You can bet on best football coaches

Sep 1, 2009 5:08 PM
by David Stratton |

A select few continue with winning ways

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 may become apparent.

For example, turnover margin is generally believed to be a statistic based on happenstance. Rarely will you find a team that consistently, season after season, posts a positive or negative turnover margin.

Even teams such as Ohio State, with a coach as accomplished as Jim Tressel, can have wildly varying turnover margins from year to year. For instance, last year the Buckeyes were +16 in turnovers, but the previous season they were -3. And the previous two seasons their turnover margin flip-flopped from +9 to -9.

However, there are a handful of coaches who have established a reputation for crafting teams that produce turnovers.

And when you think turnovers, the first name that should come to mind is Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech. His Hokie teams and their ferocious defense have become famous for forcing turnovers, averaging nearly +10 turnovers per year.

But perhaps the best program in producing turnovers is USC, where Pete Carroll’s (pictured above) teams have generated an eye-popping +12 in turnovers, on average, over the past five seasons.

Here are other college coaches with a solid record of producing positive turnover margins:

• Urban Meyer: In his four years at Florida, the Gators have averaged +11 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 +9 turnover margin over the past five years.

• Rich Rodriguez: The new Michigan coach was in a transitional season in 2008, but he had a solid turnover record his last five seasons at West Virginia – more than +10 turnovers/year.

• Skip Holtz: Although he’s only been the head coach at East Carolina for four seasons, he took a team that had a negative turnover margin of 8.7 turnovers/year to one that averages about +6.

How important is turnover margin? Of the top 15 teams in turnover margin (+14 and better), seven had double-digit win seasons, including Utah, the only team to go undefeated (13-0).

Moreover, the two top-ranked teams, Oklahoma (+23) and Florida (+22) played for the national championship.

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 39-22-1 ATS record since coming to Iowa in 1999, while Tom Amstutz has amassed a 28-14 ATS mark during his eight years at Toledo.

Conversely, some coaches seem to enjoy taking their show on the road. Mark Richt of Georgia, for instance, is 30-21-2 ATS when playing outside of Athens, while Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville was a stellar 43-26 ATS on the road (he left after last season; new head coach is Gene Chizik). 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 ninth season, Groh has taken the Cavaliers to bowl games five of the past seven years. He’s been solid at home, where he’s won 42 of 57 games. His best role is home underdog, where his teams have gone 17-6 ATS.

• Greg Schiano, Rutgers: During his eight-year tenure, Schiano has transformed the Scarlet Knights from conference doormat to Big East title contender. After four consecutive losing seasons, Rutgers has gone to four straight bowls and achieved its first ever Top 10 ranking in 2006. Schiano’s best role, however, has been against non-conference foes; Rutgers is 25-13-1 ATS versus non-division opponents.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: David Stratton