2014 CFB Quick Hits: AAC, ACC, Big12.
College football handicapping is such a dark art. Every damn one of these teams has 60% new starters. If they had good players, they’re probably gone. What you’re left with are miscellaneous data points, head coaching resumes (which, I think, are the best universal prediction tool for pre-season CFB), and gut takes. Gut takes can be irrational, but they’re kinda fun, they’re your own, you shouldn’t fight them.
Gut take #1: Bet against Frank Solich whenever, wherever.
I would love to bang out an in-depth review of every conference and every team. That’s just not in the cards.
But I can get some mental notes and cues down on e-paper so be better prepped moving into handicapping season. And make no mistake: College Football == wagering. Much more-so than NFL, at least for me. That’s because there are much larger differences in the match-ups as compared to the NFL and with much less analysis. If you do your own work, you have a much greater chance to win in CFB versus NFL. At least that’s my experience.1
So in the spirit of sharing that defines our Cheddar community, I’ll start the ball rolling on some early thoughts on who we like and then definitely want to hear about teams you’re watching. (I see you ClevTA-Brosef with your UTSA Roadrunners.)
Here’s last year’s CFB ATS ranks.2 If you can climb on-board this year’s Mizzou or Auburn early, you’re going to have a good year. And be assured that there will be a 12-2 type team because there is every year:
- 2013: Mizzou, Auburn 12-2 ATS;
- 2012: NU 12-1; USU 11-1-1;
- 2011: Stanford, LaTech 11-2; WKU, 10-2; Houston 11-3; ArkySt 10-3;
- 2010: OSU 10-2-1; Hawaii, UCF, 11-3.
I’m using Vegasinsider for baseline data; Coacheshotseat for coach info; Athlon’s pretty comprehensive set of previews for teams and conferences has been handy; and my subjective read to arrive on an extremely superficial BET ON, AVOID, BET AGAINST rating (which I am logging here).
Cincy — Figures to start big deal ND recruit Gunnar Kiel (Munchie Legaux still rehabbing.). I killed the Tuberville hire for non-football reasons, but football-wise he’s a force. Playing games at PB Stadium is a negative.
UConn — Fired Pasqualoni –> GOOD. Hired Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco –> huh? Yes, I see he won an award for top assistant coach in 2012,,, meh. He’s never been a head coach. Brian Kelly is a dubious role model and Diaco has been with Kelly since CMU through Cincy and at ND. Dave Clawson was available. Matt Campbell (Toledo) makes $500,000/yr; Dan Enos (CMU) makes 375K. This hire leaves me down on UConn.
ECU — Ruffin McNeill did 10+ years at Lubbock befre taking over ECU in 2010 and their play reflects it. They are fun but kinda crazy. McNeill is 19-7 ATS against winning teams; 4-14 ATS against losing teams. They bring back their QB and #1 WR from a team that beat UNC and NCST (and scored 20 4th quarter points to cover against Solich in the Beef O Brady Bowl).
Houston — They have a 6-4 Pennsylvania sophomore QB (OKorn) who started for them last year and is a good prototype pocket passer. They have their top receivers back. They have a new stadium. I don’t know Tony Levine but he was a Sumlin protege and the Cougars didn’t fall off the cliff when Sumlin left (like I thought they would).
Memphis — Good news: returning 17 starters including QB. Bad news: those 17 starters were 1-7 in conference last year. My read on Memphis is that they’ve been bad so long, they need to ‘learn to win.’ Starting season at UCLA and at Ole Miss will not help. Coach Justin Fuente is from the Gary Patterson tree (TCU) and got extended to 2017 after his first year. (??)
USF — Followers of Kanick know that I wanted Willie Taggart to coach the Browns over Rob Chudzinski. Instead, Taggart went to USF and… I have no idea wtf happened last year. 2-10. No offense. None. Good news is that they avoid McNeese State this year, actually open with four straight home games (West Carolina, UMD, NCST, UConn) and it’s not crazy to think they’ll be 4-0 when they head to Madison. It’s not crazy to think that if you have the same level of slavish devotion to Willie Taggart as I do. They did give UCF a scare losing 23-20 so signs of life there. Taggart is 19-3-1 ATS in away games. (!!) Apparently they had a great recruiting year.
Bet on. Big.3
SMU — Tell you right now, this is an avoid. It’ll be the same for VaTech. Some teams don’t like me and I don’t like them back. June Jones got an extension. OC Hal Mumme (Air Raid Offense) is gone. Garrett Gilbert is gone.
Temple — Tied Memphis for worst in league. Managed to score less points than even UConn (but more than USF and we’ll get to Willie Taggart shortly). Matt Rhule is a first team HC entering his second season. They miss Addazio and I will guess that Addazio will miss them (more on BC later).
Tulane — Sucked in C-USA last year. (Yeah, I see their 5-3 record. I also watched them. They sucked.) Will be crushed in AAC. Montana’s kid is not impressive.
Bet against. (The opener at Tulsa might be a pick of the week if the line is under two touchdowns.)
Tulsa — I like Bill Blankenship. At 57 and as a Tulsa alumnus, he’s not going to be recruited away so the program figures to be in good and stable hands moving forward. In the now however, they’re making the jump from C-USA to the AAC and this presents a problem. My bias is toward playing them but they had six losses over 17 points last year and that was in the CUSA. (Pretty cool that the Sooners play at Tulsa. Imagine if OSU were to play at Cincy.)
