Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones surprised many when he announced Thursday he was returning to school next season instead of declaring for the NFL draft. What does that decision mean from a College Football betting standpoint? Here were examine a few questions.
Who will be Ohio State's starting QB in the opener?
When NFL training camps roll around, there are usually a few high-profile quarterback battles to watch -- Browns fans are well aware of that fact and probably will have to endure another one this August. However, what we will see at Ohio State this spring and fall will be unprecedented in the college game. The Buckeyes could have three Heisman Trophy candidates all battling for the position to lead the defending national champions in Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller.
Of course Jones, a redshirt sophomore and former third-stringer, replaced an injured Barrett for the Big Ten Championship Game and led a 59-0 destruction of favored Wisconsin that got Ohio State into the College Football Playoff ahead of Baylor and TCU. Jones was a terrific 12 of 17 for 257 yards and three touchdowns against the Badgers.
In the Sugar Bowl, Jones was efficient against top-ranked and favored Alabama, completing 18 of 35 passes for 243 yards, a touchdown and interception while rushing 17 times for 43 yards in the 42-35 upset. Pretty impressive numbers considering defensive guru Nick Saban had three-plus weeks to prepare for Jones. Then in the national title game against favored Oregon, Jones was 16 of 23 for 242 yards, a touchdown and an interception while rushing 21 times for 38 yards and a touchdown. There were several times the Ducks appeared to have Jones stopped for a loss or no gain, but the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder usually broke free for positive yardage, including a crucial fourth-down conversion.
Quite the performance from a guy who had 19 total pass attempts in his career before the Wisconsin game and who lost a close battle with Barrett to replace Miller as the starter when Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in fall camp. NFL scouts were enamored of Jones' size and rocket arm, with some comparing him to a very, very raw version of Ben Roethlisberger. If Jones had turned pro, he might have gone as high as the late second round and earned a guaranteed $1 million or so. Jones does have a daughter who is just 10 weeks old, yet he said it was Chloe Michelle Jones who was the biggest influence on his decision to stay in school.
"Definitely, I always want to set up not just me, but my family for the best opportunities that come down the road and hopefully I'll be able to take advantage of those opportunities," Jones said, adding the message he hopes to send to Chloe when she got enough to understand was: "that education helped provide her a better life."
It now makes Ohio State's spring practices the center of the college football universe; the spring game is April 18. Coach Urban Meyer didn't guarantee Jones anything to return, and Meyer has long been on record saying that starters earn their position in the spring. Jones would seem to have a big advantage in the spring because Miller won't be able to practice while rehabbing from shoulder surgery -- if Miller is still a Buckeye then. Barrett will just be getting back to 100 percent off his broken ankle suffered in the regular-season finale against Michigan.
College Football Odds: Bovada lists Jones as the even-money favorite to start the season opener Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech, with the Hokies the only team to beat Ohio State last season. Barrett is listed at College Football odds of +200 and Miller +250.
The Pick: Jones wins the job, then goes pro after this season.
Will Ohio State have more than one QB start a game next season (barring injury)?
Urban Meyer isn't afraid to use two quarterbacks. If you need proof of that, look to the 2006 Florida Gators, who gave Meyer his first national championship. That team had senior Chris Leak and a highly touted freshman named Tim Tebow at quarterback. Meyer used both, but Leak started every game. Meyer doesn't like to rotate starters. In 2013, Kenny Guiton was sensational for a few starts in place of an injured Miller, but once Miller was healthy he started the rest of the way and Guiton barely saw the field.
College Football Projected Odds of Multiple Starters: +500.
The Pick: Meyer sticks with one starter but will use more than one QB in some games.
Will Barrett, Jones or Miller transfer out of Ohio State?|
There's no chance Jones leaves now as he's a conquering hero in Columbus. Barrett would have to sit out a year if he transfers to another FBS school, but if he stays the starting job could be his for the next two seasons after 2015. Miller, the 2012 & '13 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, would be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school because he has graduated. Meyer has long said he expects Miller to stick around, and perhaps Miller could be used in multiple ways: change-of-pace QB, running back, receiver, H-back, etc. Miller's future in the NFL isn't expected to be at quarterback so perhaps the Ohio native would prefer to stay with a system he knows and be used as a multi-faceted weapon to boost his NFL stock. On the other hand, Miller might believe he can succeed as a quarterback at the next level and wants to prove it. There are high-profile QB openings at Florida State, Oregon and LSU, to name three. Miller already has been linked to FSU, Oregon and Duke. Complicating the process is Miller wouldn't be cleared to resume full throwing activity until likely late May at the earliest. So he would not only be learning a new system but find himself behind another QB on the depth chart.
College Football Projected Odds One Guy Transfers: even money.
The Pick: Miller leaves for Florida State to replace Jameis Winston.