College football is officially back and so is online sports betting in West Virginia.
Just days before WVU Mountaineers and Marshall Thundering Herd take the field, two online sportsbooks launched their mobile sports betting apps:
FanDuel accepted its first bets on Monday, Aug. 26 and DraftKings fired up its app two days later.
This is welcome news as the NFL and college football seasons are set to open their regular seasons.
It appears that bettors in the Mountain State have started getting in their preseason futures wagers on both teams at the three active retail WV sportsbooks.
The state’s overall betting handle has been increasing in the last few weeks. Expect that number to continue to rise now that online sports betting is back.
WV football week 1 preview
The 2019 season kicks off this Saturday for West Virginia college football.
Both the WVU Mountaineers and Marshall Thundering Herd open up at home on Aug. 31.
The Mountaineers, which just named their starting quarterback last week, will battle James Madison in their first game.
Marshall will begin 2019 with a matchup against another FCS opponent in the Virginia Military Institute.
WVU and Marshall are both coming off winning seasons a year ago, but they have different expectations entering the new campaign.
The Mountaineers lost their starting quarterback and head coach from last year. Any program that undergoes this sort of change is sure to take a step back or two.
On the other hand, Marshall has high hopes for this season. The Herd finished 2018 by winning four of their last five, including the bowl game against South Florida.
The team is looking to build upon its nine-win year by winning a conference championship this time around. Marshall finished 6-2 in Conference USA play, which was good enough for second in the East division.
Let’s take a look at WVU and Marshall’s Week 1 games and examine the betting options for each team.
WVU vs. JMU
The biggest news around the WVU fall training camp has been regarding who will be the team’s starting quarterback. It wasn’t announced until this week that Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall will start the season under center for the Mountaineers.
The quarterback has finally earned his chance to lead a team after spending several years at Oklahoma on the bench. He was forced to sit behind the likes of Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Now Kendall has his opportunity in the same Big 12 conference as his former school. Before he gets a chance to take down the conference favorite, Kendall will go up against James Madison.
The Dukes come into the season with a lot of hope. They’re actually ranked as the second overall team in the FCS this preseason according to STATS.
Many wouldn’t expect a team from college football’s subdivision to pose much of a threat to a program like WVU, but that’s just what JMU will do on Aug. 31.
Along with coach Neal Brown, JMU’s Curt Cignetti is making his coaching debut for his new team, too. He’s hoping the Dukes can pick up exactly where they left off last season.
Quarterback Ben DiNucci leads the Dukes into Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium with plenty of confidence. He’ll have his top three receiving options from a year ago back on the outside of the offense.
If JMU is able to score some touchdowns, the Mountaineers will have a tough afternoon. The Dukes’ defense returns 10 starters and will be an issue for opposing offensive coordinators all season.
The one starter JMU lost to the NFL has been replaced by cornerback Rashad Robinson. He was forced to redshirt last year due to an injury, however, he was recently named to Athlon Sports’ Preseason FCS All-America Team.
Betting on WVU Football at WV sportsbooks
According to DraftKings in New Jersey, WVU has the following odds for its Week 1 game:
- WVU -7 (-110)
- Moneyline: -295
- JMU +7 (-110)
- Moneyline: +230
- Over 54.5 (-110)
- Under 54.5 (-110)
Typically, colleges from one of the Power Five conferences would be laying a massive point spread against an FCS team. Clearly, bookmakers are anticipating a much more competitive affair with this game.
In fact, the point spread has actually climbed a significant amount. The game’s opening line had a spread of WVU -5.5. It would make sense that it’s risen to a full seven points after WVU supporters bet up the line.
While the game will probably be very uncomfortable for Mountaineer fans, coach Brown and his team should be able to cover this spread. Despite JMU being a very formidable opponent, the talent on WVU’s roster should be enough to win by two touchdowns.
With that being said, it should be a much closer game than most might anticipate. If JMU can keep it close, it will mean that its defense is effective in slowing down Kendall and this new look Mountaineer offense. The under could be a good play.
Marshall vs. VMI
The other game taking place in WV might not be nearly as exciting. While Marshall returns the majority of its starters and is poised for another bowl appearance, the VMI Keydets are not.
VMI finished dead last in the Southern Conference in 2018. They had a horrific record of 1-10, including 0-8 in conference play.
Perhaps even worse than VMI’s record was how it played in those games. Over the course of the entire year, the Keydets were outscored by 273 points. For an 11 game schedule, they lost by an average of almost 25 points.
Even though VMI will be optimistic about having a fresh start, its chances of leaving Huntington with a victory are slim. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, Marshall has a 99.4% chance of winning their opener.
The Thundering Herd should be able to impose their will early and often. While most likely playing with a sizable lead for the majority of the day, running backs Brenden Knox and Tyler King should get plenty of work.
An easier matchup in Week 1 can be beneficial for teams to gain their footing and try out some new schemes. Unlike WVU, Marshall will have the chance to work on some things in its first game.
There are still no lines available for this game. When one does release, Marshall is set to be favorites by several touchdowns and should have no issues walking away with an easy win.
WV football futures
With the launch of FanDuel and DraftKings this week, betting on WV football just got easier. For a rural state such as West Virginia, mobile sports betting is key to growing a thriving betting market.
Bettors feared the return of online betting would never come and even began making alternative plans which included crossing the border into Pennsylvania. Needless to say, the launch of not one, but two online sportsbooks is very welcomed news.
Of course, there are still three retail sportsbooks active in the WV sports betting market:
While there’s no line for Marshall’s first game of the season, there are still futures available. DraftKings NJ has the following odds for both WV teams:
- Over 5 (+108)
- Under 5 (-130)
- Over 7.5 (-110)
- Under 7.5 (-110)
- WVU – Big 12
- Marshall – Conference USA