The Old Dominion Monarchs had a promising first season as an FBS school going 6-6, and they have a seemingly easy opener in Week 1 visiting Eastern Michigan Saturday.
A fledging FBS program has a chance to get off to a great start in Week 1 of the 2015 college football season on Saturday, September 5th as those Old Dominion Monarchs pay a visit to the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti, MI at 3:00 ET in a game available on ESPN3.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Old Dominion as a road favorite for this contest with the current line at -6 with odds of -106.
Played .500 Football First Year in FBS
Old Dominion made the jump to the FBS last season and had what must be considered a successful first season at college football’s top level, finishing .500 both overall at 6-6 and inside Conference USA at 4-4, breaking in by winning its first conference game ever vs. the Rice Owls, a team that then went on to beat Fresno State 30-6 in the Hawaii Bowl. The Monarchs now hope to win at least one more game this year and qualify for a bowl of their own.
Eastern Michigan on the other hand has been a program in the dumps for quite a while, and last year was no exception as the Eagles were the losing college football picks in 10 of their 12 games overall with only one of those two wins coming vs. a fellow FBS school in the Buffalo Bulls. And they also just barely got by Morgan State of the FCS 31-28 for their other victory.
If the Defense Improves Slightly…
A bowl bid for Old Dominion in just its second season in the FBS is a realistic possibility provided the defense continues the improvement it showed in the last three games of the year in 2014 after struggling mightily earlier in the season.
The Monarchs covered up many defensive shortcomings by averaging 32.7 points and 441.9 total yards per game offensively in their first FBS season, but the defense did do some good things in that last three games while allowing 30.0 points and 351.0 yards per game, which may not sound like much until you consider that ODU allowed 38.0 points and 453.9 total yards per game for the entire year.
Now, the offense did lose quarterback Taylor Heinicke, but the Monarchs did start running the ball a lot more toward the end of the season thanks to the development of then freshman running back Ray Lawry, who finished with 968 rushing yards on a whopping 7.1 yards per carry, and he was then named the Conference USA Freshman of the Year.
Lawry is back and should go over 1000 yards this season barring injury, and the shift to a more run-oriented offense can also help the defense with longer, time consuming drives. And when new quarterback Shuler Bentley does put the ball in the air, he will have a familiar target in Zach Pascal, who caught 59 passes for 743 yards and seven touchdowns last year.
Nice Opening Opponent?
Now, just the fact that Old Dominion is a decided road favorite here, marking the first time it has been a road favorite in its brief FBS history, should give you an idea of the state of the Eastern Michigan program right now. Granted, Coach Chris Creighton is in his second year at the school and his teams have improved in their second seasons at his prior stops at Wabash and Drake, but now he is trying to accomplish it at an FBS program, and one of the worst in the land.
In fact, the Eagles have now had three consecutive 2-10 seasons and three or four wins this season would actually be considered making progress! Gtranted the defense does return seven starters, but is that actually a good thing considering that unit surrendered an ungodly 40.9 points and 498.8 yards per game last year? And facing a potent offense like Old Dominion could simply be a daunting first assignment.
EMU does have a dangerous dual threat quarterback in Reginald Bell, who passed for 1297 yards and rushed for 562 more last season, but Old Dominion could probably be best served by concentrating on stopping the run. That is because Bell completed a pedestrian 57.1 percent of his passes in 2014 with just nine touchdown passes vs. six interceptions, and he now has a very undersized receiving corps to throw two.
Laying the Number on the Road
Finally, we have never been particularly prone to betting road favorites at any time, not to mention with a team that just joined the FBS last year and is now a road favorite for the first time ever. However, Eastern Michigan really is that bad and we do not see how the Eagles can slow down the Monarchs’ offense. Besides, it is not as if EMU has flourished in the home underdog role, going just 3-7 ATS on the last 10 occasions (0-10 straight up).
So fledging BCS program or not, we recommend giving the points on the road with Old Dominion visiting Eastern Michigan in Week 1 on Saturday, September 5th.
College Football Pick: Old Dominion -6 (-106)