Don’t be so sure about a sure thing

It’s late summer and the vast wasteland of nothingness is upon the sports world. Unless you are geeked up for next Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game, one of the best exercises at this time of year is to project how many games your team will win.

And, if you are given toward that sort of thing, make a wager on it.

Let’s get something out of the way first: Betting over/under on the win totals of NFL teams is an exercise in futility. Try playing one of those knockout pools (where all you have to do is pick one winner every week) and see how long you last.

Jacksonville can beat Buffalo. It can happen. Oh wait … the Jaguars actually did make that happen last year. For that matter, they beat Indianapolis last year in the final game of the season when they weren’t even trying to win.

So give up on the NFL. Stick to college. But before you do, you might want to take off those team color-and-other-team-color glasses you have on.

I’m so stupid that I actually thought that I had sniffed out a sure thing last year. The number on Louisiana Tech last year was “only” 4.5 wins. Are you kidding me? I’ll have that check cashed by Homecoming!

Had Tech not blown a three-touchdown lead against Mississippi State and been able to defend a Hail Mary pass against SMU, I would have been one win away from glory by the end of September. The Bulldogs were 2-2 and could have easily been 4-0. So that hurt.

A one-possession loss to North Carolina State didn’t feel great, but UTEP was next, so that figured to be a W. Except Tech forgot to bring the offense and poured in a field goal. One. That’s it.

Next, former Tech coach Skip Holtz thought it might be a good idea to go for it on fourth down and long from near midfield in a tie game rather than just play for overtime and, of course, lost in regulation to Old Dominion.

Still stuck at two wins as we headed into November.

Even with all that, the math was still on my side. Three games left and none of the opponents were against teams with winning records. As Jim Carrey said to Lauren Holley in Dumb and Dumber — “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?!”

The Bulldogs did me a solid and beat Charlotte – hey, it’s a winning streak! – and the last two games were against conference bottom-feeders Southern Miss and Rice.

This was about to be the greatest ‘oh-by-the-way’ cover in betting history. Southern Miss literally didn’t have a quarterback and Rice hadn’t won a game in a month. After all of this misery — Tech could have easily been 7-3 at this point — all would be forgiven because the Bulldogs were getting two layups to close the season and cover the 4.5-win total.

Or so I thought.

The Mississippi State loss was troubling. The SMU game was unlucky. Maybe UTEP can be written off as one of those things. Old Dominion was a poor decision in the heat of the moment.

But losing to a Southern Miss team that was hapless even before it literally used its leading rusher to play quarterback against Tech was simply inexcusable.

It would have been even worse if Tech had actually beaten Rice in the final week and I would have finished one win away. Instead, the Bulldogs did me a favor and sank to the occasion to finish with three wins.

In Week 1, I was watching Tech build up a 20-point lead on my iPhone while at a wedding ceremony (thankfully, not mine) and thinking I was the smartest bettor ever. How’d that turn out?

As a wise man once told me, that’s why they call it gambling. Not sure-thinging.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com