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Mid-Major Money: Big profits from NCAAF small conferences

Some of the best betting value in college football is hiding beyond the BCS, in the small conferences. Each week, Covers Experts’ Sports Profits System Investors will look at the little programs that could help you make big cash this college season.

Team to Watch: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

This week: +1 at Vanderbilt

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were a team that flew very much under the radar last season but managed to pick up momentum in the second half, winning five of their last six games, including a win over Marshall in their season finale. Jeff Brohm is entering his second season as head coach, having posted an 8-5 record in 2014, and is poised to have an even more successful campaign in 2015.

Quarterback Brandon Doughty has been granted a sixth-year of eligibility, which means WKU has the reigning C-USA Player of the Year as the engine that runs its potent aerial attack. He led the nation with 4,344 passing yards and 44 touchdown passes last season and, even though Vanderbilt resides in a much tougher SEC conference, Doughty is likely one of the top quarterbacks that the Commodores will see this season.

Vanderbilt’s best chance to win this game is to keep their offense on the field for prolonged periods of time in order to keep Doughty on the sidelines. With their inconsistent play at the quarterback position, the Commodores could struggle to score enough points to keep up with the Hilltoppers on the scoreboard.

Team to beware of: Navy Midshipmen

This week: -28.5 vs. Colgate

The Midshipmen are coming off a solid 8-5 season and will be entering the 2015 season as a member of the American Athletic Conference after spending the last 134 years as an Independent. Navy returns starting QB Keenan Reynolds, but he’s one of just three returning starters on offense. The biggest turnover for the Middies triple-option attack is on the offensive line, where the team’s career starts drop from 85 to 39 games.

On defense, Navy has long-term issues defending the pass, allowing opposing QBs to complete 65 percent of their attempts over the last five seasons. They’ve also lost three of their four starting linebackers, including Joran Drake who was the leader of this defensive unit a year ago. Drake had accounted for 109 tackles which was a team best and 23 more than the next leading tackler in 2014.

Navy should have an advantage in the AAC as very few teams have experience defending the Triple-Option. However, that mass turnover in talent on both sides of the ball could hurt the Middies in the early going. Colgate is nowhere near the same level as the Midshipmen, but this spread may be just a bit too much for Navy to cover in the first game of the season.

Total Team: Old Dominion Monarchs

This week: 66 at Eastern Michigan

The Monarchs were known for their offense last season but all of that is likely to change, at least in the early part of this season. They will need to recoup from the loss of their starting QB Taylor Heinicke, who threw for 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns a season ago. The experience and production of Heinicke will be missed especially on the road in a hostile Week 1 environment.

Eastern Michigan had a 2014 to forget under first-year head coach Chris Creighton, going just 2-7 overall. The Eagles couldn’t stop opposing teams from running up the score nor could they create turnovers, however, that should change heading into 2015. Creighton returns for his second year and his defense brings back eight starters from a season ago. Familiarity with the system and another year under their belts should make for a much improved defensive unit in Ypsilanti this season.