Heisman field narrows

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With the 2020 college football season coming to an end, there is only one more week for pollsters to decide on the coveted Heisman Trophy recipient.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen. Right now, two players lead the list way ahead of the rest of the pack. DeVonta Smith is -180 while Mac Jones is +155. There was certainly no shortage of candidates this season. Trevor Lawrence, Kyle Trask, and Najee Harris are the next in line after Smith and Jones (no pun intended).

But what happened to guys like Sincere McCormick of UTSA who ran for 1,467 yards and led the nation in rushing? Or Breece Hall of Iowa State, who was one yard behind him but had significantly more touchdowns? Did a guy like Buffalo running back Jarret Patterson ever stand a chance? To be quite honest, he didn’t. Neither did Camerun Peoples of Appalachian State or a handful of others that aren’t household names, didn’t play on the final top-five teams, nor play on television regularly.

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There is a certain amount bureaucracy, even in something as sacred as the Heisman Trophy.

And just to bring back Smith and Jones, the last time a wide receiver won the award was back in 1991 when Michigan’s Desmond Howard took it home.

One thing for sure, the voters will be watching the games this week and trust me, those who play well and win have a big edge over those who don’t.

Here are this week’s Best Bets (Lines are as of Tuesday and can change. If a line is around a Hot Number or moves against us, be smart):

Thursday

Mississippi State vs. Tulsa -2.5: It’s just not a good situation for Mike Leach and his Mississippi State Bulldogs. In a “normal” season, this 3-7 team wouldn’t be able to play in a Bowl. Several players have opted out. The few wins they had were far from convincing. They account for a dismal, 20.7 PPG. And they are one of the nation’s worst at turning the ball over heading into the Armed Forces Bowl.

It’s the opposite for the Golden Hurricane. They are money, covering seven of eight outings in 2020. Their only losses came at the hands of notables Oklahoma State and Cincinnati. And they are stacked with talent on both sides of the ball. Particularly on the “D” side where they allow just 20.8 PPG. Tulsa is 6-1 ATS the last seven Bowls. TULSA

Ball State vs. San Jose State -9.5: The MAC meets the Mountain West in the Arizona Bowl in Tucson and if ever a team was in letdown mode, it is Ball State following its 38-28 victory over Buffalo in the MAC championship game nearly two weeks ago. 

This is the matchup they will sorely miss their top running back Caleb Huntley, who opted out. Playing in the MAC, the Cardinals have not faced a defense as well-balanced or as ferocious as the Spartans (13th, 17.9 PPG allowed).

On the other side of the ball, look for quarterback Nick Starkel (1,906 yards passing, 65.1% completion rate, 16 TDs, 4 INTs) and the top-20 San Jose State passing attack to put up the best numbers of 2020 against the 119th ranked pass defense of Ball State. The Cardinals are 0-4 ATS the last four Bowl games. The Spartans are 6-0 ATS the last six in the month of December with plenty of motivation. 

Yes, 9.5 is a big number, but the Spartans are looking to finish the season undefeated and coach Brent Brennan accepted a contract extension to remain in San Jose, which should have his guys fired up and ready to reward his loyalty to them. SAN JOSE STATE

Friday

Cincinnati +7 vs. Georgia: There are those out there that will automatically side with the SEC rep over the AAC rep here in the Peach Bowl. Well, that may have worked in the past, but 2020 is full of surprises.

With all respect to Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs, they are not unbeatable. They were picked apart by Mac Jones and Kyle Trask. Desmond Riddler (2,090 yards passing, 66.4% completion rate, 17/6) has an arsenal of receivers to dissect the 90th ranked pass defense of Georgia.

And don’t think for a moment that the Bearcats ”D”, which ranks 8th nationally (16.0 PPG) can be intimidated here. Cincy is 4-1 ATS the last five nonconference games and 4-0 ATS the last four games played as an underdog. CINCINNATI

Ohio State vs. Clemson -7.5: It’s the Sugar Bowl and the national semifinals. Many people in and out of college football feel that Ohio State does not belong in the CFP. I say the Buckeyes do for the sole purpose of them being outclassed gets us paid here.

Just over the past month, the Buckeyes have struggled with Rutgers, Indiana and Northwestern. They have gotten burned for 260.3 yards per game in the air in 2020.

Two words: Trevor Lawrence. He is always superb, but since returning to action, he has been stellar. Don’t forget, he personally took down Ohio State in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl when the Buckeyes were truly loaded. 

Not only will he shred them in the air but the stingy Clemson defense (27th vs. the pass, 9th vs. the run, 11th in scoring) will shut them down offensively.

The Buckeyes are 1-5 ATS the last six vs. the ACC and 0-4 ATS the last four vs. winners. The Tigers are 10-2 ATS the last 12 Bowls and 17-4 ATS the last 21 on neutral sites. CLEMSON

Saturday

Mississippi vs. Indiana -7.5: Things are going to get ugly for the Mississippi offense here as they head to the Outback Bowl. Their two best receivers, Elijah Moore and Kenny Yeboah opted out prior to the LSU matchup (53-48 loss and no cover). The duo caught 55% of the passes this season and 50% of the TD’s. 

Without the tandem on the field, Indiana and their 19th ranked defense can key on the ground game.

But things get even uglier as the Hoosiers’ offense (30.1 PPG) line up against just about the worst defense in college football (127th vs. the pass, 104th vs. the rush, 122nd in scoring). Believe it or not, backup quarterback Jack Tuttle owns a better QB rating than did starter Michael Penix Jr.

Indiana is 7-0 ATS in 2020, 4-1 ATS last five vs. losers, and 4-1 ATS last five nonconference games. INDIANA

Last week: 4-1

Season: 32-23

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