It’s natural to look at the players who make up the teams when it comes to betting on college football. But there are plenty of other things to consider and one of the biggest is coaching.
There are a few questionable characters who have a head coaching title that — let’s be real — probably shouldn’t. I present to you three teams with head coaches who are likely to be on the hot seat and could be axed if they produce an underwhelming season.
TCU, Gary Patterson
Regular-Season Wins: OVER/UNDER 6.5 (-110)
Big 12 Conference Champion: +2000
It’s no surprise that I would look to the Big 12 first. Hook’em! But I’m going to be forward: After 20 years, how is Patterson still around? He has been the head coach of the Horned Frogs since 2000, making him the second-longest-tenured head coach in Division I FBS, right behind Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (1999). In August 2016, Patterson’s contract was extended through 2022 but I’m not convinced he’ll see it through to the finish line.
Since 2000, TCU holds a 182-70 (72 percent) record overall but is 63-40 (61 percent) since joining the Big 12 Conference in 2012. Those numbers alone don’t sound too bad but in eight seasons in the Big 12, TCU has had double-digit wins just three times — in 2014, 2015 and 2017 — with a 39-33 overall record in conference games. In the last two years, though, TCU has an overall 12-13 record and last year missed out on a bowl berth for the second time in eight seasons.
From a betting perspective, TCU is 45-58 ATS since 2012, and 10-20 ATS as an underdog, but has turned out 22 players for the NFL draft, including five first-rounders. This team is too talented to produce a 5-7 season in 2019 and be 7-11 in conference games in the last two years.
With Oklahoma starting a new quarterback, this could be the year TCU finally gets a win over the Sooners after six straight losses and being outscored 241-163, including a 41-17 whuppin’ in the 2017 Big 12 championship. But this matchup comes in the second half of the season, giving Spencer Rattler enough preparation.
TCU opens its season at Cal, then faces SMU, West Virginia, Baylor and Texas all on the road. The Horned Frogs are 8-9 ATS on the road the last two seasons. If TCU falls below .500 yet again, that could spell trouble for Patterson.
Arizona, Kevin Sumlin
Regular-Season Wins: OVER 4.5 -200, UNDER 4.5 +170
To Win Pac-12 South Division: +1600
Sumlin has been Arizona’s head coach for just two seasons but is 9-15 overall, 6-12 in conference and 10-13-1 ATS. For a minute there, the Wildcats were looking like a threat in 2019, winning four straight games after a season-opening loss to Hawaii.
Their 51-27 loss to Washington, though, was the start of their demise. I remember this game because, well, I took the plus and they got crushed.
I had too much faith in Khalil Tate and the result was a seven-game losing streak and a missed bowl berth.
In those seven games, the Wildcats were outscored 282-134, and they produced just 27 total points in their final three-game stretch. One thing Arizona did excel at: the team was 15th in the country on third down, but those conversions did not translate to points, as they were ranked bottom 25 in points per play. Never mind the offense, the Wildcats struggled defensively, too. They were bottom 15 in opponent yards per game, opponent passing yards per game and points allowed, giving up an average of 35 points per game, just slightly ahead of teams like Akron, UTSA and Rutgers.
The Wildcats open their season with a home game against a Hawaii squad that will have both a new starting quarterback and a new head coach hired only in late January. Then they will face Texas Tech, UCLA, Washington, Utah and Oregon State on the road, where they have compiled a 2-9 record in the last two seasons.
Perhaps expectations were set too high for Sumlin but after producing 5-7 and 4-8 campaigns and missing bowl games in back-to-back seasons, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him out soon if things don’t improve.
UCLA, Chip Kelly
Regular-Season Wins: OVER/UNDER 5.5 -110
To Win Pac-12 South Division: +1000
The Pac-12 is a mess and this COVID-19 interruption won’t help the cause. I have to admit, when UCLA announced Kelly would be named head coach for the 2018 season, I was stoked. Perhaps he wasn’t a stud during his NFL coaching times, but you knew he was a bit of a college football coaching phenom after taking Oregon to the national championship game after the 2010 season and producing three conference titles in his four years there.
But in his two seasons at UCLA, the Bruins have gone 7-17 overall and 8-11 in conference. There was a bit of a spark last year when they beat Washington State 67-63 as 19-point underdogs following three straight losses to open the season. It was one of the most absurd games of 2019. The Bruins came back from a 49-17 deficit for an incredible, unbelievable night of Pac-12 action to win their first game.
Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t build off that short-lived momentum, going 3-5 after that win to finish with a 4-8 season record. The Bruins had one of the worst defenses in all of college football, allowing 35 points per game (108th in the country) and ranking 129th in opponent passing yards, yielding an average of 310 yards through the air per game to finish ahead of only New Mexico. They were bottom 20 in turnovers, bottom 10 in sacks allowed and they don’t travel well — they are 3-8 on the road in the last two seasons.
Chip Kelly’s coaching job may be directly correlated to whether quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson can excel during his third year. Thompson-Robinson progressed from his first year to his second but will need a standout 2020 if this team wants a shot at a winning season. Looking at their six road games, I’m not hopeful.