When initial betting lines for the first week of regular season were posted back at the end of May, Vanderbilt was a 6.5-point favorite over Middle Tennessee in its season opener.
That line is now 3 points. Gamblers do not appear to be very confident in the Commodores, also indicated by betting trends on season-long win totals futures:
it's good to be mentioned alongside Ohio State and LSU.— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) August 29, 2018
Let’s talk about this. Line movement reports from Vegas Insider and Covers.com show that while the line has moved three and a half points, it’s been a rather glacial movement over the course of several months with few significant movements. It’s the slow bleeding associated with members of the public betting $20 at a time rather than the quick, sudden movement associated with a handful of professional gamblers throwing large amounts of cash on the action.
You’ll also notice that since Monday, the line movement away from Vanderbilt has mostly stopped and settled at three points; a brief move to 2.5 was rather quickly moved back to 3 — likely an indication that the oddsmakers realized that they were too exposed at 2.5.
A recurring theme this offseason has been that a lot of casual college football commentators — mostly people who think they know a lot more than they actually do — have opined that Vanderbilt is a terrible team and that the Commodores are likely in for a long season. (But at least most of those people have the decency to also think that such a season would get the coach fired, unlike some people.) But the oddsmakers in Vegas, who have actual money at stake if their opinions are wrong, at least think Vanderbilt could win 4 or 5 games (which means, at a minimum, one or two wins against Power 5 teams) and is 6.5 points better than MTSU at home.
Remember: sportsbooks are very good at separating rubes from their money. It’s minor solace that they think Vanderbilt will be merely below average rather than terrible, but at least they don’t think we’re going to have to sit through 2014 or Woodyball again.