Damnit Las Vegas, Pay Attention to Conference USA At Least A Little

How do I know that Las Vegas, the line setters and the bookies are ignoring this beautiful conference? Look no further than the late season betting lines for this weekend’s games.

I’ll work my way into this, from most to least normal.

Old Dominion a de facto 31 point favorite at home against VMI? Sure. VMI just ended a 25-game losing streak two weeks ago, and needed a nine-point win over a D-III team to do it, so the line on this game is rather irrelevant.

What about the participants in “SEC takes a break from beating each other” weekend?

Middle Tennessee (+16) at Kentucky, UAB (+16.5) at Texas A&M

These ones I’m O.K. with.

I disagree with the line, but only in the sense that I would bet on both MTSU and UAB to cover, not to win. Maybe a 12-point line feels right? The Blazers are rolling and the Aggies have been up and down, and MTSU is a talented team against a maybe unraveling Kentucky team.

Do I expect both to lose? Yes, but probably by like 10-13 points, not 17.

UTSA (+27) at Marshall

I know it hasn’t been a great year for UTSA, and their offense has been… I think “absentee” would be putting it politely.

That said, this game’s line opened with UTSA at +20, which means that so many people bet on Marshall to win by three touchdowns that it pushed the line by a full touchdown.

I definitely agree with Marshall being the favorite, and I expect them to win. But nothing I saw two weeks ago against Southern Miss would suggest to me that Isaiah Green is ready to handily take down any team whatsoever.

If this was Western Kentucky, ok. But UTSA isn’t some offenseless atrocit–

Actually, on second thought…

La Tech (+1) at Southern Miss

This one is just weird. Louisiana Tech actually opened as a three-point favorite, but the action was so heavy on USM to cover that it pushed the Golden Eagles to a slight favorite.

Having seen both of these teams play, color me confused. The Bulldogs are 7-3, but two of those losses are road losses to SEC teams. They have multiple come from behind victories, and have not been perfect but have found ways to win on multiple occasions.

Southern Miss misses Jack Abraham, and having him back would push them from a definite underdog to a slight underdog, but that’s still to be determined. USM has struggled with the pass rush of both ULM and UAB, and the Bulldogs are somewhere in between those two.

I personally would have La Tech favored by 7 if Abraham didn’t play and 4 if he did, but what do I know?

FIU (-6) at Charlotte

Now we enter into “have you watched either of these teams play before?” territory.

How FIU lost the Shula Bowl to FAU so badly is still being studied by football scholars, but that’s the Panthers’ only loss in their last six games, with four of their five wins coming by 19+ points.

James Morgan, the Bowling Green transfer, has been a record-setting QB for this relatively young program, and has gotten better as the season goes on. When he is on, so is FIU, and that’s been frequent this season.

Charlotte is two weeks removed from holding Tennessee scoreless on the road for three quarters and still losing 14-3. The 49er offense has been less bad with Evan Shirreffs finally under center, but they’re still not built to come from behind and don’t have a good enough defense to consistently prevent such a scenario.

I’d be surprised to see FIU win by less than 10, so this line is a bit strange to me.

But not as strange as…

UTEP (+7) at Western Kentucky

If I took a list of all 130 FBS teams and shortened it to only those teams who have won two games or fewer this season, it would be 19 teams, two of which are these two.

If I shortened that list even further, to include only those teams with ❤ wins who did not win their game against an FCS opponent, the list shrinks to four teams: East Carolina, San Jose State… and these two teams.

I’m not saying that UTEP is a lock to win, but Western Kentucky is 1-9, blew a three-touchdown lead against Maine, and have only had two other games all season where they topped 20 points; their come-from-behind win against Ball State, and *ahem* “that game” against ODU.

The ‘Toppers are 1-4 in one-possession games, and three of those four losses were games where they had the lead at some point in the last five minutes. That Old Dominion game is the only one in the last seven weeks that WKU has lost by less than 19 points, and they’ve been outscored 45-7 in the third quarter of those games.

UTEP didn’t beat their FCS opponent, but they’ve improved steadily throughout the season.

They nearly came from behind to beat New Mexico State, then did it again against North Texas and Louisiana Tech. They have hung tough with multiple teams that are better than WKU, so to me this should bea toss-up game at best. WKU has the same record as UTEP for a reason, and the betting line should reflect that.

I feel like this isn’t hard, knowing the teams well enough to set a logical line, but I guess that’s why I don’t gamble.

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