It was the high-ankle sprain heard ‘round the betting world.
When Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was injured vs. Tennessee, futures markets involving the college football national championship and Heisman Trophy adjusted quickly. Alabama was no longer well clear of other top playoff threats. Tagovailoa had been the favorite to win the Heisman, but he can’t do that in a walking boot!
Here are this week’s odds from the respected Westgate in Las Vegas. Equivalent win percentages are in parenthesis…
▪ National Championship: Alabama 11/4 (27%), Clemson 7/2 (22%), Ohio State 4/1 (20%), Oklahoma 9/2 (18%), LSU 9/2 (18%). (Those add up to 105%...sports books build universes larger than 100% to create a house edge. Current dark horses are Georgia at 16/1 and 6%, Penn State 25/1 and 4%).
Only four teams can reach the playoffs. Late-season musical chairs will eliminate one of the five top contenders (with the score from LSU at Alabama Saturday Nov. 9 playing loudest). In the Final Four, it might be a virtual “name out of a hat” if Tagovailoa can’t return to his best form.
In the Heisman race, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow moved to the top of the list because he’s impressed against the toughest schedule…and has a chance to further impress against the likes of Auburn (Saturday, CBS, 2:30 p.m.), Alabama, and possibly the SEC East champion in the conference’s title tilt.
▪ Heisman Trophy: Joe Burrow, LSU 6/5 (45%); Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma 7/5 (42%); Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama 7/2 (22%); Justin Fields, Ohio State 10/1 (9%).
If you’re wondering about Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, he’s plummeted all the way to 100/1 underachieving against a soft schedule.
If Tagovailoa only misses one game (he’ll definitely sit out Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff vs. Arkansas that will be nationally televised by ESPN), then stars through an SEC championship run, he could impress Heisman voters enough to win the award. That’s a big if! Burrow would solidify his position in “precincts” outside the Big 12 and Big 10 by continuing his excellent play in remaining challenges.
For pointspread players, LSU will likely close around an 11.5 to 12-point favorite Saturday in Baton Rouge against Auburn. The Bayou Bengals just pushed at -14 on the same field against Florida, who beat Auburn 24-13. Alabama is still a whopping 33-point favorite over outmanned Arkansas.
▪ There are two other high-profile battles of ranked teams Saturday in addition to #9 Auburn at #2 LSU.
In the first TV window, #13 Wisconsin visits #3 Ohio State (FOX, 11 a.m.). That potential Big 10 championship preview lost some luster when the Badgers were stunned by Illinois last week as 30-point favorites. The Buckeyes will likely close as two-TD favorites.
In prime time, #8 Notre Dame visits #19 Michigan (ABC, 6:30 p.m.). The Wolverines were installed early as a 3-point favorite. Strong support for the underdog Fighting Irish might eventually flip the favorite by kickoff.
▪ Locally, all three Mississippi schools lost and failed to cover last Saturday. Mississippi State (+19) fell to LSU 36-13 in Starkville, getting outgained 413-340 on 6.9 to 5.2 yards-per-play and losing the turnover category 3-0. Ole Miss (+6) lost to Texas A&M 24-17 in Oxford, holding its own statistically but hurt by an Aggies fumble return touchdown. Southern Miss (-2) lost at Louisiana Tech 45-30, getting outgained 476-437 on 7.8 to 6.2 yards-per-play and losing the turnover category 4-2.
Ole Miss has a bye this week. Saturday, Mississippi State will like close as a 10 to 10.5-point underdog at Texas A&M (SEC Network, 11 a.m.), while Southern Miss will likely close as a road favorite of that size in Conference USA play at Rice (noon).
▪ Horrible news for NBA fans on the Gulf Coast. Projected Rookie of the Year favorite Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans underwent surgery on a torn meniscus earlier this week. He’s expect to miss 6-8 weeks. That by itself might take him out of the ROY running. Sports books dropped the Pellies’ projected Regular Season Win total from 40 to 36 or less depending on the store.
Big basketball betting attractions on the immediate schedule…
Thursday’s TNT twinbill: Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks visit James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the Houston Rockets (7 p.m.), followed by Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers visiting Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors (9:30 p.m.)
Friday’s ESPN doubleheader: Dallas at New Orleans (7 p.m.), followed by the Utah Jazz visiting LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers (9:30 p.m.), “health permitting” in the case of all superstars!).
▪ VSiN returns Saturday to recap the New Orleans Saints’ surprisingly easy 36-25 upset of the Chicago Bears, and preview the potential letdown spot at home against the Arizona Cardinals (Sunday, CBS, 3:25 noon).