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Tough losses are a part of the game

Every so often a bettor comes across a game that looks like a winner. Sometimes these contests favor the favorites while other times the underdogs are the top play.

Either way, the gambler is confident his bet will come out on the winning side The only question is how much money should be wagered? The answer usually relies on how much money a bettor is willing to risk.

Many of these games revolve around teams faced with difficult situations, such as a game sandwiched between a pair of important contests against top-ranked opponents.

Once such scenario took place this past Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

Vanderbilt hosted Florida, a team coming off a huge home win over then-fourth- ranked LSU. The Commodores also lucked out because the Gators will be playing another top opponent this coming Saturday when former coach Steve Spurrier brings his standout South Carolina Gamecocks to Gainesville.

In the middle of the sandwich was a road tilt at Vanderbilt, a club that already played South Carolina at home and only lost by four points. The Commodores, who outgained the Gamecocks, 276 yards to 272, actually led by a field goal heading into the fourth quarter, but Marcus Lattimore scored a fourth-quarter touchdown, leading South Carolina to a 17-13 victory.

Vanderbilt came into the Florida contest riding high off its first Southeastern Conference win of the season at Missouri. The Commodores were ready to snap the 10-game home losing streak to Florida and the oddsmakers were prepared as well since the opening line had the Gators favored by only 10 points.

To put that in perspective, two years ago an unranked 5-3 Florida squad was favored by 14 at LP Field against a 2-6 Vanderbilt club. In addition, the Gators were the fourth-ranked club four years ago when they went into Nashville against a 5-3 Vanderbilt team and were favored by 23 points. Coming into this contest, the fourth-ranked Gators were undefeated at 5-0 while the Commodores were 2-3 (1-3 against Football Bowl Subdivision competition).

The public jumped all over Vanderbilt during the week as the line amazingly dropped down to around a touchdown. It seemed as if the entire nation was on the Commodores' bandwagon until later in the week when the line shifted to nine and then 9.5 points.

THE GAME

Vanderbilt jumped on top 7-0 midway through the first quarter with a Jordan Rodgers (Aaron's little brother) 10-yard strike to Jordan Matthews, but Florida fought back and took an 11-7 halftime lead. Despite being outgained 215-138, the Commodores and their backers had to be happy because they trailed by only four points.

The Commodores continued covering the spread until 4:44 left in the third quarter when Jeff Driskel ran for his second touchdown of the game. The Gators led 18-7 after Caleb Sturgis nailed the extra point.

The wheels almost came loose for Vanderbilt when Rodgers fumbled inside his own 20-yard line, resulting in a Sturgis 29-yard field goal early in the fourth. However, the Commodores battled back with a Zac Stacy touchdown run on the following drive that brought the deficit back down to seven points.

After Sturgis nailed another field goal, Rodgers began the next drive by hitting Matthews for a 53-yard gain, which was followed by three straight Stacy rushes that went for at least six yards.

The home team had a great chance to pretty much ice the cover with the ball on Florida's 3-yard line and a 2nd-and-goal with about four minutes to go. Unfortunately, the Gators defense came up strong and held Vanderbilt to a short field goal.

With less then three minutes left to play, and facing a seven-point deficit, all Vanderbilt needed to do was hold Florida to one three-and-out series. Heck, even if the Gators picked up a couple of first downs, the clock would eventually wind down with a 24-17 final score and a Commodores cover.

Unthinkably, Vanderbilt allowed Driskel to run 70 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the drive. The only positive was the score did not take much time off the clock, meaning Vanderbilt had one last chance to cover with a late meaningless touchdown.

Rodgers drove his team down the field and with one minute remaining the Commodores were suddenly inside Florida's 10-yard line. Nevertheless, the Gators defense was up to the task and Rodgers wound up losing nine yards on two consecutive plays.

Vanderbilt had one chance left on a 4th-and-17 play from the 17-yard line. but an incomplete pass wrapped up the straight-up and against-the-spread loss. It was the second time the Commodores failed to convert inside the Gators' 10 in the second half. The first one resulted in a blocked field goal followed by Driskel's second of three touchdown runs.

Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce the way you want it to and a possible winning wager falls flat. The best thing to do is brush it off and chalk it up to bad luck.

Don't dwell on the negatives because not even the No. 1 gambler in the country wins every game he or she bets. Think positively and make up for the loss the following Saturday.

AFTER SEVEN WEEKS

My overall record through Week 7 is 50-45 after a 5-7 week. The five-star plays are 9-6, the three-star selections are 8-12, the two-star picks stand at 22-16 and the one-star plays are 11-11.

As a reminder, the five-star plays are when my personal plays coincide with my power rating plays (games with at least a five-point differential between my line and the actual line). The three-star choices are my personal picks, the two-star plays are the games the power rating system picks and the one-star plays are my personal secondary selections.

THIS WEEK'S JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"

1) Alabama, 105; 2) Oregon, 103.5; 3) Florida State, 102.5; 4-T) South Carolina and Oklahoma, 101.5; 6) USC, 100; 7) LSU, 99; 8) Georgia, 98.5; 9) Florida, 98; 10-T) Notre Dame and Michigan, 97; 12) Texas A&M, 95.

(The Top 12 is not a reflection of a given team's won-loss record. It is based on power ratings used to predict spreads for the upcoming week. At the beginning of the season, all 124 FBS teams are assigned a power number, which changes on a week-to-week basis depending on the results of the previous week.)