Finally, with all of the conferences in action, the Heisman Trophy race is heating up.
Prior to the season starting, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence appeared to be a shoo-in. The frontrunner had to sit for a few games due to coronavirus protocol.
With Lawrence sidelined, Clemson had a close-call with Boston College and then an overtime loss to Notre Dame. Upon his return this week, if he can crush FSU, Pitt, and Virginia Tech (Clemson's remaining regular-season games), what does it mean to the Heisman race?
Justin Fields, Mac Jones and Kyle Trask join Lawrence at 5-2 to win the coveted award. Alabama and Florida have both played six games and only have a few remaining on the schedule. Ohio State has played just three contests.
The Crimson Tide are undefeated and atop the polls with three opponents remaining on their schedule they can most likely defeat. The one-loss Gators have four games on tap, also against four beatable foes. The Buckeyes have only been in play for under a month and have a ton of football left. As we have seen in Big Ten play, anything can happen.
Yes, I know the Heisman Trophy is an individual award and not a team award. So why am I putting so much stress on teams and records? There’s a lot of politics involved with the presentation of this award and winning is certainly a big part of it. These four candidates (barring injury, illness or suspension) are locked in the rest of the field doesn't have a chance.
If Lawrence’s return brings Clemson three decisive wins, it will show how valuable he is. I don’t think Trask has the shine to beat the other names in voting. Fields has the talent but also has a ton of football to play. Jones leads one of the most-explosive offenses in the nation and if Alabama stays undefeated, I make him the top prospect to win the Heisman.
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):
Cincinnati -5.5 at Central Florida: This is one of the most exciting games on the board this week and certainly one of the most anticipated in the AAC this season. I have won with the Bearcats four or five times in this column in 2020 and I’m going to ride that train again here.
Cincy ranks 7th nationally and must stay undefeated to have a chance at the CFP. Not only are they winning games, they are covering too, riding a four-game ATS streak.
Central Florida does score a bit more behind college football’s top-ranked passing unit and also owns the top “O” in total yards. Their two losses happened in two shootouts with Tulsa and Memphis. But they have yet to face a defense as ferocious and well-balanced as they will here.
The Bearcats' stop-unit allows a mere 12.4 PPG and has snagged 12 turnovers. The defense will contain the UCF offense. Expect Cincinnati havoc-wreaker DE Myjai Sanders (five sacks) to get to UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel and force mistakes.
The Knights are 1-5 ATS the last six in conference play and 1-6 ATS the last seven at home. Under a TD is a gift. CINCINNATI
Georgia Southern at Army -4: Don’t blink here. You might miss an entire quarter in what might be the fastest moving clock in any contest this year. A pair of option rushing offenses meet up as the No. 2 and No. 4 in ground games in the nation take the field.
The Black Knights enter this outing ticked-off following last week’s crumbling at the hands of the Tulane Green Wave (a win for us in the column). One bright spot was the return of quarterback Christian Anderson, who got to shake off some cobwebs in the loss and will be sharper here in his second game back.
It’s not the offense that will shine here. It is the defensive play that will be the difference. And Army clearly possesses the better “D.” They yield 15.0 PPG and moreover, only 3.7 yards per carry.
The Eagles are 1-4 ATS the last five on the road, 1-5 ATS the last six following an ATS win, and 2-9 ATS the last 11 on field turf. The Black Knights are 6-1 ATS the last seven at home, 4-1 ATS the last five vs. the Sun Belt, and 5-2 ATS the last seven overall. ARMY
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma -7: This matchup doesn’t have the same luster it normally has. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer us bettors an edge.
Lincoln Riley has the Oklahoma offense looking like the unit many thought it would be at the start of the 2020 campaign. During their current four-game win-and-cover streak, the Sooners are averaging 52.5 PPG. Whether it’s Spencer Rattler (check status) or Tanner Mordecai at quarterback, it won’t matter. This unit has enough playmakers to make any QB shine.
Oklahoma State can't compete offensively here. Chuba Hubbard’s (check status) stats are way off his nearly 2,000 rushing performance from a season ago. This matchup specifically is where not having a great running attack will prove to be fatal for the Cowboys. The Sooners own one of the best run defenses (14th) in the land.
Oklahoma has taken the last five meetings in this series SU, going 4-1 ATS. OKLAHOMA
Tennessee at Auburn -10.5: Both teams were on a streak prior to a COVID-19 hiatus. Tennessee is on a four-game loss and no cover streak while Auburn won and covered its last two outings. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that those four Vols losses were all by double-digits (11, 21, 24, 23 points).
Bo Nix has led the Tigers offense with confidence making zero miscues the last several outings. The quarterback can rely on running back, Tank Bigsby (114.2 yards per game the last four) to keep the UT defense honest and allow him to open up the passing game.
The Volunteers have had trouble scoring (20.7 PPG) against just about every opponent, especially when facing the tougher SEC foes. And the Tigers own a tough “D.” The last time these two teams met, Tennessee prevailed, 30-24 as a 14.5-point underdog. Auburn hasn’t forgotten that stinging loss and will exact their revenge here.
The Tigers are 5-1 ATS the last six following a bye week, 10-3 ATS the last 13 as a home favorite, and 20-8 ATS the last 28 vs. teams with a losing record. AUBURN
Last week: 2-2