O'Donnell: For canniest contrarians, flawed LSU-Clemson betting line is a golden opportunity

  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney celebrates after his team beat Ohio State at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.

    Clemson coach Dabo Swinney celebrates after his team beat Ohio State at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. Associated Press

  • LSU coach Ed Orgeron, whose Tigers won the Peach Bowl over Oklahoma in Atlanta, should have a tougher road to travel in the national title game Monday.

    LSU coach Ed Orgeron, whose Tigers won the Peach Bowl over Oklahoma in Atlanta, should have a tougher road to travel in the national title game Monday. Associated Press

Updated 1/10/2020 5:10 PM

ONE OF THE GRAND DREAMS of a sports speculator is a flawed betting line.

The line for the CFP championship game Monday night -- LSU minus-6 over Clemson -- is flawed.


Tauntingly, teasingly, wickedly flawed.

And there is next to no chance, short of some major-major Clemson money from a Jeff Bezos or the Sultan of Brunei, that it will be corrected by kickoff (ESPN, 7 p.m.; Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit; Maria Taylor and Tom Rinaldi on the sidelines).

Thanks to Joe Burrow and his seven touchdown tosses in the first half vs. Oklahoma, so much of the football betting cosmos appears to be in love with his Tigers.

All things Cajun, bayou and Basin Street are suddenly golden to the shrimp boaters, from LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and his raspy patois to poke sallet to Jerry Reed's "Amos Moses."

Even Jean Lafitte replica plastic swords are said to be selling briskly on Bourbon Street.

So deep within the contrarian playing field lurks -- opportunity.

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Prior to the CFP semifinals, when the four seedings were announced, some major wagering houses issued speculative, bettable lines on all six title game possibilities.

The oddball was Clemson-LSU.

That line listed as anywhere from LSU minus-1½ to Clemson minus-1½.

Then "The Joe Burrow Show" played the Peach Bowl.

And Dabo Swinney, Trevor Lawrence and those Tigers were forced to repeatedly punch out of some very tough holes against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

But they did.

As Lawrence -- who is 25-0 as starting QB for Clemson -- later told media:

"We didn't play great. And we didn't play pretty.


"But we found a way to get things done."

They were like a prime Kentucky Derby contender in a final prep who breaks badly, engages his main foe at the eighth pole and guts it out eyeball-to-eyeball to the wire.

LSU, meanwhile, breezed as easily as Secretariat that long ago June Saturday at Arlington Park when three restrained opponents were not to embarrass the Triple Crown winner in front of the cameras of ABC's "Wide World of Sports."

And Secretariat -- students -- went on to lose two of his next three races after the exhibition at AP.

If a final kiss of blanching chance were to be given to LSU, it came from Herbstreit, now without question one of the most relentlessly gabby football analysts on the planet.

"Burrow," Herbstreit said, "reminds me a lot of Tom Brady in college."

Brady, as keenest followers know, was all of 20-5 as a starter at Lloyd Carr's Michigan after Brian Griese finally moved on.

That would be five games behind Lawrence's perfect 25-0.

So, battle-toughened Clemson plus-6?

Or gilded minaret LSU minus-6?

It's merely a question of betting shrewdly.

Or, as Tony Joe White might have sung, letting the hype graters get your grannies.

STREET-BEATIN': Between TV, radio and apps, ESPN is touting no fewer than 15 ways to consume Monday night's main event from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Easily accessible will be ESPN2's "Field Pass," with Adam Amin and Steve Levy roaming the sidelines throughout. ...

Speaking of Amin -- Addison Trail High (Class of '05) -- he, Jason Benetti and J.B. Long have been announced as the second tier of Bulls TV road fill-ins for retiring play-by-play man Neil Funk. Odd thing is that all three appear to have growing broadcast portfolios which would preclude any from succeeding Funk. ...

With Edwin Encarnación's $12M bat in the fold, tickets for SoxFest 2020 at McCormick Place West Jan. 24 and 25 are dwindling. Broadcast veterans anticipated to be in attendance include Tom Paciorek, Hawk Harrelson and the ultra-independent Frank Thomas; Ed Farmer remains a question mark. ...

Smart move by Derrick Rose agreeing to commit to "The Skills Challenge" at the United Center during NBA All-Star Weekend next month. That leaves The Heartbreak Kid -- now with the Pistons -- perfectly positioned as a late replacement for The Big Game. ...

Free consult for interim CEO Steve Edwards and thinkers at WBEZ-FM (91.5): Mary Dixon's impending ascension to local anchor of NPR's "Morning Edition" is the perfect window to up the workload and visibility of sports ace Cheryl Raye-Stout. Her underutilization at the pretension-prone outlet is station-defeating. ...

Nothing but bravissimo over Toni Ginnetti's selection as one of the 2020 recipients of The Ring Lardner Award. Too long ago, she was an aggressive news and investigative reporter at The Daily Herald whose city editor was an equally ambitious young talent named Doug Ray. (He's been the fabulously resourceful Chairman, Publisher & CEO of parent Paddock Publications for close to 20 years.) ...

Perma-plated headline to help night sports desks save time: "Zach LaVine scores 34, Bulls lose again." ... And Teresa Hanafin reports the Secret Service has spent $588,000 on golf carts following the POTUS around assorted links, begging the question: "Doesn't the layout near Mar-a-Lago have any two-for-one days?"

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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