Every week I will be highlighting the most intriguing gambling lines involving a team we cover here at Underdog Dynasty. They might not always be the best matchups, they might not always be the best picks, but they are the games that peak my interest the most. Who would you take?
Wake Forest +2 @ Louisiana-Monroe (7:00 PM ET Thursday, August 28 on ESPNU)
Louisiana-Monroe met Wake Forest in Winston-Salem last year and escaped with a 21-19 victory after the Demon Deacons failed a two-point conversion attempt with four seconds left. The Warhawks will have to defend its own home turf this year without graduated quarterback Kolton Browning, who the team rode to the tune of 68 passing attempts in last year's meeting.
Pete Thomas, a former starting quarterback at Colorado State and North Carolina State, is appointed with the tough task of replacing Browning. Thomas faced Wake Forest as well last year, gaining 257 yards through the air and 60 more on the ground in a 13-28 losing effort. He also threw two interceptions in the meeting and has a career 22:30 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Wake Forest will open the season with even more question marks on offense. The Dave Clawson era will begin with a freshman, John Wolford, under center. Surrounding Wolford is a cast of youthful unknowns. In other words, offense could be hard to find in Monroe on Thursday night.
My pick: Louisiana-Monroe wins 24-21 thanks to a solid effort by its experienced defense and Thomas doing enough to get by.
Line Movement: Wake Forest opened at -2; bettors drove the line in ULM's direction with 73% of the money coming in on the Warhawks.
Bowling Green -7.5 @ Western Kentucky (7:30 PM ET Friday, August 29 on CBSSN)
Both teams lost head coaches and star players yet have relatively high expectations heading into 2014. Bowling Green, in particular, is expected to compete for a conference title mainly because of its junior backfield duo. Dual-threat quarterback Matt Johnson gained nearly 4,000 total yards last year while scoring 30 touchdowns while Travis Greene added another 1594 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Johnson, who was sacked 10% of the times he dropped back last year, will be without two first-team All-MAC linemen this year along with his top two targets from a year ago. Receiver Chris Gallon, one of the most promising prospects at the G5 level, was expected to help pick up the slack, but will miss the season after re-tearing his left ACL.
WKU has the benefit of familiarity with former offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm taking over the head job and returning his entire passing game. However, WKU loses 1730-yard, 16-touchdown rusher Antonio Andrews and a couple reliable offensive linemen with possibly bigger losses on the defensive end. It will be nearly impossible for the Hilltoppers to replace studs like the Boyd brothers, Bar'ee and Xavius, in the front seven and former elite recruit Jonathan Dowling in the secondary.
My pick: Bowling Green wins a 38-27 shootout featuring yards-galore for both teams, but with Bowling Green being able to find the end zone more.
Line Movement: None on the game line, but the point total has risen from 56 to 61.
Texas-San Antonio +10.5 @ Houston (9:00 PM ET Friday, August 29 on ESPNU)
UTSA finished last year with a 6-2 record in the Conference USA, a remarkable feat for a program in its third season of existence. Despite that success in conference, the Roadrunners suffered a lowlight when Houston came to town and turned 28 unanswered-fourth quarter points into a 59-28 victory.
UTSA will have to replace Eric Soza, the reliable quarterback that has stepped under center for almost every snap of Roadrunner football. Soza hands the reigns to senior Tucker Carter, who will be joined by almost the exact same supporting cast from a year ago.
Houston will hope to duplicate the start to last year, and not pick up where it left off at the end of it. After averaging 41 points per game and going 7-1 in the first eight games, Houston averaged just 20 points and went 1-4 in the final five. Sophomore quarterback John O'Korn and star receiver Deontay Greenberry return to lead a potentially explosive Cougar offense.
My pick: Houston wins 35-21 while the offense regains its form and an experienced defense forces Tucker Carter through some growing pains.
Line Movement: Dropped from 13.5 despite 66% of bets backing Houston minus the points.
