Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a cross between colorful movie characters Kelly Leak (“Bad News Bears”), Jeff Spicoli (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) and Sunshine (“Remember the Titans”).
An NFL-ready quarterback at age 19, the long-haired Lawrence is the early favorite to win the 2019 Heisman Trophy, and the Tigers are favored to repeat as national champions.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is the close second choice to win the Heisman, and the Crimson Tide are the close second choice to win the national title.
Forget about the Power Five conferences dominating college football. There’s the Power Two — Clemson and Alabama — then there’s everybody else.
“There’s no doubt that the talent gap has widened,” Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said. “I can’t remember when you could point to A or B for who’s going to win the Heisman. It’s hard to believe one of them won’t win it. And it’s hard to believe one of them won’t win (the national title).
“I don’t know if that’s good or bad for the sport. You want some uncertainty. That used to be the fun of college football.”
Doing their best impression of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Tigers and Crimson Tide have split the past four national championships while squaring off in the title game three times.
Before Clemson whipped Alabama 44-16 in Monday’s championship, Caesars Entertainment sports book posted odds to win the 2020 national title, listing only Alabama (+180), Clemson (+500) and the field (-120).
“Because only 2 teams will ever win this thing,” Caesars risk manager Jeff Davis posted on Twitter.
During the course of Monday’s blowout, the Tide flipped from favorites (+150) at the Westgate to win the 2020 title to the second choice (+250) behind the Tigers, who started the game as the second choice (+350), ended it as favorites (+180) and since have been moved to plus 175.
Salmons said a bettor placed a $5,000 wager on Clemson at 5-2 odds Monday night, and on Tuesday another bettor put $3,000 on Alabama at 5-2.
“There’s a market for those teams at low prices,” he said.
Clemson appears to have a much easier path back to the title game than Alabama.
“The thing about Clemson is they don’t really have any competition in the (Atlantic Coast Conference),” South Point sports book director Chris Andrews said. “Alabama certainly does (in the Southeastern Conference).
“Mississippi State looks really good, Auburn has always got a shot, and LSU. And that’s just in their division. On the other side, you’ve got Georgia, and Florida is definitely on the rise. It’s going to be tough for Alabama.”
The Tide play at Auburn and at Mississippi State next season. Clemson’s two toughest tests figure to be against Texas A&M at home and at Syracuse.
“They’ll be 30-point favorites in every other game. It’s just obscene,” Salmons said. “(Lawrence) is just too good for this level, and so is (receiver Justyn) Ross. They’re true freshmen, and these guys are like NFL guys now.
“There’s no way, barring injury, that they’re not going to be back in the championship game.”
Best of rest
The only other team with national title odds in single digits is Georgia, which is at 8-1 after opening at 12-1. Ohio State is 12-1, Michigan 14-1, Oklahoma 16-1 and Texas 20-1.
The Bulldogs blew double-digit second-half leads over Alabama in the 2018 SEC title game and 2017 national championship.
“You saw this year that Georgia could beat Alabama in the SEC, or maybe Florida. One of those teams could be a contender,” Salmons said. “Next year, Washington has a realistic chance to win all their games. In the Big Ten, there are a lot of questions just because Ohio State’s coach and quarterback left.
“There’s always going to be some (Power Five) team that has got no losses, like Notre Dame this year. But as far as teams beating (Clemson or Alabama), right now, it looks like the only team that has enough talent to do it is Georgia.”
Las Vegas books haven’t posted the 2019 Heisman odds yet, but Lawrence is the plus 200 favorite at offshore book Bovada.lv. Tagovailoa is the plus 300 second choice, followed by Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm (+850).