Every season in every sport there are bad teams. Oddsmakers typically get a handle on them quickly and are able to set a decent line on games involving garden variety bad teams. Occasionally, however, there are teams that are so bad they confound linesmakers best efforts at qualitative (or lack thereof) assessment.
In the NFL, the Miami Dolphins have been one of those teams this season. They were a +7 home underdog in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens and were thrashed 59-10. They were a +18 underdog in Week 2 against the New England Patriots and they were once again thrashed, this time 43-0. They play at Dallas in Week 3 are are priced as +21.5 or +22 underdogs. There’s a decent chance that they won’t cover this week either.
There may also be a ‘monumentally bad’ team in college football. These are harder to peg early on since so many lower level college programs play big money games against the sport’s elite in the first few games of the season. For example, a team like Texas State will get slaughtered by opponents such as Texas A&M and SMU but will be reasonably competitive against a more equitable class of opponent in Sun Belt Conference play.
That being said, the University of Massachusetts Minutemen might be the college football equivalent of the Miami Dolphins. They’re in the first year of a new head coach as Art Bell takes over from Mark Whipple who stepped down following last season. Whipple’s Minutemen were a powerhouse in 1-AA competition in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s but the team has been a grease fire since stepping up to FBS competition. They’re coming off of back to back 4-8 seasons. In 2016 they were 2-10 and in 2015 3-9. Making these numbers all the more depressing is that last year’s team was loaded with returning starters. This year, they have only 8 total returning starters and could very likely run the table the *wrong* way and finish winless in 2019.
On paper, they had a decent chance to at least start the season with some traction. In their first three games they’ve played Rutgers, Southern Illinois and Charlotte. These teams combined for a of 8-27 SU in 2018 including FCS level Southern Illinois who went 2-9 last year. Instead of finding traction, the Minutemen are now 0-3 SU/ATS. After three games, UMass is ranked #122 in total offense (295.7 yards per game) and #115-T in scoring offense (19.3 PPG). They rank #128 in scoring defense (48.3 PPG) and #127 in total defense (536.3 yards per game). This is after the ‘easy part’ of their schedule. Six of their next eight opponents finished .500 or better last season. They’ll end the year with a gauntlet that has them going to Army, Northwestern and hosting BYU.
Check out these ATS records: UMass is on a 2-14 SU/6-10 ATS run as an underdog. As an underdog in this price range (10.5 to 21 points) they are on a run of 1-29 SU/8-22 ATS. During the last three seasons, they’re 0-7 SU/1-6 ATS in the aforementioned price range. Throw in the fact that they’re on a 3-8 ATS run getting points at home and there’s no reason not to lay the points with any opponent until UMass shows a sign of life. They may be facing their best opponent of the season here–Coastal Carolina has struggled since moving up to FBS as have many other teams. This is a very good program that was a beast at the FCS level. In 2015 and 2016, they went 19-5 in FCS play. In 2017, they suspended their entire cheerleading squad after allegations surfaced that members were paid $1500 a night for ‘dates’ but that is a different story entirely. The Chanticleers will obliterate UMass by 30+ points.