Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 9:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Old Dominion +20½ over James Madison
Bridgeforth Stadium – Harrisonburg, VA
8:00 PM EST. There are several ingredients in play here which prompts us to move in on the Monarchs. First, we are “sticking with it” as last week we faded the Dukes when they were spotting three points plus the hook (-3.5) on the road at Marshall. JMU went on to defeat the Thundering Herd 20-9. The market was salivating over James Madison’s undefeated record and covering four straight heading into their clash with Marshall and JMU’s win and cover only raised the market’s penchant to get behind the now 7-0 Dukes who have covered five straight. That is reflected in the Dukes opening as an 18-point choice and rapidly accelerating up to the number you see here. When we factor in that James Madison is now ranked for the first time this season, the propensity for an overlay is that much greater. We’ll reiterate that teams obtaining a ranking for the first time in a season are prone to spotting inflated points. Whether James Madison clobbers Old Dominion or not, it is certain that the Dukes are spotting an inflated tag here.
Though a nominal 4-3 by comparison to James Madison’s pristine record, Old Dominion could easily be 6-1 on the year. You see, six of the seven games the Monarchs have been involved in were settled by a converted touchdown or less. Indeed, Old Dominion had some near misses against the likes of Texas A&M-Commerce and Southern Mississippi but the Monarchs nearly defeated Wake Forest in Norfolk in mid-September where they fell 27-24 as a 13½point underdog. ODU led by 17 before seeing the Demon Deacs score 20 unanswered in the late second half to escape. The Monarchs also led by 18 at Marshall in late-September as a 14½-point pup before a similar course of events would summarily unfold and the Herd would ultimately pull off a 41-35 win.
Had Old Dominion held on and won both these games, what would the market’s assessment of Old Dominion be heading into this contest? One would conjecture that perhaps the Dukes would be on upset alert. Instead, the narrative surrounding this game is whether or not James Madison will go undefeated and the travesty of such events should it unfold that way given the fact an archaic NCAA directive prevents the Dukes from playing for the Sun Belt Championship or qualifying for a bowl game while they are still in their “transition period” from the FCS.
There are 133 Division 1 programs and James Madison’s Strength of Schedule ranks 124th, so it is no surprise that they are undefeated. The media and market are absolutely fascinated by wins and that is one of the reasons that James Madison is so grossly overpriced here. We live in a culture that emphasizes winning. It's not enough to be good at something, let alone to merely dabble in it. One must strive to be best and when a team falls short, the media attaches something to it. In school, we grade our children, ranking them according to how well they do on some arbitrary thing like math or spelling or self-control. Indeed, our schools are in many ways set up as judgment factories. What else is this fear of "falling behind" all about if not winning and losing? Why else is failing the worst thing you can do? How else do you explain adults telling children, "You can do better." It's so embedded in our mentality that many of us can't imagine education without the competition. We promise you that JMU is not the 25th best team in America but they’re sure as hell priced like it here.
What this also prompts the market to do is to take its eye off of the Monarchs who are quite the dangerous team. That is not exactly the best place to be laying inflated points against such an outfit. The Monarchs are coming off a 28-21 upset victory over one of the Sun Belt’s favorite sons in Appalachian State and one thing is for sure, the Monarchs won’t bat an eye at James Madison. Old Dominion will be coming to Harrisonburg not just looking to cover but to create chaos. The best part is we get to back the Monarchs at an enhanced price to come in under the number.
Old Dominion +20½ -109 (Risking 2.18 units - To Win: 2.00)