Every year we see college football teams that have to deal with the absence of a quarterback who has been a mainstay for a long time. Oftentimes those departed quarterbacks are stars who have shaped the recent years of the programs and will inevitably be missed - Jared Goff at Cal, Paxton Lynch at Memphis, Dak Prescott at Mississippi State, Connor Cook at Michigan State, Kevin Hogan at Stanford, and so on. In some cases the loss of these guys will have a profound impact on their teams and the people who bet on them. Other times, though, the team will barely miss a beat. Here are nine questions to guide you as you think about what to expect from a team with a new QB:
How long had he been there?: More specifically, how long had he been the unquestioned starter? It is tougher to replace a guy who has been starting for four years than one who has started for two years - it has been longer since someone else has been in charge. If a guy started for four years then the team likely doesn't have anyone with any real experience to replace him, and it has very few players, if any, that have ever played for another QB. That can make the transition even more difficult.
What was the public perception?: Sometimes when a guy leaves a program he will be mourned by the fans and bettors. He was universally liked and respected, and bettors and fans will automatically assume that his absence will have a big impact on the team. Other times, though, fans and bettors will be relieved that the guy is gone and that the long years of suffering have ended. They will assume that the team will be better off without the unliked player regardless of who is next up. Perception can have a bigger impact on the way games are bet and lines move than reality - especially in the first couple of games of the season.
Is there a competition to replace him?: Some programs have a seemingly constant supply of young quarterbacks waiting for their chance to take over. The transition is easy. When Jameis Winston left Florida State or Marcus Mariota left Oregon, though, they didn't have a good option, and they had to look to grad transfers to fill the gap. Both schools had some issues with that approach. The more viable replacements a school has, the better the chance that someone will be ready to step up in the first game of the season.
Does the new guy have significant experience?: Sometimes injuries, or the philosophy of coaches in blowout games, mean that the next guy up has already played quite a bit, so he knows what to expect. Other times, though, even if the new guy has been around the program he hasn't had any real chance to experience game speed and the pressure of playing in front of a big crowd. Game experience can't be replicated in practice, so this is a big factor to consider.
What else does the team lose?: Sometimes an underappreciated part of the success of a strong quarterback is that he was part of a very strong class for the school. It's important, then, to look at what else has been lost along with the QB. The quarterback will get the bulk of the attention from the media and casual bettors, but it might not ultimately be the most important factor for the fate of the team.
Coaching changes?: Changes in position coaches or coordinators can have a big impact on a quarterback change as well. If a team not only has to deal with a change in QB but also a new philosophy from a new offensive coordinator or QB coach then the effects of the change could be amplified. These changes often don't get as much respect and attention as they deserve from casual bettors.
Early schedule?: It will be a lot easier for a new guy to find his way and break in if he is playing a couple of cupcake games against no-hope opponents than it is if he plays Alabama or Florida State early on. The quality of early opponents needs to be considered seriously. On the other hand, the betting public is likely to potentially overreact to a tougher schedule and assume that the new QB has no chance.
How complex is the scheme?: On some teams a quarterback doesn't have much thinking to do. The running game is heavily used, and passing games are relatively simple and quarterback friendly. Other teams use a very complicated offense where the quarterback is forced to make countless reads and decisions every time he touches the ball. Obviously one is easier for a new quarterback to fit into than the other. It will also be generally easier for a QB to break into a complex system if he has been with the team for a while and has worked with the scheme extensively in practice even if he hasn't played a lot.
What is the national media's opinion?: What the media says has a huge effect on what the betting public thinks - especially early in the season. Oftentimes the big names in the national media will share a common opinion about how replacing a quarterback will go for a team. Almost as often, those opinions won't be the same as you think due to your handicapping. If you don't agree with the national media then you could have a nice chance for value.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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