BIG 12 HELMETS: West Virginia
(Photo: Ben Queen, USA TODAY Sports)

West Virginia (No. 17 in the AP Top25, No. 20 in the USAToday Coaches Poll) opens the season this weekend against the Tennessee Volunteers. According to Las Vegas, the Mountaineers are considered heavy favorites heading into Saturday’s game. 

Per Vegas Insider, Dana Holgorsen’s team opened as 8.5-point favorites back in May. The line quickly jumped to 11 before the hour was even up, then dropped to just six a couple hours later. The line eventually stabilized around 9.5 and 10 points over the next few months. The latest odds put the Mountaineers as 10-point favorites and -400 on the money line (bet $400 to win $100 if WVU wins straight up). 

The over/under was set at 61 and has stayed relatively steady over the last month. It dropped to 60 last week, but currently sits at 61.5. 

History says that West Virginia might be decent in the win-loss column (53-37) under Holgorsen, but the team has struggled mightily when it comes to the spread. Despite a 7-6 record on the scoreboard, the Mountaineers went 5-8 against the spread last season. This is a trend that has continued for several seasons now. From CBSSports’ own Tom Fornelli:

In 2011, Holgorsen was asked to leave a casino. Based on the way his team has performed against the spread the last five seasons, I hope he’s stayed away since. While the Mountaineers have gone a respectable 36-28 on the field over the last five seasons, they’re only 25-38-1 ATS in that span. They posted a winning mark of 7-6 ATS in 2014 (they were 7-6 straight up that season as well), but Holgo’s teams have gone 18-32-1 ATS in the other four seasons while never covering more than 5 games in any of those campaigns. Even in 2016 when the Mountaineers surprised a lot of people by going 10-3, they still only managed to go 5-7-1 ATS. Now there’s a lot of talk about West Virginia entering 2018 as a darkhorse in the Big 12, which makes me suspect another subpar performance ATS is on the way.

That 25-38-1 mark against the spread is the second worst record among head coaches since the start of the 2013 season. Coincidentally, the only head coach with a worse record is former West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez, who has gone 25-40 against the spread during his time with the Arizona Wildcats. 

The game will be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina as part of the Belk College Football Kickoff. The game is set to start at 3:30PM ET and will be televised on CBS. West Virginia is coming off a 7-6 record and is 53-37 through seven years under Dana Holgorsen. Tennessee went 4-8 last season and fired Butch Jones after five seasons (34-29). Jeremy Pruitt is in his first season as a head coach after spending last season as the defensive coordinator at Alabama.


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