College Football Handicapping: High-Profile Coaching Changes
by Trevor Whenham - 8/21/2013
As is the case every year, we have seen a whole bunch of coaching changes this year in college football. Because head coaches are at least as important in college football as in any sport, these moves are always interesting to watch. Four changes stand out as the most interesting this year because of the change they represent and the handicapping puzzles they present. Here’s a look at the four and what the new guys could mean for bettors in the short term:
Sonny Dykes, Cal
Watching Dykes is going to be extremely fun. It might also get ugly. His style is such a massive departure — for Cal and for the Bay area — that it will either be a refreshing change or a massive failure. He’s a brash Texan and a crazy gunslinger on offense. Berkeley is a lot of things, but brash isn’t one of them. It could be a spectacular pairing — opposites attracting — or it could be a replay of Rich Rodriguez trying to get folksy in Ann Arbor and failing miserably. Dykes has a couple of things going for him. He has Pac-12 experience since his last assistant gig was as offensive coordinator in Arizona. He also fits in much better in the new Pac-12 than he would have five years ago thanks to the arrival of guys like Rodriguez, Mike Leach, and Mike MacIntyre. The transition from Jeff Tedford could be rough for fans and the program, but at least they aren’t the only school in the conference going through such a bold transformation. The biggest problem that Dykes faces is that Tedford just didn’t leave him a lot to deal with. There are several talent deficits in key positions, and the mindset of the program has been far from ideal. Dykes also faces an absolutely brutal schedule — seven opponents are ranked in the preseason polls, including the second, third and fourth ranked teams in Ohio State, Oregon and Stanford. Dykes has his work cut out for him, but he also has nothing to lose. He will be fearless in his games and creative on offense. It won’t be enough to win many games this year, but he will make things more interesting than they would be under the direction of another coach.
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Kingsbury is a star, and he is going to have a whole lot of success in Lubbock. He is very strong offensively, and he couldn’t be more comfortable in Lubbock since he’s returning to a town he owns. He has some nice pieces to work with, and though his quarterback battle is undecided as I write this he will have someone to work with whoever wins. The first half of Kingsbury’s schedule this year is relatively manageable, so he will have a chance to get things rolling on the fly. The biggest problem we will face with Kingsbury and his squad is that public expectations are high, and value will be tough to find. If it weren’t for that then this would be a real spot for value. As it is, the Red Raiders will be an interesting bet in certain spots.
Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky
We’ve seen that Petrino can be a very strong coach when he is dialed in and committed — like he was in Louisville. We have also seen that he can make a total mess of a very good situation when he disgraced himself and his sport with the Atlanta Falcons. The question, then, is which Petrino will we see here? Will he be hungry to show that he is still a very good coach and that his personal issues are in the past? Or will he be frustrated that he has wound up somewhere so off the beaten path as Western Kentucky. We know that he will have no long-term loyalty to this program — he doesn’t know what the word loyalty means. We also know that he has a reasonable amount of talent — Willie Taggart did a good job here. It will take a game or two, though, before I can have any faith in Petrino and his commitment, and can’t therefore judge how to deal with this team.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
I really don’t get this move. In Wisconsin, Bielema was in charge of a Badgers program that was easily the third strongest in the conference and has shown in the last three years that they could break through to the top. In Arkansas he is in a conference very deep and tough and in a state that is a harder sell than most in the conference, so he will be hard pressed to ever consistently be in the position that Wisconsin was in in the Big Ten, never mind any better. It was, at best, a lateral move. It reeks of a mid-life crisis. Bielema would have been better off buying a sports car instead of moving teams. But how will he do this year in Arkansas? It’s hard to be optimistic. The talent is in disarray, and the mindset of the team is unquestionably damaged after the circus of last year. The schedule is brutal as well. It’s hard to imagine the team finishing too far out of the cellar. Despite my uncertainty about Bielema’s motivation for moving, I do respect him and know he will build a respectable program eventually. He’s not the kind of guy who will get the team to jump out of the gate and overachieve, though — he’s too methodical for that, and he has too much of an adjustment to make moving to the SEC. Betting against Arkansas this year will likely be a good idea.
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