Early CFP Odds Have Clemson, Michigan State as Underdogs

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After winning their first ACC crown since 2011 and claiming the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, the Clemson Tigers will start preparing for their Orange Bowl semifinal matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners as 4-point betting underdogs at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Clemson’s victory over North Carolina in the ACC title game extended their current straight-up winning streak to 16 games, including a 40-6 victory over the Sooners in last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl.

However, they have struggled at the sportsbooks all year, going 1-4 against the spread in their past five games, and enter the Sooners vs. Tigers Orange Bowl matchup at Sun Life Stadium with a middling 6-7 ATS overall record.

Since a 24-17 upset loss to Texas in Week 5 threatened to derail their season, Oklahoma has come to life, winning seven straight SU and going 6-1 ATS.

The Sooners have been an offensive force, averaging a whopping 51.3 points per game during their current winning streak, which features a pair of lopsided victories over nationally ranked squads including a crushing 58-23 win over rival Oklahoma State to claim the Big 12 title as 7.5-point chalk.

Not surprisingly, Oklahoma’s vaunted offense has consistently pushed the point total OVER this season, going 8-2 in their last 10, three times eclipsing totals of 70 or more. The Sooners have also enjoyed plenty of postseason success in recent years, winning four of their last six overall, and four of their past five when favored.

In the other College Football Playoff semifinal, No. 2 Alabama takes on No. 3 Michigan State as a 9.5-point betting favorite in this year’s Cotton Bowl.

The Crimson Tide have won 10 straight SU since an early-season 43-37 upset loss to Mississippi, surrendering more than 16 points on just one occasion and just 11.7 points per game during that stretch.

The Spartans defied expectations this season, marching to a 12-1 SU record with huge upset victories over Michigan and Ohio State, and are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven.

However, Michigan State came up well short in their only previous meeting with the Crimson Tide, suffering a 49-7 loss as an 8-point underdog in the 2011 Capital One Bowl.

In other early bowl game betting lines, the Buckeyes will battle Notre Dame as 6.5-point chalk in the Fiesta Bowl, while the Wolverines are favored by 4 over Florida in the Citrus Bowl, and Ole Miss takes on the Cowboys as 7-point chalk in the Sugar Bowl.

‘Match made in heaven’: Deion Sanders to coach Jackson State

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JACKSON, Miss. — Deion Sanders wiped away tears of joy and passion before speaking.

Jackson State’s new football coach then stated “I believe” many times about what he envisions happening on and off the field.

“I have a commitment to excellence in each and every thing I do,” the Hall of Fame cornerback said during his introduction as the Tigers’ 21st head coach, a number also significant because of his jersey number and Monday’s date.

“We’re going to win. We’re going to look good while we win, and we’re going to have a good time while we win.”

Sanders’ introduction followed his announcement Sunday night. The player known as “Prime Time” added: “Isn’t this the time? Isn’t this the moment? Isn’t this what’s needed? It’s a match made in heaven.”

Currently the offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian School-Cedar Hill in Texas, Sanders is taking his first head coaching job.

“I’ve been offered pro jobs,” Sanders added, “so people know I could be an assistant in any college.”

The Southwestern Athletic Conference school introduced Sanders with the trademark pomp of a historically Black university. Its marching band led a police-escorted motorcade into an arena with a boisterous yet socially distanced audience. “Coach Prime” later opened a blue blazer lined with the JSU logo to much applause.

Acting Jackson State President Thomas Hudson called the hiring “the grace of God” and cited the school’s football history in landing Sanders.

“These things just come together,” Hudson added, crediting athletic director Ashley Robinson and alumni. “We’re just so very fortunate to really be in this space and have a man like this joining us.”

In a statement, Robinson said, “We expect to compete for and win championships at Jackson State, and Coach Sanders will help us achieve those goals.”

Sanders replaces John Hendrick, whose contract was not renewed this summer after going 6-9 and 5-5 in SWAC play. Sanders will begin coaching this spring after the SWAC postponed fall sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tigers plan to begin an eight-game schedule in February.

He takes over a Tigers program that has produced fellow Hall of Famers such as Walter Payton, Lem Barney, Jackie Slater and Robert Brazile.

Sanders was a two-time All-American at Florida State before a standout NFL career with five teams including the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, winning a Super Bowl with each. He also earned eight Pro Bowl and nine first-team All-Pro selections during a career in which he also returned kicks and punts and played wide receiver. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Sanders also played nine seasons with four clubs in Major League Baseball, appearing in the 1992 World Series with the Atlanta Braves.

No. 1 Clemson, Swinney worried about COVID during bye week

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has few worries about his football team on the field. Off it? That’s another story.

Swinney is concerned that the top-ranked Tigers’ bye week – especially with players getting Friday and Saturday off – could result in the team having more contact with people and increase players’ risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

“Probably the same primary concern of every coach out there,” Swinney said.

So far, so good.

The Tigers (2-0), like all Atlantic Coast Conference teams, are getting tested three times a week and have had no positives through the first two games.

“Our protocol’s been really, really good,” Swinney said Tuesday. “I trust them. It’s not like we get them all day, every day. We get them for about four hours max. So the other 20 hours comes down to trust, discipline and sacrifice.”

Clemson will practice three days this week and have a team function Tuesday in place of its usual community service day during a week off. The team will reconvene after its break Sunday to get tested and start preparing to face Virginia on Oct. 3.

The Tigers are motivated to do everything the right way as they pursue championship goals they missed out on last year by falling to LSU in the national title game, cornerback Sheridan Jones said.

“It’s having faith over fear,” Jones said. “Faith that we are going to have a season. Moving at that pace with that mindset has helped us to work day in, day out and stay focused on the task at hand.”

Clemson has looked like a team on a mission. The Tigers have had easy wins over Wake Forest and The Citadel, beating the Bulldogs 49-0 this past Saturday for their first shutout in four years.

Their play has been so efficient and effective, Swinney is having difficulty picking it apart.

The offense, led by Heisman Trophy favorite Trevor Lawrence, has blitzed both opponents while the first-team defense has played at a championship level. Swinney and his staff have been able to play backups for significant stretches.

“We played 13 linebackers (against The Citadel) and about every D-lineman we had,” Swinney said.

On special teams, B.T. Potter has made all three of his field goals and had touchbacks on his nine kickoffs. Travis Etienne and Amari Rodgers are helping Clemson average nearly 18 yards on punt returns.

Defensive tackle Jordan Williams said as well as the team has performed, it’s time for a break. The long summer camp with all the questions about whether Clemson would even play football was draining and stressful.

“It’s definitely something we all need,” Williams said. “It’s something that’s going to help us grow.”

The team had a spike in COVID-19 cases when it returned for summer workouts in June (37 of 43 positive tests among Clemson athletes were football players). Since then, Williams said players have bought into doing what it takes to continue the season.

“That’s what’s pushed us,” Williams said.

Clemson has had some issues related to COVID-19. Expected starting defensive end Xaiver Thomas took a redshirt season because he caught the virus in the spring and it took a toll on his conditioning. Swinney said Thomas is getting his fitness back and is preparing to play later this season.

Swinney said the program has planned for nearly every virus-related health scenario, including what it would do if Swinney tested positive.

He not sharing, though.

“It’s top secret. I’ve got it tucked away in a drawer in a glass case that says, `Break only if needed,”‘ he said.