It started as an arguably reasonable notion.
Robert Doran, a New Jersey restauranteur, was partying at a wedding on a Saturday in April with several former Michigan football players, some of whom had transferred to Utah State. As the night continued and alcohol flowed freely, his Wolverines-turned-Aggies insiders gave him the skinny.
The Aggies surprised everyone last year with their 11-3 season and a win in the L.A. Bowl. Wide Receiver Xavier Williams had transferred from Alabama. The former Michigan players were hungry. USU has several returners on the roster.
So as Doran relaxed the next night at a Russian-style bathhouse in New Jersey owned by his gambling buddy Peter Kizenko, he suggested they put some money on the Aggies going over their projected win totals for the season. Oddsmakers put USU between seven and 7.5 wins in 2022.
But that conversation quickly turned into checking USU’s schedule, then Alabama’s (the Aggies play the Crimson Tide on Sept. 3). They checked the futures and saw Utah State had 1,000/1 odds to win the national championship.
That brought about a bold — and perhaps unreasonable — proclamation from Kizenko.
“F— it,” Kizenko recalls saying. “Let’s hammer it.”
The pair bet $1,000 with Caesar’s Sportsbook for the Aggies to win the title, splitting the amount evenly. The next day, after noticing Caesars didn’t lower the odds, Kizenko put down another $1,000 on the Aggies himself.
ESPN reported that a third person also bet $1,000. That seemingly caused Caesar’s to lower the odds to 750/1. For a $500 bet, that’s $375,000 in winnings. For a $1,500 bet, a payday of $1.125 million.
ESPN also reported that as of mid-July, there were more $1,000 bets for the Aggies to win the national title than any other team except Alabama and Ohio State.
Kizenko said he knew about as much about Utah State before betting on it as he did about “the GDP of Nigeria.” That’s why he was surprised Doran suggested the Aggies at all.
Similarly, Doran said he did no research whatsoever into USU that justified him making that large a wager.
“My only in is three kids telling me that they’re f—-ing stacked,” Doran said. “That’s the only research I have. There’s no research. And there’s no reason and there’s nothing.”
It goes without saying that, on paper, it’s highly unlikely that the Aggies beat Alabama, let alone with the national championship. But that hasn’t deterred Doran and Kizenko, who said they will attend the USU-Alabama game and sit behind the USU bench. Doran bought an Aggies jersey he will wear to the game, and Kizenko said he will buy a large pennant to display.
“I feel like they’re my brothers now,” Kizenko said.
And if Utah State pulls off the upsets of all upsets, more games may be on the horizon for the pair.
“If they beat Alabama, we will be at every Utah State game,” Doran said. “Every single one.”
Kizenko added: “I might go the next week. I might get on the team plane. I might become a graduate student from a late admission.”