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Louisville’s Lamar Jackson sees stock rise at sports books

New relationships can energize your life. But this is not about finding someone on Match.com or Tinder. Lamar Jackson arrived to us seemingly overnight, and the Louisville quarterback is the newest sensation in college football.

Jackson is a 19-year-old sophomore who made a quiet introduction last year. In the past month, it’s as if he won “America’s Got Talent” and hit the big time.

In late August, Jackson was getting 100-1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy, and the Cardinals were at 60-1 to win the national championship. At the Westgate sports book today, Jackson is the minus-275 favorite to take the Heisman, and the Cardinals are at 5-1 to win the title.

“Louisville has a lot of hype going,” Wynn Las Vegas sports book director John Avello said. “Right now, everybody is betting Louisville in the futures and betting the quarterback to win the Heisman.”

It’s enough hype to make Deshaun Watson and Clemson a Page 2 story this week and a home underdog Saturday.

Avello, who posts his college lines at 3 p.m. Sundays, opened the fifth-ranked Tigers as 2½-point favorites over the No. 3 Cardinals. The bettors disagreed, and the market has moved to Louisville minus-2.

The shift in opinions is significant. Watson, a junior quarterback, was a top candidate to win the Heisman, a season after leading Clemson to the national title game against Alabama, and the Tigers own an 18-game win streak in Death Valley.

“It’s tough to go in there and win,” Avello said. “The general public is in love with Louisville, and I knew the public was going to bet Louisville. But I think there will be money coming back the other way.”

Jackson has earned the hype by totaling 25 touchdowns (13 passing, 12 rushing) in four games. He helped the Cardinals, who have scored 59 points or more in each game, crush Florida State 63-20 two weeks ago. Jackson is a true dual-threat quarterback, as is Watson, who is just off to a slower start.

A tough Clemson defense, allowing only 218 yards and 11 points per game, can either slow the roll of the Jackson Heisman train or launch him to the ceremony in New York City.

“The line was very predictable and the movement, too,” said Robert White, a sharp college football bettor who lives on the East Coast and frequents Las Vegas books. “If Louisville is ever going to beat the Tigers, it is this year, right? I like the Tigers. Louisville has not faced a defense like Clemson’s, and this will be a 10-point victory.”

The winner of the Atlantic Coast Conference showdown is a good bet to reach the four-team playoff. The loser is not necessarily eliminated.

Notre Dame is obviously out of the picture, however. The Fighting Irish flopped as 21-point favorites in an embarrassing 38-35 home loss to Duke last week, and a third loss in four games forced coach Brian Kelly into an emotional eruption.

It’s tough to predict how the Irish might respond Saturday as 11-point favorites over Syracuse at East Rutherford, New Jersey. Kelly’s future is becoming a subject of speculation, but he’s not alone.

Pressure is mounting on Penn State coach James Franklin, who’s in must-win spots each week. Gus Malzahn is in trouble at Auburn, Clay Helton is on shaky ground at Southern California, and Mark Helfrich might get fired if Oregon continues trending in the wrong direction. Oklahoma and Texas meet Oct. 8, and the losing coach — Bob Stoops or Charlie Strong — will feel even more heat.

“I think there are going to be a lot of big jobs opening up,” The Gold Sheet handicapper Bruce Marshall.

Louisiana State made the first move by firing Les Miles after a wild loss at Auburn a week ago. Ed Orgeron was promoted to interim head coach of the Tigers, who are 13-point home favorites over Missouri. Orgeron is a fiery guy, and I would not bet against him this week.

“I don’t think the team will be saddened by Les Miles leaving,” Avello said.

CLOSING NUMBERS

A regrettable bet on LSU was one of my mistakes last week. I also lost a foolish play on UNLV and a fluke with UCLA, which turned into an unforgettable bad beat on the final play of the game.

It’s time to bounce back from a weak 1-4 effort. At 10-10-1 for the season, here are eight plays for Saturday (home team in CAPS):

PENN STATE (-2½) over Minnesota; MARYLAND (-10) over Purdue; CLEMSON (+2) over Louisville; GEORGIA (+3½) over Tennessee; CALIFORNIA (-1½) over Utah; Texas (+2½) over OKLAHOMA STATE; SOUTH ALABAMA (+20) over San Diego State; HAWAII (+3½) over UNR.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247

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