Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Sports column

June 22, 2014

Las Vegas oddsmakers not kind to WVU in early listings

MORGANTOWN — Not long ago, I guessed that the West Virginia University football team will go 6-6 during the 2014 football season.

That was based strictly on a hunch. However the Mountaineers wind up, it would show at least some improvement over last year’s pitiful 4-8 finish.

Anyone who truly believes that’s acceptable for a Mountaineer program dotted with historic achievement over a 122-year run couldn’t possibly be much of a true WVU football fan.

But the feeling among the players and members of fourth-year head coach Dana Holgorsen and his highest-paid-ever staff reportedly is that this year will show considerable improvement.

I certainly hope, along with Mountaineer Nation followers, that they’re correct. We all hope it’s going to be a winning campaign.

However, it was sad to read this past week that oddsmakers’ early postings in Las Vegas were decidedly stacked against West Virginia, just two months or so from season’s start.

You may find the first game oddsmaking set very interesting.

Las Vegas’ Golden Nugget Casino recently released its “Games of the Year” annual first look of college football betting lines, and those well-known producers certainly didn’t show much faith in Holgorsen’s team.

Those oddmakers not only expect WVU to lose more than half of its 12 games but to succumb by large margins.

So the challenges appear to be greater for the Mountaineers than in recent years. Hopefully, what follows in this piece will motivate the players to reach even higher levels rather than begin feeling bad for themselves.

In listing odds for eight of West Virginia’s 12 football games, that casino rated the Mountaineers as underdogs in all but one game at this time.

As if that’s not bad enough, the oddsmakers’ opening lines indicate WVU will lose most games by large margins.

For starters, perennial power Alabama is an overwhelming 27 1/2-point favorite against WVU in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Aug. 30 in Atlanta.

The Golden Nugget also picked Oklahoma to defeat the Gold and Blue by 17 points in Morgantown on Sept. 20.

Oklahoma State looms as possibly just as tough (19 points) over the Mountaineers’ visit there on Oct. 25.

Baylor, which comes to Morgantown on Nov. 18, is listed as a 16-point favorite.

Texas is favored by 13 points against WVU on Nov. 8 in Austin, Texas Tech by 10 points on the road Oct. 11 and Kansas State rules as a 7 1/2-point choice on Nov. 20 in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers’ regular-season finale on Nov. 29 at Iowa State is called by the Golden Nugget a toss-up. Take your pick.

Are such predictions really conducive to selling game tickets?

The Golden Nugget did not offer odds on the other four West Virginia games on this early list. Those games are against Towson State on Sept. 6 at home, at Maryland on Sept. 13, Kansas on Oct. 4 in Morgantown and TCU on Nov. 1 in Morgantown.

Hopefully, all four of these contests will be considered winnable. But none seems as attractive to fans as the other eight might well be.

Keep in mind that Mountaineer fans generally aren’t happy that WVU football has been permitted to reach such a low state of concern. The Mountaineers were 4-8 last year and have won only six of the last 20 games.

Is that truly big-time college football?

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