Saturday begins bowl season. The public’s collective eye is trained on the College Football Playoff, but there are several entertaining games outside the CFP and much of the 40-game slate is wide open for astute bettors. One strategy that’s worked for me in the past is focusing on the coaches. In my view, there is no sport where coaches make a bigger difference than college football. You definitely need to consider who is making the calls before placing your bets.
What bettors should look for in a college football coach
Bowl games provide the guys in charge extra time to prepare. That often means the cream rises to the top. An extra game on national television also means a great opportunity for rising stars to market themselves to a big audience. But beware of teams that have recently switched staffs.
What teams have under-performed this year and have already put the season behind them? Who wants to gain momentum for next year? What coaches need a win to keep their job? Motivation matters in bowls
Coaches with proven track records
This week we look at coaches to get behind. Next week we’ll discuss some guys to stay away from.
Skip Holtz at Louisiana Tech (8-5, 6-2 C-USA) is someone to watch. His stock is rising after a third straight strong season. He has won three straight bowl games too. The Bulldogs have more time to prepare for the Armed Forces Bowl than Navy does.
Another coach having success in the Bayou is Mark Hudspeth at Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6, 5-3 Sun Belt). Throw out the 22 games that they vacated during his tenure, his record is strong, and he’s 4-0 at the New Orleans Bowl. They are back in The Big Easy this year taking on Southern Miss.
The perennially under rated Kyle Whittingham is one of the best coaches out west. He leads Utah (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) when they play Indiana, which just moved on from Kevin Wilson, in the Foster Farms Bowl. Whittingham is 9-1 in postseason games; Tom Allen will be coaching his first game for the Hoosiers.
It is relatively obvious that teams rarely make the playoff without an elite coach. Urban Meyer did incredible work at Utah and Florida before showing up in Columbus. With Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) he is 61-5, overall, and 10-2 in playoff and bowl games.
Though nobody looks at Oregon State as a mecca of great football, Mike Riley did excellent work there. Not only did he having a winning record at one of the two worst gigs in the Pac-12, he finished 6-2 in bowl games. Last year, his first at Nebraska, he beat UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl. This year, the Cornhuskers (9-3, 6-3 Big Ten) get Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. The Vols are coming off a bad loss to Vanderbilt and haven’t beaten a quality opponent since edging Georgia in early October.
Before you jump on Alabama, remember that Washington’s (12-1, 8-1 Pac-12) Chris Petersen, who spent eight years at Boise State, has a way with the big stage. The two Bronco wins in the Fiesta Bowl were littered with imagination. He’s 6-3 in bowl games.
Photo credit: self (Camera) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.