Expert College Bowl Game Handicapping: Coaching Uncertainty
There are so many great things about college football - too many to count. But there are some really stupid things as well. Among the more stupid things is the timing of coaching changes. Coaches who are in demand get poached between the regular season and a bowl game. Too often, the reward a low or mid-tier program gets for having serious success is that they lose their coach before their bowl game. And higher-tier schools can lose a key coordinator before their bowl appearance. For bettors, we are left trying to sort out what has changed, how teams are dealing with it, and what it means for the teams in their bowl games. And it's just another headache - as if handicapping bowl games wasn't already tough enough . Here's a look at some of the coaching changes that have happened already and what they could mean for bettors:
Florida State - Willie Taggart out, Mike Norvell in: Odell Haggins has coached at Florida State since 1994. He was the interim coach in 2017 when Jimbo Fisher resigned and led the team to a bowl win. And he is interim coach again now. He has hinted that Norvell will be coaching as well during bowl prep, though Norvell hasn't officially announced if he will be with Florida State or still with Memphis for bowl season. Either way, this is a school that has gone through all sorts of change, so they know how to deal with it. It would be different if Norvell were viewed as a home run hire. People had convinced themselves that Bob Stoops was coming, though, so Norvell was seen as a disappointment even though he is a great coach. After Taggart, fans wanted a superhero to save them. Haggins has been here before, though, and he'll have his team as ready as he can to face Arizona State in the Sun Bowl .
Washington - Chris Petersen out, Jimmy Lake in: This one is hardly worth worrying about. From the outside, at least, Petersen chose his departure, picked his successor, and is sticking around for the bowl game - playing his last game against the Boise State squad he came from. We can't really know if there was more drama around the decision internally. However, either way, with Petersen and Lake on board, this situation is what it is. Washington's prospects in the Las Vegas Bowl don't feel like they have changed significantly due to this situation.
Appalachian State - Eli Drinkwitz out: We don't really know what is going to happen yet. Though we know that Eli Drinkwitz is going to Missouri, it hasn't officially been announced as I write this, so no plans have been announced. But we don't need to worry too much. App State is a very good team, and they have a very favorable bowl pairing against UAB . Drinkwitz was only there for a year, so it was just a year ago that the team dealt with this same situation when Scott Satterfield left for Louisville. Assistant head coach Mark Ivey coached the bowl game then. Assistant head coach Shawn Clark, who has been with the program for four years, could step up this time. Another option would be defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who was coaching college football when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Either way, this is a dialed in program used to change and very well positioned in their game. This change can't concern many.
FAU - Lane Kiffin out: One of the biggest egos in the sport has moved on up again, taking over at Ole Miss. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, in his first year at FAU, takes over as interim head coach. I can't pretend to know much about Spencer. All I do know, though, is that any team that has been coached by Kiffin is familiar with chaos and strangeness, so they should be up to the challenge of facing this. It will help the transition that they are playing in the Boca Raton Bowl in their own home stadium, so they face changes in a familiar setting. And I didn't really love their chances against SMU no matter who was coaching, anyway.
Cotton Bowl: There is some uncertainty on both sides. Mike Norvell has left Memphis for Florida State as we have discussed. We still don't know if he will be here for this game, though it seems to be trending that he won't. And Penn State has lost offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne, who worked with James Franklin at Kansas State, worked for him at Vanderbilt, and has been with him all along at Penn State. Rahne was Franklin's right hand man, and one of those guys who felt like a lifer with a program. He left to be head coach at Old Dominion, though. And now someone else has to run this offense. While Rahne's influence will be missed, breaking in a new offensive coordinator in a bowl game is nothing new - Rahne took over the role two years ago at this time when Joe Moorhead left for Mississippi State. My sense is that the Memphis changes have a somewhat bigger impact, but that really not that much has changed for this game.
Clemson - Jeff Scott out: This is remarkable just because things don't change at Clemson. Scott, the co-offensive coordinator, has taken over for Charlie Strong at South Florida. Scott has been at Clemson since 2008, taking over as wide receiver coach when Dabo Swinney left that role to become interim head coach. Most of the staff has been in place through these five straight playoff appearances and two national titles. Scott is splitting time between the two jobs, which is a long way from ideal. Ohio State is a brutal opponent, and they need all the focus they can get. This is a change that concerns me a little - and I already wasn't buying into Clemson quite as much as most people seem to be.
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