Baylor, Ohio State big favorites in Week 10

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The top two teams in the AP Top 25 will be without their starting quarterbacks this week, starting with the Baylor Bears who visit the Kansas State Wildcats on Thursday as 17-point betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

No. 2 Baylor lost starting pivot and Heisman Trophy candidate Seth Russell to a season-ending neck injury in their 45-27 victory over Iowa State two weeks ago, and will hand the ball to freshman Jarrett Stidham for Thursday night’s Bears vs. Wildcats betting matchup at Snyder Family Stadium.

Russell had led the Bears to an eye-popping 61.1 points per game this season, tops in the nation, throwing an incredible 29 touchdown passes to lead them to a perfect 7-0 straight up record and against the spread wins in four of their last five outings.

Stidham has amassed 331 passing yards and six majors in spot duty this season, and gets the start against a Wildcats squad that is winless SU in their last four, all against Big 12 rivals, and also winless SU in their last three against the Bears.

No. 1 Ohio State will also be forced to make a quarterback change when they host the Minnesota Golden Gophers as heavy 23-point chalk on Saturday night.

Buckeyes starter J.T. Barrett will miss this week’s contest while he sits out a one-game suspension, thrusting last year’s hero, Cardale Jones, back under center. Barrett has shared playing time with Jones for much of the season, leading the club to a perfect 8-0 SU record and extending their current SU win streak to 21 games.

The Buckeyes have covered in their last two, holding opponents to just 17 total points, while the Gophers have squandered a strong 4-2 start with a pair of SU losses but kept things close in last weekend’s 29-26 loss to Michigan, covering as 11-point underdogs.

No. 3 Clemson will have starter Deshaun Watson at the helm this weekend when they battle No. 17 Florida State as 12.5-point chalk in a clash that will likely determine the ACC’s Atlantic Division title.

The Tigers’ 56-41 win over North Carolina State improved them to 14-0 SU in their last 14 games at home according to the OddsShark College Football Database, while the Seminoles bounced back from a stunning 22-16 loss to Georgia Tech with a dominant 45-21 win over Syracuse on Saturday.

In other college football betting action, the Wolverines host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights as 22-point favorites, while the Wolfpack travel to Boston College to face the Eagles as 3.5-point chalk, and the Cyclones take on the Oklahoma Sooners as 24.5-point underdogs.

College football players left in limbo as seasons get pushed

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Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson is ready to play football next month.

Or in the winter. Or even the spring.

He just wants to pull on his shoulder pads one last time, run onto the field in front of thousands of adoring fans, and experience the thrill of college football. It doesn’t matter much to Thompson whether flurries are flying or birds are chirping, he just wants an opportunity that the spread of COVID-19 is threatening to take away from him.

“I just want to play football, whenever that time may be,” Thompson said. “I just want to get the ball in my hands and compete. That’s all that worries me is I just want to play football, whenever that time is. Whenever is right.”

Thompson was speaking Tuesday, just as the Big Ten was announcing the cancellation of fall sports and exploring the option of playing football in the spring. Word soon trickled out that the Pac-12 would be following suit, joining mid-majors such as the Mid-American Conference and Mountain West in punting on a traditional college football season.

The Big 12, where the Wildcats play, had not yet made a decision. But as the dominoes begin falling across college sports, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that any of the Power Five schools step on the field next month.

“I want people to be safe. I’m not oblivious to what’s going on,” Thompson said. “But the end of the day, speaking for everybody, it would be nice to have answers, and not just have things pushed around. There’s so much uncertainty every single day – how things can change in 24 hours – it’s very hard on a player. I think if we were just to get some answers, we would be able to process what that would look like, whether that’s what we want or not.”

Many high-profile college players, including Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, have made it clear they want to play this fall. Lawrence was joined by Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and numerous players from Florida State, Oregon and other high-profile schools over the weekend in using their social media accounts in an attempt to save the fall season – and be part of the decision-making process.

“We all want to play sports this fall. Every athlete, I’m pretty sure, wants to play their sports,” Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds said. “They just want to do so safely.”

President Trump even weighed in on the controversy Tuesday, repeating his call for football to happen this fall.

But the decision rests not in the hands of players or politicians but those of university presidents, who must weigh the health and safety of their students against other considerations, among them the significant financial repercussions of not having a college football season.

“This was an extremely difficult and painful decision that we know will have important impacts on our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and our fans,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “We know nothing will ease that.”

Pac-12 players at least know they won’t be playing this fall. The spotlight now turns to leagues that have yet to make a decision, and then to all administrators again as they begin wrestling with the prospects of spring football.

“It’s been a hard road not knowing whether we’re going to play or not,” said Kansas State linebacker Justin Hughes, who was looking forward to his senior season after missing much of last year to a knee injury.

“We have one last go-around. Don’t take it away from us – a year away from us – because there’s a tragedy going on right now,” Hughes said. “We want to do the thing we love safely, and whatever it takes to do that we’ll do it.”

Simply pushing college football to the spring is hardly a cut-and-dried answer. Nobody knows whether there will better treatments or even a vaccine by then, and the state of the world could be much the same as it is right now. And for those players who have NFL aspirations – Lawrence, Hubbard and many others – the prospects of risking injury by playing up until the draft almost certainly means many high-profile stars will ultimately opt out.

No wonder the fear among many college football players is not just of a lost fall but a lost season entirely.

“I need this season. This is my last season,” said Syracuse tight end Chris Elmore, who was awaiting word from the Atlantic Coast Conference on whether it will play this fall. “This could be a make-or-break for me to see whether I go to the next level or not. I’m committed to playing until they pull the plug on me.”

SEC, ACC, Big 12 still hoping to play football this fall

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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And then there were three.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference were still moving forward Tuesday with plans for a fall college football season even as two other Power Five leagues, the Big Ten and the Pac-12, called things off.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said he wanted to learn more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 decisions. Sankey said he remained comfortable with the 14-member conference’s approach.

“We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day,” Sankey said in a statement.

The ACC said it would continue to make decisions based on advice from its medical advisers and state and local health officials.

“We will continue to follow our process that has been in place for months and has served us well. We understand the need to stay flexible and be prepared to adjust as medical information and the landscape evolves,” the league said in a statement.

The Big 12 Board of Directors was meeting Tuesday evening.

The Big Ten’s announcement that it was postponing all fall sports and hoping to make them up in the second semester came first. An hour later, the Pac-12 said all sports in its conference would be paused until Jan. 1, including basketball.