Watson's status has broader implications

Watson's status has broader implications

Football

Watson's status has broader implications

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By Ed McGranahan.

Sports books in Las Vegas pulled Clemson-Carolina off the boards Tuesday and many of them curtailed betting on the game.

Presumably it was a reaction to what’s transpiring at Clemson practices this week.

Clemson opened the week a 4½-point favorite, which was probably a hedge against the uncertainty at quarterback.

Intellectually a no-brainer, an 8-3 team from the ACC, ranked No. 21 by the CFB Playoff committee, should be favored at home against a 6-5 SEC

team.

Wise Guys aren’t fools.

Consider the rumors floating around the Upstate this week then imagine a wave of heavy wagers on Clemson giving 4½ points followed by news later in the week that Deshaun Watson would play Saturday. That would likely result in a dramatic increase in the line and leave the Vegas books

vulnerable to a big hit by the early wagers.

Dabo Swinney insisted Saturday night that Watson would be evaluated daily and a final determination wouldn’t be reached until after he

practiced this week. He has not budged from the “day to day” stance.

If you’re trying to read the tea leaves, it makes sense to not rush to judgment. Watson has been through a broken collarbone, a hand injury and

now the knee sprain and bone bruise since spring practice in April. As eager as everybody is to have him back, Watson could win a lot of games

for Clemson over the next few years if he remains healthy.

Oddly his injury has had a numbing effect on fans’ anticipation. Clemson fans aren’t sure if they can win without him. Carolina fans don’t think

they can win if he plays. Steve Spurrier recognized the difference immediately. “Looks like we’re in better shape than we were two weeks

ago, right?”

With Swinney and Spurrier the game was becoming one of impact beyond the state’s borders. In that respect it’s a huge letdown.

Both hoped to compete for their conference championships, but Carolina’s defense has been miserably bad and Clemson’s offense lost its punch with an uncommon rash of injuries including Watson’s.

Though it may seem subtle Clemson received a bump offensively when running back Tyshon Dye seemed comfortable with 20 carries in the

Georgia State game. Not that he rushed for 123 yards, but that he responded well to the extensive work.

“It’s taken us a good three weeks … to get him in football shape, and also just to get him confident in what he needs to do,” Swinney said.

“He had still had a few missed assignments the other day, but he played well.

“As he played, he got better and better, and you can see his confidence growing.”

While Dye’s presence probably won’t move the Vegas line, his presence Saturday could help Clemson budge the Carolina defense if it decides to

put the game on Cole Stoudt’s arm.

Of course, if Watson plays …

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