College Football Handicapping: Teams That Could Fall Short of Expectations
by Trevor Whenham - 8/14/2013
One of the many things that makes college football so interesting is the legacy of programs and how that can last well after the stars are gone — or disappear in a heartbeat if mismanaged. Alabama is historically great right now, so it would be easy to forget that it wasn’t that long ago that this program was the disaster that hired Mike Price and then panicked and picked Mike Shula after Price fell from grace with a thud.
Teams in college football establish expectations within the minds of bettors. People know, for example, that Michigan is always a team that should be expected to win about 10 games and compete for a Big Ten title. That’s why it was so shocking when Rich Rodriguez happened to Ann Arbor. For smart bettors, a team that is falling below those expectations in the minds of the betting public can create some real value.
Here’s a look at three programs that are in real danger of performing well below the established expectations for them now and going forward:
Dana Holgorsen knows his offense. Increasingly, though, I have to question whether he knows how to run a team. The stories coming out lately about the leadership on the team last year — or the total lack of it — are shocking. Lately Holgorsen has had to defend Geno Smith as a leader, and at the same time he has been very critical of other players. He just doesn’t seem to be a guy who has tight control of his team and how they players and coaches are acting and working together. If we know one thing in college football it’s that the teams that win consistently have excellent coaches who have strong control of their teams and can quickly crack down on and correct any problems that occur. Is Holgorsen that guy? At best, the jury is out. The Big 12 is a far bigger challenge than the Big East was. I don’t that this team will fall into total disgrace or disrepair by any means. In the Big East, though, they were always a threat to be a national contender. In the Big 12 the wins they need could be harder to come by, and they could be stuck to the middle tier of the league if they don’t get their act together. They could be another Iowa State, in other words, and no one in West Virginia wants that.
The issues surrounding the Hawkeyes can be summed up in one recent development — even though it concerns a player who hasn’t even started his senior year of high school yet. Ross Pierschbacher, the No. 1 offensive guard in the class of 2014 and a resident of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and a Hawkeyes fan, had committed to Iowa in January. This week, though, after he had visited Stanford and Alabama, he flipped his commitment to the Crimson Tide. On the surface the move makes sense — who wouldn’t want to play in Alabama? When you look closer, though, his change of heart really hurts. Iowa runs the same style of offense as Alabama, and playing time will be far easier to find for the Hawkeyes. Iowa has been an offensive line factory under Kirk Ferentz, producing several first-rounders who have gone on to good careers. It should be a perfect fit for a guy who was a lifelong fan from in-state. Ferentz is only barely competent at this point, though, and even if he is still attractive to recruits, it seems very unlikely that he will still be with the school at the end of a current high school junior’s college career. Heck, it’s not that likely he’ll be there for the start of it unless he really improves on last year’s 4-8 mess. Iowa has never been at the truly elite levels of the Big Ten and probably won’t ever be. They had a very good niche carved out as a team no one wanted to play, though. That has been damaged in the last couple of years, and without some serious and dramatic changes there is a good chance that the changes will become the new reality, and Iowa will become just another Illinois or Minnesota — a Big ten also-ran that teams love to see on the schedule.
What has Maryland done lately to inspire fans and potential recruits? They hired a boring coach with a potential ceiling of somewhere around the high end of mediocrity in Randy Edsall. And they wore the ugliest uniforms I have ever seen in my life. That’s about it. On the other hand, they face a looming move to the Big Ten that puts them in a much deeper, more physically-demanding conference and puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting in the geographic footprint of that conference. The Terrapins have long been trying to make a breakthrough to the consistent upper half of the ACC, but they have never really succeeded in a sustained way. With Michigan and Ohio State as established superpowers, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan State not far behind, Northwestern getting their act together like never before, Indiana starting to finally show some sparks of life, Penn State far exceeding expectations on the field and in recruiting, and Iowa not as bad as they look right now, it would be really easy for this Maryland team to fade into total football obscurity once they make the move to their new conference next year. In fact, at this point I would be quite shocked if they didn’t.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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