What more could possibly go wrong for the Old Dominion Monarchs?
Here is a team that at least scored a couple of upsets last season, beating North Texas and Virginia Tech,but they simply can’t get out of their own way this year. With a 1-7 record (-3-5 against the spread), they will be taking on the FIU Panthers (4-4 SU, 2-6 ATS) in a game that is slated to begin at high noon Eastern time and televised through the ESPN Plus app.
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There’s been only one win for ODU this season, and that came in the season opener against FCS entry Norfolk State. Still, competitive efforts in road losses to Virginia Tech and Virginia gave at least some indication that this team could compete with its Conference USA brethren.
That has not been the case, because the wheels have come off. And Bobby Wilder, the coach who has been in charge for eleven years, even before the program moved into the Division I ranks, has been stuck for answers.
Butch Davis has a more storied resume than Wilder, as he has won a national championship as an assistant at Miami and a Super Bowl as an assistant with Dallas, once took the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs and would surely have won a national crown as Miami’s head coach if he hadn’t skipped off to the Browns, leaving things in the hands of Larry Coker.
His FIU team looked befuddled in the early part of the schedule, losing three of its first four, beating only FBS competitor New Hampshire. There appeared to be some progress. although wins over UMass, Charlotte and UTEP aren’t what you build a reputation on. But the 50-17 loss to Middle Tennessee, in which the Blue Raiders only needed to complete six passes on the way to rolling up 471 yards of offense, was a back-breaker.
In the NCAA football betting odds that have been placed on this game, FIU is favored at home:
FIU Panthers -17
Old Dominion Monarchs +17
Over 48.5 points -110
Under 48.5 points -110
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There is a muddled quarterback situation at ODU – “unsetlled” is the word Wilder used to describe it. They did not find a lot of answers with Stone Smartt, and then they started Messiah deWeaver, the ballyhooed transfer who once played at Michigan State and then at East Mississippi Community College (otherwise known as “Last Chance U.”).
Well, we’re not saying that deWeaver has missed his last chance already with the Monarchs, but the team did not get itself going against either UAB or Florida Atlantic (41-3 loss) under his stewardship. Wilder, who may be getting a last chance himself, has hinted that Hayden Wolff, who was his big freshman quarterback recruit this season, could see action.
Old Dominion is dead last in offense in the FBS (Division I) ranks, and they have converted on less than 30% of their third down opportunities.
We briefly alluded to Wilder’s status. He is under contract to ODU through 2021, but Wood Selig, the athletic director, has mentioned that he will be evaluated after the season. And if the Monarchs don’t win three of their last four, they will finish with the worst record in the history of the program.
FIU’s three wins over FBS teams have come against defensive “have-nots,” as UMass, Charlotte and UTEP are all outside of the nation’s top 90 in Total Defense. Give credit to ODU for having a spirited stop unit, as they are ranked 43rd nationwide.
But is that enough for a recommendation?
We might normally say yes, but you know, the one thing that is hard to reverse is the performance of an offensive line. And Old Dominion may have the worst in the country. Their sack rate is the highest in the nation. They have given up more “tackles for loss” than any other team as well. They average just 2.4 yards per running play. And they are stuffed (held to zero or negative yards) more than 25% of the time.
The bottom line is that, well, they have a BOTTOM line.
FIU, still angling for a bowl berth, is better equipped to deal with coming back after humiliation. No, they are not perfect, but they have a steadier QB (James Morgan – only TWO INT’s in 182 attempts), don’t beat themselves a lot with penalties (top ten in that category) and have a huge potential edge in special teams, where they lead the nation in both punt returns AND punt return defense.
We’ll lay the points.
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