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College Football Betting 2021: Teams to fade with head coaches on the hot seat

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Jim Harbaugh

There are 130 FBS college football head coaches responsible for preparing their teams every Saturday to compete and get a win. The goal is to not only improve the players on a day-to-day basis on and off the field but also to come away with a victory.

Head coaching changes seem as frequent as ever, with many facing heightened expectations to improve their team quickly. Only 12 head coaches have been at their schools since 2010 or before: Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (1999), TCU’s Gary Patterson (2000), Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy (2005) and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham (2005).

Within the past three years, there have been 65 head coaching changes, meaning 50% of all current FBS head coaches have been hired since 2019.

First Season Coaching at School # of Coaches Still at Current School
2015 5
2016 11
2017 12
2018 13
2019 23
2020 24
2021 18

Coaches can fit in a multitude of classifications. There are the elite, untouchable ones — the Nick Sabans, Dabo Swinneys and Ryan Days of the world. There are the newly hired ones and those who should feel comfortable about their job security, barring a complete meltdown s the Steve Sarkisians and Lane Kiffins belong here. Another group, the Dana Holgorsens, Jim Harbaughs and Clay Heltons, need a good season to get back on track.

And lastly, there is the true hot seat group.

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These coaches are on the verge of getting fired or must produce a winning season to keep their job. The college football season is only 12 regular-season games, but for teams with coaches on the hot seat, a slow start or a few losses can quickly pile up and cause the team to crumble.

When betting on teams during a college football season, coaching is a small factor that needs to be taken into consideration. Last season, there were four coaches who were fired in the middle of the campaign:

Team Coach ATS After Firing Coach W-L Record After Firing Coach
Utah State Gary Andersen 1-2 1-2
Illinois Lovie Smith 0-1 0-1
Vanderbilt Derek Mason 0-1 0-1
South Carolina Will Muschamp 0-3 0-3

There were also four coaches fired midseason in 2019:

Team Coach ATS After Firing Coach W-L Record After Firing Coach
UNLV Tony Sanchez* 2-0 2-0
Arkansas Chad Morris 2-0 0-2
Rutgers Chris Ash 3-5 1-7
Florida State Willie Taggart 1-2 2-1

*UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez was allowed to coach the final two games of the season

Teams with tenuous coaching situations are difficult to bet on. Positive coaching changes can improve a team drastically, but coaches on the hot seat or keeping a coach a year too long can affect a team negatively.

Below are a few teams that may be looking for a new coach in a few months' time and might be worth fading during betting season, at least until the trajectory of the team can be determined.

Connecticut Huskies, Randy Edsall

Only three teams opted out of playing fall football last season: Old Dominion, New Mexico State and UConn. This may have been for the best for the Huskies. Edsall is the program's all-time leader in games coached and wins, but six victories from 2017-2019 is a rough three-year span.

Although the Huskies spent last season still practicing, having to go nearly two years without playing a live football game is a tough task. The 2018 and 2019 seasons resulted in a combined 3-21 record, including only one win against an FBS team: a 56-35 victory over Massachusetts (the other two wins were 24-21 over Wagner and 56-49 over Rhode Island). There are games against Holy Cross, Massachusetts and Yale on the 2021 schedule, but even the FCS games are far from guaranteed.

Even Middle Tennessee and Vanderbilt seem like difficult opponents. Back in 2019, the Huskies ranked 13th-worst in PFF overall performance and 10th-worst in PFF defensive grade. They will assuredly be underdogs in approximately 10 games and double-digit dogs for at least half of them. Big spreads are scary to bet on, but this team has not played football in so long. In 2019, UConn was 21-plus-point underdogs in eight games and 5-7 against the spread (ATS) over the course of the season.

Syracuse Orange, Dino Babers

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