College Football Handicapping: Conference Changes
by Trevor Whenham - 8/16/2012
As seems to be the case every year nowadays, we come into this college football season with a lot of teams changing their conference affiliations. Those changes can have a big impact on every aspect of those teams — who they play, the types of teams they face, how they can recruit, what is expected of them, and so on. That means that bettors need to pay close attention to the changes and the impact they can have, so they are betting on what teams are now and not what they would have been before the move.
Here’s a look at eight teams that will be making moves this year:
West Virginia — Big East to Big 12
West Virginia is loaded. Coach Dana Holgorsen is in his second year at the helm and should have things working more like he wants them to than they were last year. Not that last year wasn’t solid — the team had a strong offense and capped the year with a 70-33 massacre of Clemson in the Orange Bowl. QB Geno Smith is among the best in the country, and there is talent all over the field. The problem, of course, is that the Mountaineers are moving from the brutally bad Big East to the very tough Big 12. They would win their former conference in a cruise, and they would have had a chance to go undefeated. Things are much harder for them in their new home, though. They won’t be caught totally off guard, though. Holgorsen spent a year in the Big 12 at Oklahoma State before this job, and new defensive coordinator Joe DeForest was with the Cowboys for a decade before this year. Ten wins is a very manageable goal, and more than that is possible.
TCU — Mountain West to Big 12
For a long time TCU has wanted to play with the big boys. Now they get their chance. It remains to be seen how happy they are to have gotten what they wished for. They have a very solid QB in Casey Pachall and some nice talent around the field. They have real issues with depth, though — especially in the secondary. For a team that typically plays five defensive backs, and which now plays in a league that loves to pass, that’s a major concern. They are done no favors by their schedule — their last five games are at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, versus Kansas State, at Texas, and versus Oklahoma. That’s an absolutely brutal stretch of games, and it’s hard to believe they will survive it. They’ll play in a bowl this year, but not with the record they have gotten used to in recent years.
Temple — MAC to Big East
Temple was a late addition to the desperate Big East — so late they only have 11 games on their schedule this year. They have played in bowls two of the last three years, though, and they have recruited very well thanks to two consecutive strong coaches. They have a very weak nonconference schedule — Villanova, Army, Maryland and Penn State — and that will certainly help their chances of bowl eligibility. Their new conference could certainly be more intimidating as well. Bowl eligibility would be counted as a success this year. I expect them to achieve it.
Hawaii, Fresno State and Nevada — WAC to Mountain West
We’ll deal with these three teams together because they fit well. They are all joining the Mountain West to make up for the loss of TCU this year and Boise State next year. All three of these programs are solid, and they add to a very tough conference. Nevada has had the same coach, Chris Ault, since 1976. His pistol offense has long been dangerous, and it will continue to be so. The other two programs are going through changes in leadership. Norm Chow finally gets his chance to run a program for the first time in Hawaii, and Fresno State makes a change after Pat Hill ran the job from 1997 to last year. Both programs have issues that are going to make it tough for them to be competitive this year. Nevada is a different story, though. They are at least the second best program in the conference right now, and could be in position to take the conference title if Boise State falters.
Missouri — Big 12 to SEC
I don’t really understand why the SEC wanted Missouri — or why the Tigers thought they were better off being in such a brutal conference. They should be able to score reasonably effectively — about as well as most of the teams in the conference. They have real problems, though. Both of their lines are small and will get beaten up in the physical SEC. The secondary is weak as well. This defense will be no match for SEC offenses this year, and in my eyes they would be very lucky to finish in the top half of their division. Despite a solid offense they are only a borderline contender.
Texas A&M — Big 12 to SEC
The move by the Aggies makes even less sense than the Tigers’. They miss out on all their geographical rivals in the Big 12, and they move into a very tough conference at a time when the team has real issues. They lost QB Ryan Tannehill to the Miami Dolphins. New Coach Kevin Sumlin is very talented, but he’s making a big jump up in class and has a lot of work to do to overhaul the attitude here. That will take time. They have recruited well early, and the season shouldn’t be a total disaster by any means. However, they are a step (or three) behind the elite in the conference and they are in a very tough division. I don’t expect much this year.
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