Old Dominion is College Football’s Most Surprising Popular Bet in 2021
Photo By Jeremy Drey/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images. Pictured: Ricky Rahne
A quick glance at FanDuel's most popular teams bet in the college football win total market has some predictable names at No. 1 and No. 2.
Michigan State, which is coming off its worst year on a winning percentage basis (2-5, .286) since 1982 and Notre Dame, one of the most popular teams in the nation.
For the Spartans, 86% of the money is on over 5.5 wins. For the Fighting Irish, who went 10-2 last season, 79% of the money is on over 8.5 wins.
Which brings us to the third team and why we are writing this story.
The third most popularly bet team on win totals at FanDuel by handle?
The Old Dominion Monarchs.
Yes, a team that did not play in 2020. A team that has a first-year coach in Ricky Rahne and a quarterback battle that has been determined but not announced between UCF transfer D.J. Mack Jr., senior Stone Smartt (career touchdowns: 1) and freshman Hayden Wolff.
"I think having the team know and other people don't is kind of a special thing," Rahne said at a recent press conference.
The play on Old Dominion is to the under. It opened at 5.5 wins at FanDuel and is down to four after it was pounded. If you want the under now, you're going to have to really pay. It's at -143.
Do those people know something or are they just doing the math: 1. First year coach, 2. Didn't play last season, 3. Awful season the last time they did (1-11!), 4. Not a particularly easy schedule.
"The first year coach isn't an entirely bad thing in college football," said Stephen Macken, who set the line for FanDuel. "He was hired last year despite opting out of the season. I like a lot of their Power Five transfers playing in Conference USA, especially when you can throw a blanket over the bottom half of the conference."
As of this writing, they are 31.5 point underdogs in Week 1 to Wake Forest, who went 4-5 last year.
There are five teams on their schedule that had at least a .500 record last year — Liberty (10-1), Buffalo (6-1), Marshall (7-3), Louisiana Tech (5-5) and FAU (5-4).
There are four teams on their schedule that at least won a game last season — UTEP (3-5), Western Kentucky (5-7), Middle Tennessee State (3-6) or Charlotte (2-4).
That leaves two games that, minus any surprises, the oddsmakers might give them a decent chance to win — against Hampton, who also didn't play last year, and FIU, who went 0-5.
"I've got seven games that they play where the point spread should be four points or lower," Macken said.
Is Macken surprised that the Monarchs were pounded so hard?
"A little bit," he admits. "But it just shows how engaged our customers are."