Maine vs. New Mexico Betting Odds & Picks: Black Bears Looking to Pull Upset
(Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images) Pictured: Danny Gonzales.
- The Maine Black Bears travel across the country to take on the New Mexico Lobos in Week 1 college football action Saturday.
- The Black Bears are looking to pull an upset on a team with one of the lowest returning production marks in the country.
- Tanner McGrath explains how he's betting Maine against New Mexico below.
Maine vs. New Mexico Odds
I live in Monroe, Maine, a small town in the northern part of the state. We live about 10 minutes North of Belfast and about 20 minutes south of Bangor.
If you head north on I-95 past the bustling urban landscape of Bangor (pop. 39,029), you’ll arrive in Orono, home of the proud Maine Black Bears football program.
I’m serious when I say this is a proud FCS program. About one in three cars that drive past my house have Black Bears’ stickers. The local radio station interviewed quarterback Joe Fagnano on Wednesday, and the hosts were practically fanboying.
Given my desire to handicap this game in-depth, I listened to the interview and one thing, in particular, stood out to me:
Fagnano talked about how he didn’t know his teammates when he first stepped on the field but added that he’s now been with his “brothers” for four years.
This is a rising senior class for Maine. There is a lot of experience on the field for a team that last won the CAA in 2018 — which was also the last time there was a rising senior class for the Black Bears. Maine made the FCS Semifinals that year, too.
New Mexico is a mess of a program that will be in the running for the worst FBS team this season. Its -8 TARP is worse than every FBS team save for seven. The Lobos won three games last season, including one against an FCS team and another against New Mexico State.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I smell an upset coming.
The biggest question mark for the Black Bears may be at head coach.
After former head coach Nick Charlton resigned to become the offensive coordinator at UConn (check out what the Huskies did on offense as 28-point underdogs against Utah State in Week 0), the Bears named former All-CAA Maine linebacker Jordan Stevens the new coach.
Stevens was a four-year starter at Maine and then coached the Bears’ defensive line for four years before becoming the defensive coordinator at Yale. Stevens turned the Bulldogs’ defense into a force, twice leading the Ivy League in total defense and scoring defense on their way to a pair of league championships (2017 and 2019).
Just last season, Yale led all of FCS in third-down conversion percentage and sacks per game while finishing top-20 in rush defense.
If anything, Stevens should improve a Maine defense that was weak in the CAA last season (10th in scoring defense, 11th in total defense). The Black Bears do bring back seven defensive starters and four of the top six tacklers, so they have experience and a defensive head coach working with them.
The offense won’t be a worry. Fagnano was asked in the aforementioned interview if he ever thought about transferring because of the coaching change. He responded with an unequivocal, “no” partially because he believes in this senior class, but also because his new coach isn’t planning on a scheme change.
That’s good because Maine finished fourth in the CAA in scoring offense, even though Fagnano missed eight games with an ankle injury. The Black Bears return eight offensive starters, including Fagnano, leading rusher Freddie Brock and All-CAA tight end Shawn Bowman.
Also, three offensive line starters return from a line that finished 22nd in the FCS with just 1.36 sacks per game. Returning All-CAA center Michael Gerace will allow Fagnano to step up in the pocket.
Finally, the man himself. Fagnano has been a four-year starter at Maine. He’s the 11th all-time leading passer in Maine history, having completed close to 60% of his passes while throwing just four interceptions in over 400 career attempts.
Fagnano was hurt for most of last season, but look at what he can do when he’s healthy:
— Maine Athletics (@BlackBearNation) October 22, 2019
Third-year head coach Danny Gonzales makes the jump with the Lobos this season, right?
I’m not so sure. Only five starters return on offense, and they’re making a change at quarterback, bringing in Kansas transfer Miles Kendrick. Kendrick made 16 starts with the Jayhawks and finished his Big 12 career with a 9:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 4.9 adjusted yards per attempt.
Kendrick will be complemented by an offensive line that returns two players with collegiate starting experience. The Lobos lost seven offensive linemen who made starts last year and their top two running backs.
And lest we forget, New Mexico scored a whopping 12.2 points per game last season. After putting up some points against Houston Baptist and New Mexico State, the Lobos failed to score more than two touchdowns in any other game.
The defense should be good, or at least better. Nine of the top 11 tacklers return, including seven starters. The Lobos did some things right in that department last season as they were 41st in Success Rate on standard downs owns 44th in preventing explosive plays on standard downs.
New Mexico will be aggressive with stunts and moves at the line on almost every play. Also, keep an eye on safety Jerrick Reed, who led the Lobos with 89 tackles and seven PBUs.
In 2020 S Jerrick Reed II became the first Lobo DB to be named First Team All-MWC since Glover Quin in 2008. Quin would go on to be a Pro Bowl S for the Detroit Lions and had a 10 year NFL career. Reed II had 4 INT, 3 pass break ups, and recovered a fumble in 7 games. pic.twitter.com/aRbJ71M5tZ
— Lobo Football History (@LoboFBHistory) February 10, 2021
While I still smell a Black Bear upset, the Lobos’ defense worries me. But if New Mexico turns this into a grinder, then it’s more likely Maine can cover a touchdown-sized spread.
Maine vs. New Mexico Betting Pick
New Mexico went 1-11 against the spread last season. The Lobos failed to cover in both nonconference wins last season and finished the year failing to cover big numbers in their final four contests.
Although the Lobos are 4-0 straight up against FCS opponents since 2017, they’re also 0-4 ATS.
Maine may have gone just 6-5 last season, but they won and covered in four of their final five games. And once Fagnano was back under center, Maine closed the season with 35-point performances in each of their final two games.
Maine is 4-23 all-time against FBS opponents. However, two of those victories have come in the past half-decade.
In fact, the last time Maine beat an FBS school was … last season. Fagnano went 16-for-27 for over 200 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-10 whopping of UMass.
You think he can’t do it again?
Bill Connelly’s SP+ projections make Maine just a 3.3-point underdog. Those same projections also give Maine a 42% chance of winning this game outright, while the +260 ML implies about a 28% chance.
🥳 WEEK 1 SP+ PICKS 😤🤯
UGA 36, Oregon 17
Ohio State 35, ND 23
Arkansas 29, Cincy 26
Utah 29.1, Florida 28.9
Pitt 36, WVU 22
Penn State 26, Purdue 22
LSU 28, FSU 24
Baylor 46, Albany … 1
— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) August 30, 2022
Additionally, I’ll place a smaller bet on the under 47 at DraftKings. The rest of the market has opened at 44.5, and Connelly’s projections make the total 36.
The Lobos defense might get a push against Maine’s offense, but their offense might not get any push at all.