Baylor vs. Louisiana Monroe: Betting Odds, Preview, Matchup Stats and Prediction

OddsShark.com@@OddsSharkFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2012

LITTLE ROCK, AR - SEPTEMBER 8:   Jyruss Edwards #7 of the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks runs the ball against the Arkansas Razorbacks at War Memorial Stadium on September 8, 2012 in Little Rock, Arkansas.  The Warhawks defeated the Razorbacks 34-31.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks have shocked the college football betting world this season with their two-game journey through the SEC.

Now they get to play at home for the first time this season, Friday night vs. the 2-0 Baylor Bears (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) and bettors are wondering if they can be trusted with 7.5 points, according to the college football odds comparison.

"The questions are, can they pick up another upset victory, or at least cover the spread as a home dog, or will Baylor go to 3-0 in the post-RGIII era?" OddsShark.com football analyst Jack Randall said in an interview this week.

"Playing on the road as a huge underdog against superior foes carries a different motivation than playing at home against a superior foes and many are worried that this is a perfect letdown spot for the Warhawks."

The game currently sees one of the highest over-under numbers of the week as well. The total settled around 70 early Friday, after opening around 71.5 and dipping as low as 69 at some shops.

UK Monroe is 1-1, splitting two overtime games against big-time opponents. The Warhawks opened their season by beating Arkansas 34-31 in OT in Little Rock and then rallied to force overtime at Auburn before falling 31-28 last Saturday.

The 'Hawks won outright as 30-point dogs vs. the 'Hogs, then covered as 14-point dogs vs. the Tigers.

Junior Kolton Browning, a third-year starter for the Warhawks at quarterback, has completed 62 percent of his pass attempts this season, owns a 6-1 TD/INT ratio and leads the team in rushing.

On the other side of this matchup, Baylor was expected to step back into college football obscurity after Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III left school to join the NFL after last season. However, it's been a case of "so far, so good" for the Bears this year, with two high-scoring victories to their credit.

Baylor won its season opener a couple weeks ago, beating former Southwest Conference rival SMU 59-24, then dispatched Sam Houston State (FCS) 48-23 in last week's game.

Stepping into the big shoes left by Griffin, senior QB Nick Florence has completed 63 percent of his throws this season for better than nine yards-per-attempt, and owns a 7-2 TD/INT ratio.

Louisiana-Monroe returned 13 starters this season, eight on offense, including almost all their skill-position players, from a team that went 4-8 last year. Most experts are picking the Warhawks to finish in the middle of the pack in the Sun Belt Conference this season.

Baylor got back 14 starters this year, including eight on defense, from a team that went 10-3 last year. Most experts figure the Bears to finish in the bottom third of the Big 12 this season.

As of Wednesday afternoon, most online sportsbooks were listing Baylor at -7.5 for Friday's game, with a total of 68.5.

These two programs, separated by about 300 miles across the Texas-Louisiana border, have never met before on the football field.

Free Pick

The hometown crowd should certainly be juiced for this one, after their team nearly went 2-0 on the road in the SEC. The concern is that the ULM is vulnerable to a slow start or a bad break and the doubts will come creeping in. We play on Baylor. (Pick courtesy of PickShark.com. Watch for line updates via Twitter.)