Part of the beauty of betting on college football is the huge variety of ways to attack the sport itself. There are dozens of games to choose from every week, and there is a huge disparity between the teams in terms of both on-field style and performance.
The amount of information available on each program also varies across the country, which creates a separate set of opportunities. In such a diverse sport, a smart bettor can take any of several different strategies to find a winner.
At CFB Winning Edge, we use a player-based ratings model that helps us to calculate an overall Roster Strength rating (which incorporates talent potential and adjusts for experience and career production) for each team.
We also integrate backward-looking Head Coach ratings, which assign a grade on all 130 FBS head coaches based on a variety of statistics, including performance against the spread. Together, along with recent Team Performance data, we develop our overall Team Strength power ratings.
We can convert those power ratings into a point spread for any matchup between two FBS teams. But football is played on the field, and not in spreadsheets.
Coaches can have a huge impact, both in preparation leading up to the game, and once the ball kicks off. Therefore, our model sees some of its biggest swings when a particular set of coaches is involved.
Some consistently rise above expectations, while others can’t be trusted to cover a large spread. Some are nearly unbeatable at home, while others are road warriors.
Knowledge related to coaching performance can provide an angle to follow – especially for bettors who distrust models like ours. Taking both sides into account, we took a look at how every active FBS head coach has performed against the spread in a variety of situations since 2009: at home or away, as a favorite or an underdog, versus conference and non-conference opponents, and when coming off a win or loss on the field.
Certain records jumped out, for better and for worse. For instance, Jeff Tedford has been a godsend for both Fresno State fans and bettors (assuming you’re not betting against him) over the last two seasons.
Not only has Tedford turned the Bulldogs around on the field (Fresno State was 4-20 in the two years prior to Tedford’s hire and are 22-6 since), he has a 20-6-2 against-the-spread record since taking the job. Tedford is also 5-0 ATS as an underdog away from home, and 8-2 versus the number against non-conference opponents.
On the other end of the spectrum, Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall has a brutal 0-8 ATS record in non-conference games since returning two years ago. UConn is also 0-3 as a home favorite over that time period.
Anyone betting on the Huskies recently (7-17 ATS under Edsall since 2017 and losing records ATS every year since he left for Maryland in 2010) probably hates Edsall. Of course, those perceptive enough to see the Huskies have been overmatched on a weekly basis love him.
While it is important to note streaks may be simple luck, and that arbitrary beginning and starting points can provide misleading information, we found quite a few scenarios, and potentially a winning angle or two, worth mentioning for 22 college football head coaches bettors love… and love to hate.
Love: Ed Orgeron vs. the SEC
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron may not get the credit he deserves for getting the Tigers ready to play. Since taking over midway through the 2016 season, Orgeron has posted a 16-5 ATS record versus SEC opponents.
LSU is also 4-0 ATS as a road underdog and 3-1 ATS on a neutral field. Death Valley is an obvious advantage, but as imposing as Tiger Stadium is, Orgeron’s squad has outperformed expectations elsewhere.
Hate: Gus Malzahn’s volatility
Auburn was 0-7 ATS following a straight-up win in 2018, but it went 4-1 ATS coming off an outright loss. The Tigers haven’t posted a winning record ATS following outright wins since an incredible 11-1 spread performance during their run to the 2013 BCS Championship Game.
Auburn is 12-26-1 ATS following an on-field victory since. No wonder he’s always on the hot seat.
Love: Will Muschamp away from Williams-Brice
South Carolina struggled to a 1-4 ATS mark on the road in Muschamp’s first season in 2016, but the Gamecocks are 7-0 ATS on the road since then. That includes a 6-0 ATS record as an away underdog. Muschamp also led Carolina to a win at Ole Miss last season in a pick ’em situation.
Hate: Mark Stoops struggles at home
Mark Stoops has done a terrific job at Kentucky. The talent level is better than ever, and the Wildcats have improved each year since he was hired.
However, Stoops’ team has been far from dominant at home recently. In fact, UK is 0-9 ATS as a home favorite over the last two years, and 4-12-1 ATS as a home underdog in the Stoops era.
Love: Kirk Ferentz taking care of business on the road
Since 2013, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has led the Hawkeyes to an incredible 15-2-1 ATS record as road favorites. Iowa was 3-0 ATS in that situation in 2018, beating Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois with ease while scoring an average of 51 points per game.
More reason to love Kirk Ferentz (for me, at least)? CFB Winning Edge posted a 10-1-1 record in games featuring Iowa last year.
Love: Pat Fitzgerald spoiling homefield advantage
Pat Fitzgerald is the kind of head coach some bettors love to hate because his Northwestern squad is capable of beating anyone, but also struggles against weaker competition.
Remember the Wildcats performance against Akron last year? But Fitzgerald has led his team to a 24-9 ATS record as a road underdog since 2009, including 10 straight entering 2019.
Love: Dino Babers’ road show
Back when he was the head coach and play-caller at Bowling Green, Dino Babers was practically a sure thing for bettors on the ‘over.’ Now, Babers’ Syracuse squad plays in one of the most unique home stadiums in the country (the Orange went 6-0 straight up and 5-1 ATS at home in 2018 after a slow start during his tenure).
Yet since his hire at Syracuse, Babers has led the Orange to a 9-3 spread record as a road underdog. The ‘Cuse is also 2-1 ATS as a road “chalk.”
Love: Geoff Collins, master motivator
Trends don’t often follow a head coach to his new job. Nevertheless, file away the fact Geoff Collins posted a 4-0-1 ATS ledger as an away favorite at Temple.
