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Cash in on role-playing college coaches

Aug 26, 2008 7:05 PM

By David Stratton | In football, coaches can often make a huge difference in the success or failure of a team, and that difference is underscored in the college ranks.

And, because college coaches usually devote more time with a team than their NFL counterparts, specific patterns or trends have time to develop and become apparent.

As pointed out in another GamingToday article ("Follow trends with caution"), trends – especially against the spread (ATS) trends – should be viewed with skepticism, and often times they should be discounted altogether.

It is safe to believe some of the patterns established by college coaches can be relied upon as legitimate trends, when they are based on, say, a track record of at least five years.

For example, turnover margin is generally believed to be a statistic based on happenstance.

Even teams such as Ohio State, with a coach as accomplished as Jim Tressel, can have wildly varying turnover margins from year to year.

Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech. teams have become famous for forcing turnovers, averaging more than +7 in takeaways per year.

But perhaps the best program in producing turnovers is USC, where Pete Carroll’s Trojans have generated an eye-popping +13 in takeaways, on average, over the past five seasons.

• Urban Meyer: In his three years at Florida, the Gators have averaged +9 in turnovers per year. In his last two years at Utah, Meyer’s team averaged +12 in turnovers/year.

• Mack Brown: His Texas Longhorns have had a positive turnover margin over the past five years of about +5 per year.

• Jim Grobe: Wake Forest has a +7 turnover margin over the past five years.

• Rich Rodriguez: The new Michigan coach had a solid turnover record at West Virginia – more than +10 turnovers/year.

• Skip Holtz: Although he’s only been the head coach at East Carolina for three seasons, he took a team that averaged -8 turnovers a year to one that averages +7.

How important is turnover margin? All of the seven listed teams had winning seasons last year; four had double-digit wins, with the worst record being 8-5.

Playing at home is usually an advantage for most teams, but some coaches do it better than others. Kirk Ferentz, for instance, has compiled a 36-19-1 ATS record since coming to Iowa in 1999, while Tom Amstutz has amassed a 25-11 ATS mark during his seven years at Toledo.

Conversely, some coaches seem to enjoy taking their show on the road. Mark Richt of Georgia, for instance, is 28-16-1 ATS when playing outside of Athens, while Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville is a stellar 43-26 ATS on the road. Both coaches, incidentally, have losing point-spread marks at home.

Here are a couple other college coaches that have established roles worth noting.

• Al Groh, Virginia: Now in his eighth season, Groh has taken the Cavaliers to bowl games five of the past six years. He’s been solid at home, where he’s won 38 of 50 games. His best role is home underdog, where his teams have gone 14-4 ATS.

• Greg Schiano, Rutgers: His best role is outside the Big East. Rutgers is 22-8-1 ATS versus non-division opponents, whom they’ve beaten at home by an average of 28 points in 12 of 14 contests.

For complete football analysis, catch GamingToday’s upcoming football preview podcasts, beginning this Friday (Aug. 29) and continuing weekly during the season (both college and NFL).

The podcasts are free of charge and found on the GT website,, beginning at 10 a.m. (Pacific time), Fridays, and archived through the weekend.