Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Merrimack +15 over Massachusetts
Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium
3:30 PM EST. When you read this, there is a very good chance that you won’t find it available at your sportsbook but the line should come out around 11:00 AM EST so play it then. Though this may be one of the most obscure sides we have ever backed in our coverage of college football, digging deep is a part of finding value and all the ingredients are set for a play on the underdog.
Massachusetts is a team that normally plays the role of the hunter, albeit the Minutemen are often found taking back a Mount Everest of points against whoever they face because they are garnered as a perennial doormat. However, on this occasion, UMass will be asked to play the unfamiliar role of the favorite. We can conclude this analysis by describing the false favorite archetype, how this definition would apply vividly to the Minutemen, and thus why one should not be spotting points with the Minutemen. After all, the one occasion that UMass was priced as a favorite this season, the Minutemen lost outright as a three-point choice to visiting New Mexico. Bad favorites are teams that perform the role of favorite rarely, and unreliably. Expansion has overpopulated the bottom tier of the FBS, and consequently there are plenty of really poor teams occasionally asked to lay double digits these days.
The bad-favorite archetype is a program that hasn't won much at all the past several years, let alone posted winning seasons. Rarely favored to win, its players are accustomed to losing. These teams aren't good enough to play four mistake-free quarters, lack explosive playmakers, aren't accustomed to playing with leads and haven't had enough experience closing out games. Any victory is usually hard-earned. These are not the teams you want to ask to win, let alone by large margins.
Merrimack is a 4-4 FCS side from the Northeast Conference. However, except for a blowout loss to then #5 Holy Cross to kick off their campaign, the Warriors could also be 6-1 as easily as they are 4-4, losing three games by a combined 12 points. In their four victories this season, Merrimack won every game by double digits and pitched two shutouts in the process. We highlight that because had in-game variance been kind to the Warriors, there is no question that they would be a ranked FCS outfit and the narrative in this game would be far different. Instead, this affair is portrayed as a “scheduled win” for UMass who does not have the DNA to excel in this role.
Meanwhile, Merrimack will be approaching this contest as a bowl game with an “everything to gain and nothing to lose” mentality, as they’ll take a short drive from North Andover to Amherst to get a crack at a FBS team for Bay State bragging rights. We have to like this position, as well, considering how this contest for UMass in particular has elements of a “sandwich game”.
Last week, UMass defeated Army in West Point 21-14 despite taking back 10 points at kick-off. The upset win combined with who UMass defeated will without question carry some weight. While the Black Knights are a shell of their former selves, a win in West Point against a historic team like Army bodes tremendous significance for a bottom-feeder like UMass. On-deck in two weeks, the Minutemen will be traveling to a likely undefeated Liberty in Lynchburg, Virginia to take on the Flames who are in the conversation for a New Year’s Six Bowl appearance should they run the table and have a few things fall their way. Those are the two pieces of bread and the Warriors are the meat. When we consider all the mechanics in play, there is tremendous upside in getting behind Merrimack in this spot and we highly recommend getting behind them. We’ll post the official line when it comes out.
Merrimack +17 -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)