Sometimes, odds-makers can make you stroke your chin (or your beard) and make you wonder what they are thinking. Though the bookies, and especially action-driven odds, can sometimes be mistaken, any truly way-out-there Vegas line tends to have some type of carefully thought-out explanation behind it.
The Varsity Monarchs of Old Dominion whipped old rival Albany in Week 1, and have won 11 of 14 games since a week ago last year. UMass, their 2nd opponent and host of this weekend’s match-up, are having a nightmare season that isn’t showing any signs of an up-tick. Yet they’re not being touted like real underdogs at home.
The name Old Dominion reeks of “FCS,” which is where the program competed up until recently. But the Minutemen defense looked every bit like a mediocre FCS squad in 6 or 7 quarters since opening the campaign.
Who: Old Dominion Monarchs at UMass Minutemen
When: Saturday, September 9th, 3:30 PM EST
Where: Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium, Hadley, MA
Lines: Old Dominion (-4) vs UMass (+4) / O/U Total: (61.5)
The Monarchs opened as 6-point favorites, quickly whittled down as the action has trended toward the UMass side of the point spread. Clearly, bettors think that the independent school can handle one of the better programs in Conference USA.
An offense-first team from C-USA could probably whip UMass on its home field. To avoid getting worn down late by superior numbers, it would pay dividends to get on the board early and put pressure on QB Andrew Ford and the Minuteman offense.
But the offensive stats from Old D’s victory over puny Albany last weekend tell a sad tale. It was, in actuality, only a defense good enough to dominate a lower-division school that carried the day in a 31-17 win. The Monarchs gained less than 100 yards rushing, and QB Blake LaRussa struggled with accuracy. He’ll be facing twice as big and fast a defense on their turf this Saturday.
Look for the Minutemen to stop the bleeding against a Monarch side that has lost too many seniors for the offense to click. This would be an excellent game to pick for a parlay, since by about 25:00 after the kickoff, it will be obvious which team has the upper hand.
UMass can stay patient and work their offense, knowing that Old Dominion isn’t going anywhere fast. Neither is the girth of your wallet with a bet like Massachusetts-and-4-points available this weekend.