factor in the heat being turned up even higher by the Gator faithful.

Despite all of the controversy there were high hopes for the Gators as even his harshest critics acknowledged Zook, as a great recruiter. The Gators beat the sports betting odds in their first two games but the second, (a 28-30 loss at Tennessee), did not go down well and the Gators were flat in their next game in which they beat Kentucky 20-3 as 18.5-point home chalks. They then seemed to gain momentum back after a nice 45-30 home win over Arkansas as 7.5-point chalks which set up a huge national TV game against defending national champion LSU the following week. The Gators were installed as 3-point home chalks and literally gave the game away in a 21-24 loss that was to be the beginning of the end both for their season and Zook’s tenure as head coach. Online sports betting blogs were full of rage by angry bettors who had Florida on their list of football picks.

Florida took their frustration out of Middle Tennessee in their following game with an easy 52-16 win and cover before heading off to face lightly regarded Mississippi State, a team so bad that they lost at home to a 1-AA squad earlier in the year. Many online sports betting blogs had posts that said, “Not even Zook could screw this up.” But Florida lost straight up 31-38 and Zook was fired after the game, though allowed to finish the season. In a great sports handicapping lesson on emotion and motivation, the Florida players rallied around Zook, whom they loved, and went undefeated against the odds in their final four regular season games.
 

 


 

 

 

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