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Oct 08, 2019

Appalachian State vs. Louisiana

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Appalachian State vs. Louisiana Ragin Cajuns

Venue/Location: Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA
Time/TV: Wednesday, Oct. 9 (ESPN2, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Line: Appalachian State -1, Total 71

We have arrived at the time of year where there is essentially football action (college or pro) available to bettors on nearly everyday of the week. Soon we will have MACtion on Tuesdays and Wednesday's as well, but for now it's all about the Sun Belt taking center stage on Wednesday this week, as the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns welcome an undefeated Appalachian State team to town.

There are no rest advantages either way with this being the first Wednesday night game of the year, and it will be interesting to see which team made the most of their 10 days of prep time. Based on early market action, there is plenty of belief out there that it will be App State who ends up seeing the positive results, as this line has flipped into the Mountaineers becoming the slight favorites. To flip through zero like that is something to always take notice of, so will App State get the money and remain undefeated straight up, or will Louisiana manage to give App State their first loss of the year and remaining perfect themselves – at least against the spread.

Both programs have been money makers overall this year, as Louisiana's 4-0 ATS record is nearly matched by App State being 3-1 against the number. Given that the Mountaineers only ATS loss came via a 15-point win as -23 home chalk, and three of their four SU wins this year have been by at least 15 points, App State has well outperformed early season projections at least against the line.

That's got to be part of the reason behind so much early App State love for this game, especially when they opened up as underdogs, as this team did enter the year as a contender for the Sun Belt title this season and they've done nothing to dispel those thoughts as of yet. Head-to-head history between the two has a decided edge to App State as well, as they are 5-0 SU against Louisiana the past five meetings, all have been decided by at least 10 points, and that includes a win over the Ragin Cajuns in last year's Sun Belt title game. So you can understand why the line has shifted App State's favor like it has, but will following it get you to the pay window?

Well, like I said earlier, a line move through zero is always important to take note of, as it's the embodiment of a popular saying that many (myself included) like to use in that “the wrong team is/was favored” here. The market made that quick to be known given the move leading into Wednesday night, and the support forced the oddsmakers to adjust quickly.

And while disagreeing with the oddsmakers is the basis for every selection a handicapper makes, they get paid to do their jobs too, and judging by the lack of casinos and sportsbooks closing down everywhere, they tend to be pretty good at what they do. To flip the thought process around and ask yourself why they would have opened Louisiana as a 1-point favorite – one that even got bet up to –2.5 or higher at some shops initially – is another important question to ask yourself. After all, Louisiana closed at +17.5 in the Sun Belt title game last year, and now they opened as a favorite in the next meeting. That's all not related to the Cajuns being at home this time around.

While recent history has shown that App State has dominated this rivalry, the power rankings on Louisiana this year aren't soft for them to simply open as favorites here. Sure, much of the early market has disagreed with that assessment and backed said line of thought, but a team like Louisiana that's outperformed their line each week so far in 2019 seems to have earned quite a bit of respect from the oddsmakers to be a small favorite at open. That's not something I'm looking to take lightly or flat out ignore either.

Last year's Sun Belt Championship was one that finished with a 30-19 score, but Louisiana was in it all the way until the end. Losing the turnover battle 2-0 was a big part of the Ragin Cajuns loss that day, as was their inability to turn scoring drives into TD's. But they won the time of possession battle, were basically even in total and net rush yards, and held the Mountaineers to fewer first downs (13) and just 25% conversion rate on 3rd down. Those are all big time positives to take from the game as a 17-point underdog, and if they are brought with the Cajuns this week, and those mistakes are cleaned up, then is an outright win by the home team really out of the cards?

I don't believe going against significant line moves like that should be gone against often, but I do believe we see Louisiana step up here and hand App State their first loss of 2019. Considering how bad the Cajuns were against the run last year, to hold App State down the way they did on the ground suggests that schematically they knew what they were doing against this team.

A year older, and hopefully a year wiser for most of those Cajun defensive players could make all the difference this year in terms of much cleaner execution, and with a good chunk of Louisiana's starters back on the team this year, getting revenge for not being conference champions is something that I'm sure still sits in the depths of their memory banks.

Sometimes your initial read on a game is the most accurate one, and I believe that the oddsmakers weren't as wrong as the market wants to believe in terms of opening up Louisiana as the home favorite here. Give me the Ragin Cajuns.

Best Bet: Louisiana ML

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