Clemson still title favorite despite Lawrence virus, Heisman Trophy odds shook up

Trevor Lawrence (16) celebrates a touchdown
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Ricky Dimon

NCAAF · 1 year ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Trevor Lawrence missed the Clemson Tigers’ come-from-behind win over the Boston College Eagles on Saturday due to testing positive for COVID-19. Following his team’s 34-28 victory, head coach Dabo Swinney announced that Lawrence will also be sidelined from next weekend’s showdown against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Missing two games is obviously a big blow for Lawrence and—with Notre Dame undefeated and enjoying home-field advantage in the upcoming contest—it could be problematic for the Tigers, as well.

Let’s take a look at how some of college football’s most notable odds have been impacted by the Lawrence development.

National Championship: Still No. 1, still the favorites

The junior’s absence has done nothing to change Clemson’s status as the favorite to win the College Football Playoff. Really the only difference is that the Tigers may not be quite as much of a slam dunk as they once were. They had been all the way up (or down, depending on how you look at it) to +135 at some books to win the national title, and you can currently get them at +175.

Is Swinney’s squad still worth a shot at that number? Well, if you were on the bandwagon before Lawrence got corona then there is probably no reason to jump off of it now. Presumably he will be back for the last three regular-season games, and even if he isn’t Clemson should still take care of Florida State, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech. That leaves Notre Dame as the only sticky spot on the schedule, but the Tigers can probably afford one loss. Even if they fall in South Bend, they would almost certainly get another shot at the Fighting Irish in the ACC Championship Game… with Lawrence under center.

It’s hard to see Clemson not being a part of the playoff as a one-loss ACC champion. After all, Alabama is the only legitimate powerhouse other than Clemson that is currently still undefeated (Ohio State may be in the discussion eventually, but the Big Ten has been on the field for just two weeks; the Pac-12 hasn’t even started playing yet).

And it’s not like the Tigers are automatically going to lose at fourth-ranked Notre Dame just because they don’t have Lawrence. In fact, they are favored by 6.5 points! Sure they struggled against Boston College, but the second half was impressive on both sides of the ball. Newly-christened ACC all-time rushing leader Travis Etienne and a wildly talented defense are capable of shouldering the load once again against the Irish.

Heisman Trophy: A new sheriff—or two—in town

Lawrence’s Heisman campaign, on the other hand, is in a more precious position. Once a clear favorite to lift the stiff-armed statue, the Cartersville, Ga. native is now a +400 third choice. He has been overtaken by Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (+125) and Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields (+150). Jones is averaging 366 passing yards per game with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions. Ohio State has played only two games, but Fields is off to a strong start with 594 passing yards, 50 rushing yards, seven total touchdowns (six passing, one rushing), and zero interceptions.

Lawrence has done no wrong, either, averaging 305.5 passing yards per game with 17 TDs and two picks. He has also scored four times on the ground. The only problem, of course, is that he is going to miss at least two out of 11 regular-season games; that’s more than 18 percent of the schedule for those counting.

As such, Lawrence is going to need some help from Jones and Fields to get back in the picture. Losses by those guys would help; Alabama still has to play Auburn followed by a likely rematch with Georgia in the SEC Championship, while the Buckeyes get to play both Indiana and Michigan at home but Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship may not be a pushover.

It’s not over for Lawrence yet… but there’s a reason why he’s now a +400 underdog.

Pickswise is your home for the best free college football previews and predictions all season long. Make sure to check out our NCAAF Picks page!

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