Second chances in life are sometimes squandered. Notre Dame offered Everett Golson another shot, a chance to make good and reclaim the starting quarterback job he lost, and it’s paying off.
A month ago, the Fighting Irish were an afterthought in the College Football Playoff picture, and they remain a long shot. But oddsmakers are taking a second look, and what they see is a new and improved Golson making a big difference.
“The more you watch him, the more impressed you are with him,” Westgate Las Vegas sports book manager Ed Salmons said. “Golson gives them a different dynamic. The offense looks much faster with him in there.”
Two years after leading Notre Dame to the BCS Championship Game, where it was rolled by Alabama, Golson is again running coach Brian Kelly’s offense and winning games. He lost last season to a suspension for academic reasons.
Golson is taking advantage of his second chance by steering the eighth-ranked Irish to a 3-0 start heading into Saturday’s game against Syracuse at East Rutherford, N.J. It’s one of the weekend’s most appealing matchups on a bland menu.
Notre Dame is a threat to take down No. 1 Florida State on Oct. 18, and that line would have been material for a stand-up comedian not long ago. But a dynamic quarterback can change the complexion of a team.
Salmons and the Westgate oddsmakers set the Irish’s regular-season win total at 7½ in August. By the end of September, ratings on a lot of teams are being adjusted, for better or worse.
“I would say I upgrade Notre Dame about three points, maybe four, somewhere in that range,” Salmons said.
The Irish have outscored their opponents — Rice, Michigan and Purdue — by a 109-31 score. Golson has passed for 780 yards and seven touchdowns while adding four rushing scores.
Only two major-college quarterbacks have accounted for at least 10 touchdowns with no turnovers this season — Golson and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, the Heisman Trophy favorite.
Upon further review, Salmons’ opinion on the Ducks is diminished. Mariota is the real deal, yet No. 2 Oregon, which narrowly escaped a trip to Washington State last week, might be showing some slippage two seasons after Chip Kelly bolted to coach in the NFL.
“I think this Oregon team is a total fraud,” Salmons said. “It’s a one-man team. They don’t do anything like they used to do with Chip Kelly.”
Salmons’ adjusted college football ratings show how much fortunes can change for a team in a month.
Notre Dame and Brigham Young, the nation’s top independents, have earned slight upgrades with unbeaten starts. The Cougars, carried by do-everything quarterback Taysom Hill, are 4-0 and on a bye week.
Arkansas, California, Clemson, East Carolina, Memphis, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Texas-El Paso and Utah rate as significantly better teams than first thought, according to Salmons.
Clemson blew a golden opportunity to upset Florida State and lost in overtime last week, yet the Tigers’ freshman quarterback, Deshaun Watson, impressed Salmons as a player who “is going to be an absolute star.”
Georgia Southern, up 19 points in Salmons’ ratings from the end of last season, is no longer a secret to sharp bettors.
Salmons called Arizona State “vastly overrated” before the Sun Devils were torched by UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley on Thursday night.
Florida is down six points on Salmons’ ratings, and Vanderbilt is down 21 points from the end of last season, including a minus-11 adjustment in September. Louisiana-Lafayette, North Carolina, South Alabama, Southern Methodist, Troy and UNLV are other teams on sharp decline.
“We were ahead of the curve on Michigan,” Salmons said. “We didn’t like that team at all.”
At the beginning of the month, Florida State was posted as a 21-point favorite over Notre Dame, and the lookahead line now is 14½. While the Seminoles deal with chaos surrounding their quarterback, oddsmakers’ eyes are smiling on Golson and the Irish at second glance.
■ CLOSING NUMBERS — A 5-1 record in this spot last week improved my season mark to 15-11. This is a tough week, but here are six plays for today and Saturday (home team in CAPS):
NEW MEXICO (+5) over Fresno State; Notre Dame (-9½) over Syracuse; Arkansas (+9½) over Texas A&M; North Carolina (+14½) over CLEMSON; Tennessee (+17) over GEORGIA; IDAHO (+5) over South Alabama.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.