Arkansas’ Nation-Leading Wagering Juju Has Followed Odom Out West to UNLV

Barry Odom, Arkansas football, UNLV football
photo credit: Nick Wenger

Arkansas football hasn’t covered many spreads this year, whether as a favorite or an underdog.

Want to know who has been covering spreads?

Nevada-Las Vegas. Led by one Barry Odom, who had been in Fayetteville the previous three seasons as the Razorbacks’ defensive coordinator.

While Odom was serving under Pittman, Arkansas was 7-3 against the spread during the 3-7 2020 COVID season, 8-4-1 in 2021 and 7-6 last year. In those first two seasons, especially, Arkansas was among the nation’s leaders against the spread; Pittman entered the 2023 season leading the SEC in ATS record, covering about 63% of the time.

Apparently that good juju has followed Odom’s receding hairline all the way out to Sin City.

The Rebels are 9-2 overall and a nation-leading 10-1 against the number this season, according to BetOnline. They have a game left at home against San Jose State next Saturday to secure an outright Mountain West championship and the program’s first 10-win season since 1984.

Cinderella Season for UNLV Football

One of the old adages is good teams win, great teams cover.

Another old adage is that Vegas never loses. It’s more than ironic that the team right smack in the backyard of all the sportsbooks and casinos is doing so well against the oddsmakers.

Barry Odom is likely going to be courted for other jobs now with his head coaching experience at Missouri, his three years with Pittman and now his debut out in the desert.

One of UNLV football’s two losses is to Michigan, which has a great chance to win the Big Ten and go to the College Football Playoff if it defeats Ohio State in its next game.

The only game UNLV failed to cover was against Colorado State, in which the Rebels were a 6.5-point favorite and won by only two. So even when Odom’s team didn’t cover the spread, it still won the game.

Odom has plenty of other former Razorbacks out there helping him in this Cinderella debut season, like his defensive coordinator Michael Scherer, along with former Razorback wide receiver Landon Rogers, offensive lineman Jalen St. John and walk-on linebacker Jordan Hanna.

The standout is former Hog Jackson Woodard, who has emerged as one of the nation’s best inside linebackers for UNLV football:

Then there’s Odom’s hot-shot offensive coordinator, Brennan Marion, architect of the innovative GoGo offense that marries “old-school triple-option run games with modern-day spread concepts.” Marion is a candidate for the Broyles Award, annually given to the nation’s best assistant in Little Rock. One wonders if Pittman will call or has already called Odom about pairing Marion with his Broyles Award nominated defensive coordinator, Travis Williams, in 2024.

Arkansas Against the Spread

Meanwhile, Arkansas football is 5-6 against the number this season after failing to cover the 27.5 Saturday night against FIU.

Next up is what in the previous three years could have been dubbed the “Odom Bowl” – Arkansas vs Missouri. Currently, the Tigers are a 7.5-point favorite to come into Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and defeat Arkansas to finish off a 10-win season and likely secure a New Year’s Six bowl bid.

Missouri is 7-4 against the number this year, failing to cover this past weekend against Florida in a two-point victory after being favored by 12. It was the first time the Tigers hadn’t covered since losing to LSU by 10 on Oct. 7 at home as a 6.5-point underdog.

Arkansas has not covered a spread in Fayetteville this season. Per data at Covers.com, which dates back to 2006, if the Razorbacks fail to cover the spread on Friday, it would be the first time they’ve done that since their tracking began.

  • Against Kent State, the Razorbacks were 38-point favorites and won by only 22 (28-6).
  • Against BYU, they were 9-point favorites and lost by 7 (38-31).
  • Against Mississippi State, they were 7-point favorites and lost by 4 (7-3).
  • Against Auburn, they were 2-point favorites and lost by 38 (48-10).

This will be the first time this season that Arkansas is an underdog in front of its home fans, so perhaps that will give Hogs extra motivation to rise up and overcome the odds to ruin Missouri’s excellent year. Or, maybe, the fans will allow Missouri football fans to stripe out their stadium and run roughshod over the Hogs.

Vegas has said its piece. Now, it’s time for Arkansas to respond.

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