NCAA Football Betting Odds: Week 5 Line Movements & Last-Minute News
My plan was to lead this story with a bigger preview of the No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Penn State showdown because I believe that's a de facto Big Ten East Division title game (sorry Michigan and Michigan State fans) and probably for a spot in the College Football Playoff as either OSU or PSU will beat the Big Ten West champion.
However, what's going on at Clemson takes precedence. To little surprise, Coach Dabo Swinney has named true freshman Trevor Lawrence his starting quarterback going forward over incumbent Kelly Bryant. This is a no-brainer. Lawrence was the top-rated quarterback in most scouting services in this year's class, has a way higher ceiling and simply had outplayed Bryant - who started the first four games. Bryant has led eight scoring drives with four touchdowns accounted for, while Lawrence has 15 scoring drives with nine touchdowns.
Lawrence looks like a future superstar and Heisman winner, and we all remember how much Bryant struggled in last year's CFP semifinal loss to Alabama. So, what's the big deal here? Bryant is taking his ball and going home, taking his redshirt year immediately (he'll transfer), and that brings us to the new rule in college football this year.
As long as someone plays in no more than four games in a given season - it can be four at the end, four spread out, it doesn't matter - then said player can redshirt/transfer without losing a year of eligibility. Some criticized this rule, because what's to stop a Nick Saban from playing some super-talented freshman the final three games of the season but still redshirting him? If Bryant had played this week against Syracuse or any game after, his career was over after 2018. Swinney offered to keep Bryant on the roster but not play him. You can understand Bryant's skepticism, though, because if Lawrence goes down, freshmen Chase Brice and Ben Batson are the only other quarterbacks available.
That's where I can see this derailing Clemson's run to another playoff spot: a Lawrence injury. Bryant would have been arguably the second-best backup in the country. By comparison, Alabama's former starter Jalen Hurts (who is the best) has accepted his backup role and stayed put. Now the Tide are covered.
The Tigers host Syracuse on Saturday, and the Orange stunned Clemson last year in the Carrier Dome. However, this line has skyrocketed from an open of Tigers -18.5 to -25. That's the biggest move on the board.
Here are notes for some of Saturday's games around the country, in no particular order.
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Penn State (+3, 70.5): This line was as high as Buckeyes -5.5 early in the week. I believe they can afford to lose this more and still win the East Division. That's because OSU will be favored the rest of the way - unless stellar young QB Dwayne Haskins goes down. The only realistic challenges on the schedule are at Michigan State and home to Michigan. The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, not only play both Michigan schools (UM in Ann Arbor) but also Iowa and Wisconsin (both in Happy Valley). I'm pretty sure Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa will win the Heisman, but either Haskins or PSU QB Trace McSorley can stay in the race with a big game and victory. The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five.
Oklahoma State at Kansas (+18, 62): This line has risen three points. OSU also has lost a key player to that new transfer/redshirt rule this week - get used to "transfer roundups" after Week 4 each year going forward. That's receiver Jalen McCleskey. He caught 50 passes for 645 yards and five touchdowns in 2017 for the Cowboys and ranks sixth all-time at OSU in receptions and ninth in touchdown catches. McCleskey was expected to have an even bigger season with the graduation of James Washington, but McCleskey felt he wasn't getting the ball enough. He had 15 catches for 155 yards and two scores in 2018. The Pokes fell out of the Top 25 with last week's surprisingly lopsided 41-17 home loss to Texas Tech. Naturally, Kansas lost its Big 12 opener, 26-7 at Baylor last week. It would be an upset per usual for the Jayhawks to win a conference game. The Cowboys have won eight consecutive meetings, and a win Saturday would tie OSU's longest active win streak against any opponent.
No. 14 Michigan at Northwestern (+14, 46.5): This line has risen two points and the total a huge drop from 53. The Wildcats also lost a key player this week, but to retirement and not transfer. That's running back Jeremy Larkin, who sadly is retiring from the sport after recently being diagnosed with cervical stenosis, a narrowing in the upper part of the spine. It's not life-threatening but could be if he kept playing football. Larkin had carried 72 times for 346 yards and five scores this year; no one else on the team has more than 12 carries. The Cats did have a bye week to prepare for the Wolverines, who are crushing people since that opening loss at Notre Dame. All those wins were at home, though. UM has won five straight in this series but schools haven't met in three years.
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