We’re at the point in the college football season – about two-thirds of the way through – when it becomes clear that there are some coaches who are coaching their final games with their team. Some schools will fire their coaches in-season – a couple have already this year – but more often the schools will keep the coach around through the season in an attempt to minimize the disruption of the change. It’s not hard for college football handicappers to spot situations like this, but it can be much harder to figure out how a team is going to react. Sometimes a team will totally quit on the coach because they know they have nothing to play for. Other times, though, they will rally around the departing coach. Both situations can be very profitable, but sports bettors have to figure out which one is likely with a team so they can be sure to be on the right side. Here are five questions college football handicappers can ask themselves as they try to figure it out:
Who is likely to take over? – Often times the likely replacement coach isn’t obvious. Sometimes, though, it is. The closer a likely replacement is currently associated with the team, the more likely the team is going to finish strong. That’s because current players will be wanting to play well to impress the incoming coach and try to secure a good position on the team next year. The most obvious case of a situation like this is when an assistant or coordinator is going to take over. It can also be a factor when the likely replacement isn’t currently coaching elsewhere so is keeping a close eye on the team.
How many players were recruited by the coach? – The more players on the football team that were recruited by the outgoing coach, the more likely the players are going to be loyal to him and looking to play hard for him through to the end. The obvious companion question here, of course, is what kind of a guy is the coach? If he’s a popular guy who the players like and play hard for then loyalty will be a factor. If he’s obnoxious, incompetent, and ineffective then the team will be ready to see him go, and they will be done with him as soon as it is clear he is on his way out. Another factor to consider here is how the coach is being treated by the school. If a popular coach is being treated badly by the administration then it can be a very strong rallying point for the players.
Why is he getting fired? – Is the football coach getting the boot because he is having a decent season by most standards, but one that just doesn’t measure up to what is expected of his program? Or is he on his way out because he is hopelessly ineffective and couldn’t win a game if the other team didn’t show up? Generally, the better the coach has been, and the more obvious coaching talent he has, the more likely the team is to keep their act together and play reasonably strong though the drama.
What’s the age of the roster? – A team made up of a lot of seniors – one of those squads that has older guys as stars and leaders – is likely to not play particularly well in a situation like this. They will be frustrated by the fact that their last season of college football – and football of any kind for many players – has turned into such a mess. Pouting is contagious on a team, and players will pout in a situation like that. A younger football team with years of eligibility ahead of them know that they have more and presumably better time ahead of them, so they are better able to weather what they are forced to go through now, and aren’t as likely to let it affect their play.
What’s the schedule like? – Perhaps the biggest factor of all is who they are playing. A coach who knows he is on his way out isn’t likely to put quite as much effort into preparation – they will do their job but probably won’t kill themselves. If the rest of the schedule is reasonably soft then that won’t be a huge issue. If they close out against good or really good NCAA teams, though, then it could be harder for a team to get things rolling. As soon as a team in this situation faces a humiliating blowout loss AS A college football handicapper, you’d expect them to quit for good.