Perhaps more important, Collins led the Owls to an 8-2 ATS mark following a straight-up loss during his two seasons. With Georgia Tech likely to be an underdog in every game it plays against an FBS opponent, the Yellow Jackets will have plenty of opportunities to improve upon that record.
Love: Steve Addazio, a dude we can trust
Boston College has been incredibly consistent under Steve Addazio, winning seven (and exactly seven) games in five of his six seasons at the helm. Over the last two years, BC has been one of the most reliable teams for bettors.
The Eagles were 16-8-1 ATS overall, 4-1-1 as home underdogs, 4-0 as road ‘dogs, and 12-3-1 in ACC play. Guys being dudes.
Love: David Cutcliffe early in the season
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has turned the Blue Devils into a consistent bowl team, and as a result a threat to upset an ACC opponent on a regular basis. But Duke is downright dominant in early season non-conference games against the number.
Since 2009, the Blue Devils have posted a 31-13 record ATS record versus non-conference competition. Since 2013, Cutcliffe is 23-6 ATS in such contests.
Hate: Tom Herman’s failure to dominate
We’ve heard the stats about how well Tom Herman-coached teams have performed as underdogs against ranked opponents. However, those teams were also lackluster in games they were supposed to win.
As a home favorite at both Texas and Houston, Herman’s teams are a combined 6-15-1 ATS.
Hate: Riding the roller coaster with Gary Patterson
Gary Patterson is one of the most respected coaches in college football, and he’s built TCU into a consistent winner on the field. But, that on-field success has rarely been dependable for bettors.
The Horned Frogs are 3-12-1 ATS as home favorites since 2016 and 9-19 versus the number against Big 12 foes during that same period. Nevertheless, Patterson has posted a 13-5 ATS record as a road underdog since 2009.
Love: The consistency of Matt Campbell
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell is building a reputation as one of the game’s top young minds. And bettors love how consistent the Cyclones have played on his watch.
Iowa State is 23-14-1 ATS over the last three seasons, posting a winning record each year. The Cyclones are also 7-3-1 ATS as home underdogs during that stretch and have posted a 6-3 spread record in conference play each year.
Love: Mike Gundy with something to prove
The 2018 season was a roller coaster for Oklahoma State, which pulled off three outright upsets against ranked opponents, only to fall five times as a favorite.
But looking back, Gundy has regularly had his team ready to play following a straight-up loss: Since 2016, the Pokes are 9-2-1 ATS in such situations, including a 5-1 mark last year. Gundy is also 11-1 ATS in non-conference games during that same time frame.
Love: Kyle Whittingham following the script
Utah saw its winning streak in bowl games come to an end in 2018, which also marked the first straight-up loss to a non-conference opponent since 2012. However, the Utes remain dependable at home, where Whittingham has coached his team to an 8-2 ATS record as a home favorite over the last two seasons.
Utah is also a threat away from Salt Lake City, compiling an 11-2 spread record as a road underdog since 2014.
Love: Mike Leach versus everybody
There are lots of reasons to love Mike Leach. Bettors love the way Leach prepares his team to play on the road, where the Cougars have posted a 16-5 ATS mark as an underdog since 2013.
Washington State has also been dependable in Pac-12 play, where Leach is 25-11 ATS since 2015.
Hate: The ups and downs of Kalani Sitake
BYU has played like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the eyes of bettors during Kalani Sitake’s three seasons as head coach. Sitake posted an 8-4-1 ATS record in his first year, followed by 4-9 in 2017 and 9-4 a year ago.
The Cougars have posted a strong 9-2 ATS record as road underdogs on Sitake’s watch, but they have limped to a 0-3-1 ATS mark as home underdogs.
Hate: Bryan Harsin not following the script
Yes, UCF has had a great run, but Boise State is still arguably the premiere Group of Five football program. We just wish the Broncos would conform better to expectations.
Since Bryan Harsin took over as head coach in 2014, Boise State is an impressive 18-8 ATS as a road “chalk,” but it just 11-21 ATS as a home favorite.
Love: Troy Calhoun’s sample size
Entering his 13th season as the head coach at Air Force, we have a larger sample size for Troy Calhoun than almost any head coach in the country. Though there have been ups and downs, patterns have emerged for Air Force over the last decade: The Falcons are 31-48-1 ATS versus Mountain West Conference rivals, but they’re 27-19-2 ATS in non-conference play since 2009.
Calhoun has also produced a 21-32-1 ATS mark following a loss, and he’s just 27-44-1 ATS as a favorite.
Hate: Trusting Rocky Long
San Diego State is always a threat to pull off an outright upset, but the Aztecs have had trouble taking care of business as a favorite under head coach Rocky Long.
Since he arrived in 2011, Long has posted an 18-28 ATS record as a home favorite, including an ugly 0-6 slog last year.
Hate: Hoping Nick Rolovich will save the day
Hawaii holds a special place in the hearts of bettors, because the Rainbow Warriors can make or break a college football Saturday by waiting to kick off on Sunday morning on the East Coast.
However, a bettor asking Nick Rolovich to help dig out of a hole might be better off
passing fading: UH is 13-25-2 ATS overall under Rolovich, including a 3-9 ATS record as a home favorite and a sluggish 4-15-1 ATS mark in games following a straight-up loss.
Love: Bill Clark in Birmingham
UAB was already a feel-good college football story because the Blazers rose from the ashes in 2017 following a two-year hiatus. But head coach Bill Clark has also rewarded bettors since stepping back on the sidelines in Birmingham.
The Blazers are a healthy 18-8-1 ATS since the return, and they’ve been downright unbeatable at home (10-1-1 ATS) and in conference play (12-3-1) over that same period.