CUSA Championship Betting Preview: WKU (-3) vs UTSA

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Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Dec 02, 2021, 5:04 PM

Championship weekend in college football means there are some very plump online sports betting options. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until Saturday for kickoff. Western Kentucky and Texas-San Antonio will play a regular-season rematch to decide the champion of Conference USA.

UTSA Limps Into the Conference USA Championship Game

For fans of UTSA, there’s a lot to celebrate. UTSA started its program in 2012, and in the intervening nine years, the Roadrunners’ best-ever record was the 8-4 mark they earned in their inaugural season.

Thanks to Jeff Traylor’s leadership, the 2021 season has seen the program reach new heights. An 11-win season, a conference championship berth, and a fun College GameDay segment where Traylor stalks around the field, jokingly referring to his players’ tennis skills – UTSA’s stellar season has been one of the most fun elements of the 2021 season.

That said, when evaluating the Conference USA Championship game, it’s important to consider how each team has been playing lately, rather than their overall record. And right now, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that UTSA has been playing pretty poorly in recent weeks.

The first cause for concern was a lethargic home win over Southern Miss, where UTSA escaped what would have been a horrific upset. Despite entering as a 32.5-point favorite, the Roadrunners trailed for most of the first three quarters. They kicked a field goal with four minutes left to take a 20-17 lead, then capitalized a few moments later when Southern Miss fumbled on its first play of the ensuing possession.

After failing to cover a 4-point spread at home against UAB the following week, UTSA went on the road last Saturday, hoping to finish the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record. But instead of earning a win, they were run out of the stadium, 45-23, by a UNT team that’s barely bowl eligible.

Under the right circumstances, all this pretext might prime UTSA as a strong buy-low candidate, but it’s hard to put your money on UTSA in a big spot like this when it’s been playing so poorly. 

Western Kentucky is Now the Favorite to Win the Conference USA Championship Game

When I first looked at this week’s college football odds at the beginning of the week, sportsbooks were split on how to handicap this game. Some sportsbooks marked UTSA as a 1-point favorite, likely expecting public bettors to come in strong on an 11-win team with low national visibility that was offered as a virtual pick ‘em. On the other hand, some sportsbooks sensed a change in UTSA’s recent level of play, opting to open Western Kentucky as a 1-point favorite.

Regardless of how the week started, both public and sharp bettors have come in hard on Western Kentucky. The line moved to a consensus position at WKU -1.

As the week has progressed, the line has continued to move toward Western Kentucky.

How to Bet Western Kentucky vs. UTSA in the Conference USA Championship Game

When square and sharp bettors are aligned, it often means bad things for the sportsbook. That happens to be the case for this game, as most members of the online football betting community are backing Western Kentucky. Overall, 77 percent of tickets (and 88 percent of the overall handle) are on the Hilltoppers, with both public and sharp bettors holding those tickets. 

As of Thursday afternoon, the line has moved all the way to Western Kentucky -3. I believe we are unlikely to see the number move any further in this direction.

In terms of pure value, there is a case to be made here for UTSA +3. The Roadrunners are clearly a good team – one that has already beaten Western Kentucky this season, even – so the chance to grab the former 1-point favorite as a dog at a key number is appealing. Once the line has moved this far, a counter play on UTSA cannot be dismissed out of hand.

However, I have joined the other sharps that have been pounding the Western Kentucky side all week and causing the line movement. I grabbed this line at WKU -2 earlier in the week, and I would still recommend playing the Hilltoppers at WKU -3. The initial number and professional action throughout the week suggest that Western will avenge its early October loss in its conference championship game.

Play: WKU -3

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.