West Virginia Mountaineers vs Marshall Thundering Herd Odds Preview

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 04: (L-R) Matt Lindamood #38 Willie Milhouse #85 and Paul Millard #14 of the West Virginia Mountaineers celebrate against the Clemson Tigers a during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The West Virginia Mountaineers may be off to the Big 12 Conference, but first they'll open this season with a local rivalry game with the Thundering Herd of Marshall Saturday (noon ET).

Most college football betting shops opened this game with West Virginia favored by around 24 points, with an 'over/under' of 64. But as of Friday, the Mountaineers had been bet up to -26 at Top Bet and other places, while the total had been bumped to 68.

"We are a little higher still on the total at 68.5," said Top Bet spokesman Scott Winstone. "It's one of those great local rivalry games that always generates a surprise amount of handle."

That spread move coincides with the early 65/35 percent betting lean toward West Virginia, according to the matchup report at OddsShark.com. [ See all college football odds here at SBNation ]

The Mountaineers, ranked No. 11 in the pre-season AP poll, return 14 starters this year from a team that went 10-3 and crushed Clemson in the Orange Bowl last year. West Virginia gets back eight starters on offense, led by QB Geno Smith (31/7 TD/INT last year), WRs Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin (a combined 170 catches for almost 2,500 yards last year) and three along the O line.

And six starters are back on defense. So the high-powered Mountaineers, who averaged nearly 38 PPG last year, might just try to outgun everybody this year.

Marshall, meanwhile, gets 13 starters back after going 7-6 last year and winning a minor bowl. The Herd has back eight starters on offense, including QB Rakeem Cato (15/11 TD/INT as a freshman last year), last year's top two rushers and receivers and three along the O line.

But only five starters are back on a defense that gave up 405 YPG last season.

These teams have met each of the last six seasons, with the Mountaineers winning each of those games by an average of 20 points. Still, Marshall is 4-2 ATS in those games. But with West Virginia's move to the Big 12 this could be the last meeting between these two teams for the foreseeable future.

Last year the Mountaineers beat the Herd 34-13, but the game was closer than that scores indicates. Marshall held an early 7-0 lead, and only trailed 20-13 midway through the third quarter.

West Virginia, favored by 23 points, then returned a kick-off for a score, and added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Then bad weather came and the game was called with 14 minutes left to go.

Free NCAAF Pick: The Mountaineers are going to score some serious points this season, and their defense should be on the improve. So while we don't like giving up a lot of points on opening weekend, we'll go with West Virginia in this spot. Follow OddsShark on Twitter for Saturday updates and key wagering information.

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