It has been a crazy coaching carousel season in the world of college football already, and it's still early. We could see more programs making changes soon, but at this point there are six bowl-bound programs that have faced a coaching change since the start of the season. Of those six, four face uncertain coaching situations at this point -- USC and Toledo have both permanently promoted coordinators to the head job. Of those two, USC has the advantage, because new Toledo head coach Jason Candle, the offensive coordinator, still has to adjust to his new role during bowl practices. There are likely to be more teams facing an interim or new coach situation during bowl preps, too, as successful coaches from smaller programs are elevated to bigger jobs.
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Bettors need to keep a close eye on these changes and what they mean to teams and games. It can provide a big edge for smart bettors. When looking at the impact of coaching changes, here are five factors to consider:
Why is the old guy gone?: There are generally two reasons that a coach is gone at this time of year -- lacking performance, or because he has left for another job. Either way, the players left behind can have very different reactions to the departure. Since the players are the ones who have to play in the bowl game, it is them that we need to be concerned with. Players could be thrilled that a needed change is underway or very excited about the next coach and eager to impress him. They could be frustrated that their coach was fired when he wasn't deserving, in their opinion. They could feel cheated or betrayed that their coach ditch them for brighter lights. You need to really consider why the change was made, what the players are likely to feel about the change, and what impact that could have on the outcome of the game.
Is the new guy in place?: It can be really tough for a team to focus during their bowl practices if they don't know who their next coach is going to be -- especially if it is a high-profile search that the media is focused on. A new coach won't be coaching his new team in bowl practices unless he was an existing coordinator before the change, but he'll still be around, and his presence will be felt. Similarly, if there isn't a new coach yet then his presence will be missed -- and that can be a distraction.
How stable are the assistants?: When a coach leaves or is fired, it's left to the remaining coordinators and assistants to run practices and prepare for the games. These guys need to feed their families, though, and they usually don't have the same generous financial arrangements when they lose their jobs. Assistants that aren't going to remain at the school, then, are going to be looking for their next job at the same time as they are preparing for the bowl, and that can have a negative impact on the team. Another thing to consider here is when assistants from successful, high-profile programs have been hired as head coaches at other schools. Currently, for example, Alabama and Michigan are among the schools that have lost key assistants to other schools. That can leave holes at otherwise excellent programs leading up to a big bowl game.
What is the public perception of the situation?: There's that old saying that perception is reality. In the case of bowl handicapping and coaching changes that couldn't be truer. It doesn't just matter what impact the coaching situation is likely to have on the team in their bowl game. It also matters what the public expects from the situation -- even if what the public expects isn't necessarily true in your eyes. A strong opinion from the public will have a very big impact on how the lines are set and how they move. That can create a lot of value on a team you like or totally destroy the value depending on which team you like and how the public views the situation. A splashy new hire can positively impact the public perception of the team even though the new coach doesn't impact the bowl prep. On the other hand, a chaotic or poor coaching search can have a negative impact.
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