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NFL’s Thursday Night Football is a joke

Memo to the NFL: Time to banish Thursday Night Football — except for Thanksgiving, which always has been an American tradition.

Houston and Cincinnati gave us a perfect example of why the NFL is hurting its product. They played a game that featured 16 punts and one touchdown. A good friend told me he fell asleep during the live broadcast, then fell asleep while watching the replay.

The larger issue is the health of the players. A rights-holder told me that the league always complains when the concussion issue is discussed on telecasts. Therein lies the real problem.

The Texans had five players in concussion protocol. To demand that this team turn around after two days off, get on an airplane Wednesday and play a game Thursday was ludicrous. If the players association is really behind its athletes and cares about their health, this should become a major issue when the contract expires after the 2020 season.

The one moment of brilliance in Thursday’s game was delivered by Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson in his first NFL start. His 49-yard scramble before halftime for the only touchdown was a brilliant piece of running. He was coming off a sprained ankle and also could have used a few extra days of rest.

Instead of being ridiculously greedy, the NFL should be trying to put its best product on the field every game. And that brings us to the Bengals. There is absolutely no excuse for a team playing its first two games at home being unable to score a touchdown in eight quarters.

The level of play has gotten so bad that the games aren’t even much fun to gamble on. Maybe my friend had the right idea.

College menu

The premier game of the college football weekend features reigning national champion and 3-point favorite Clemson traveling to Louisville to tackle Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. It’s only the fourth time that a defending national champion has played a reigning Heisman winner — the last was four years ago when Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M lost to Alabama 49-42.

This was a fabulous game at Clemson last year. It came down to a late fourth-down play in which Louisville came up a yard short at the 3. Had the Cardinals scored — assuming Pittsburgh still would have beaten Clemson six weeks later — we would have a different national champion.

This game features the brilliance of Jackson against the defensive prowess of the Tigers, who sacked Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham 11 times last week. If Louisville pulls the slight upset and Jackson is his usual brilliant self, he’s headed for the first back-to-back Heismans since Ohio State’s Archie Griffin in 1973 and 1974.

There are two interesting conference games Saturday in the Southeastern Conference East. Tennessee is a 4½-point underdog against host Florida, and South Carolina is a 6½-point home favorite against Kentucky.

Georgia stamped itself as the East favorite by winning at Notre Dame last week. The winner of the Tennessee-Florida game becomes the No. 1 challenger, with the Gamecocks a dark horse if they defeat Kentucky.

In the SEC West, keep an eye on Louisiana State laying 7½ at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have a coach (Dan Mullen) and quarterback (Nick Fitzpatrick) capable of pulling the upset.

On the West Coast, we’ll be watching Texas at Southern California, a 16-point favorite. This is the first time the two have met since that classic championship game at the Rose Bowl in January 2006. Or is it?

A story that made me chuckle this week was USC claiming it doesn’t recognize that loss to Texas because the NCAA put the Trojans on probation because of Reggie Bush’s ineligibility. When the NCAA stripped the Trojans of their wins and the previous year’s national championship, USC cheered everybody up by saying it was stripped of its losses, too.

That has me wondering: Will my guys in the desert give me my money back on that losing USC bet that night?

Brent Musburger’s betting column appears Saturday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His show on the Vegas Stats & Information Network can be heard on SiriusXM 204 and livestreamed at reviewjournal.com/vegas-stats-information-network.

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