Penn State +2 Vs. Central Florida (8:30 AM ET Saturday, August 30 on ESPN2)
It appears Penn State and Central Florida will dodge a volcano and be able to kick off college football's first Saturday of the season in Dublin, Ireland. The Nittany Lions are looking for revenge after a 31-34 loss at home to UCF last year. Penn State enters the season with a new face of the program in James Franklin while Central Florida begins life without quarterback Blake Bortles.
Redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo won the competition to fill Bortles' shoes. DiNovo inherits one of the best Group of Five rosters to go along with those kicks. UCF returns three receivers that gained over 720 yards last year and adds Jackie Williams, who gained 799 yards at UAB in 2012. However, the Knights do lose three All-AAC performers along the offensive line and 1100-yard rusher Storm Johnson.
UCF's strong defense will hope to do a better job of limiting Christian Hackenberg and company than it did last year. Hackenberg will have to operate without star receiver Allen Robinson, who was responsible for 46% of Penn State's passing yards last year, and an almost entirely new offensive line.
My pick: Penn State wins 24-20 as Hackenberg mixes the ball around to a talented cast of targets and UCF struggles to get into the end zone.
Line movement: Penn State opened as 1-point favorites,
Ohio State -16.5 @ Navy (11:00 PM ET Saturday, August 30 on CBSSN)
Navy will attempt to channel its inner-2009, when the Midshipmen opened the season in Columbus and took the Buckeyes to the wire. As we all know by now, the Midshipmen will have the benefit of facing OSU without quarterback Braxton Miller.
Conversely, Navy retains its do-everything quarterback, Keenan Reynolds. Reynolds scored an unbelievable, and under the radar, 31 touchdowns on the ground last year. A strong performance against the Buckeyes will assuredly put him on the map. Most of Navy's offense returns around him, but a defense that struggled against better competition last year loses a number of impact players.
OSU will turn to redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, a dual-threat quarterback from Texas to replace Miller. The Buckeyes are also tasked with replacing the departed Carlos Hyde. It will likely take a stable of backs, especially with believed-leader of the group Ezekiel Elliott being slowed by wrist surgery earlier this month. There's a ton of talent at the skill positions though, and Devin Smith and Dontre Wilson should prove to a couple of the most explosive players in the Big Ten.
My prediction: Ohio State wins a competitive 31-21 game. The Buckeyes' momentarily Noah Spence-less defense is able to prevent Navy from converting 67% of its third downs like in 2009 while OSU's offensive speed ultimately proves to be too much.
Line movement: Ohio State has dropped from 19-point favorites and the point total has gone from 63 to 55.5 following the Miller news. 84% of bets are still coming in on OSU.
Marshall -24 @ Miami-Ohio (3:30 PM ET Saturday, August 30 on ESPN3)
Miami began last season with a 14-52 thrashing at the hands of Marshall and proceeded to lose its next 11 games in equally embarrassing fashion. Words nor numbers can properly describe how bad the RedHawks were last year, but the 9.8 points per game the team scored compared to the 35.7 points per game that it gave up should provide some illustration.
Former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin will attempt to right the ship, bringing former Irish quarterback Andrew Hendrix with him. Miami does return much of its two-deep from a year ago, but I'm not sure if that's a good thing.
On the other hand, Marshall enters the season with as high of expectations as a G5 team can have. Marshall's cupcake schedule, highlighted by teams like Miami, make the Thundering Herd one of the nation's favorites to go undefeated. Quarterback Rakeem Cato is a Heisman dark horse, backed by go-to receiver Tommy Shuler and a defense that will give Cato the chance to win every game on the schedule.
My pick: Marshall dominates 45-17; Cato and crew live up to initial expectations and get the potential undefeated ball rolling.
Line Movement: None, even though 90% of the money has come in on Marshall.
All odds and trends are from VegasInsider.com and current as of the writing of the article.