Avoid; watch closely.
UCF — Lost Bortles and Storm Johnson. But UCF impressed me with their thumping defense. Every bit as physical as Penn State and dominated the line against Louisville. That defense is back. But losing three all conference o-linemen is going to hurt. Salty old George OLeary is fun to despise and I understand why USF types do. You know there’s a hazing scandal waiting to happen on his watch. But yet… team is tough as nails.
Bet against: UConn, Memphis, Temple, Tulane.
Avoid: Cincy, SMU, Tulsa.
This whole conference could get an ‘avoid’ rating from me. You want to try and figure out UNC? Invest your hard-earned dollars on Frank Beamer? Charlie-Strong-to-Bobby-Petrino-transition?? My all-time, ‘you got sucked in again?’ avoid team that is Georgia Tech??? Nah, not for me, but there are some plays here and the ACC is worth a looksee.
BC — Irrational hot take: BC fans are the worst. BC itself is the most provincial school serving the most provincial area of the country.4 In spite of all that, I like Addazio. However they’re replacing Chase Rettig with a transfer from UF who sat behind Jeff Driskel.
Florida State — 11-2 ATS last year and most of the time they were covering 4 TD spreads. Jameis and four o-linemen return. They lose Jernigan but they gain by losing Joyner and Benjamin who were both meh (to me). I loved RBs Freeman and Wilder but with the o-line intacts and with defenses forced to respect Winston’s arm, a new RB will emerge.
Louisville — I like Bobby Petrino a lot (as a football coach). But you’re losing your all-time best coach and quarterback and moving to a new conference. Common sense says to avoid… but my Petrino respect plus my general ACC disrespect plus the prominent removal of Bridgewater… I think Louisville will be underrated and a good value pick.
NC State — What the hell Dave Doeren? Eight losses in a row after starting 3-1? 122nd in red zone defense? Defense was never the coin of the realm when he was running DeKalb. Now that he’s in a conference where everyone has a zany offense and he can’t out-score other teams… he’s going to need to build a defense. Not a strength.
Syracuse — Have to say, I’m pretty impressed with Syracuse’s 7-6 bowl winning 2013. (HC Scott Shafer! Painesville!! BW!!!) Considering they lost their star HC (Marrone to Bills) and star QB (Nassib to Giants) at the start of last year, capping things off with a win against a decent Minnesota team was pretty impressive. The 56-0 loss to GT is an outlier because GT is an outlier.
Wake Forest — I love Dave Clawson. But I think cupboard is bare.
Duke — Cutcliffe had that team fired up and playing hard all last year. Was most impressive considering only one Dukie was drafted off that 10-4 team (that had eight wins in a row before losing to FSU and TAMU). 10-3 ATS last year with team largely intact. Won’t sneak up on anyone now but still.
Georgia Tech — [Don’t care.] [I always lose with GT.] [So, do what you want.. there’s other games I like better.] Avoid.
Miami — I like Al Golden. I hated Stephen Morris. I love Duke Johnson. This is somewhat irrational but having a sharp young coach owning the recruitment in maybe the top high school football area in the country leads me to think the talent should be there. I want to bet on them but it’s that hideous stadium and game day experience that holds me back.
Avoid at home; bet on away.
UNC — They will win eight games with five players drafted by the NFL. Good luck figuring out where they will lay their eggs.
Pitt — Paul Chryst is crushing it. Coming in and picking up the pieces from the Todd Graham saga, he’s got the program going in the right direction. He’s of a Wisconsin-Alvarez tree and will find a way to have his team sharp in spite of losing future DROY Aaron Donald as well as Tom Savage and Devin Street.
UVA — Mike London is 22-28-1 ATS since coming to UVA, never been above .500. 2-10 last year. I don’t get it, he looks the part. But he’s definitely on the hot seat. Coaching turmoil is bad. UVA is a dog to bet against until there’s evidence to the contrary.
VaTech — I bet on Beamer, I lose. I bet against Beamer, I lose. You all do what you want, but VT is my original ‘do not touch’ team, even before GT.
Bet against: BC, NCST, UVA.
Avoid: Wake, GT, VT, Miami, UNC.
Baylor — The more I hear the less I like Art Briles the guy. The coach is still aces though and he’s bringing back last year’s Big 12 POY, Bryce Petty as well as his top WR (Antwan Goodley). New stadium will be rocking in exactly the way Miami’s and Cincy’s will not.
Oklahoma — Completely different team once Stoops changed QBs last year and damn I got killed in Cheddar for not recognizing that. (My OKST pick in Bedlam cost me a Lobsterfest and taking Bama and giving 2 TDs in the Sugar Bowl killed me in the playoffs.) 16 starters and Trevor Knight return..
Iowa State — I still believe in Paul Rhoads but damn, tough year in 2013. Then they start the season vs. NDSt, vs. KState, at Iowa, vs. Baylor, at OkSt. The season could easily get away and Rhoads could be dead man walking by the time Toledo comes to Ames. I appreciate the effort and I see that the ATS record was better than the SU,,, but getting throttled all the time wears a team down.
Kansas — I looked for a reason to disregard Charlie Weis’ 8-15-1 ATS record at Kansas. Could not find one. Weis is giving up playcalling this year. That was the one field in which I thought him expert.
OkState — Four starters on offense and four starters on defense return. QB Walsh actually was the starter early last year and lost job to Clint Chelf and we saw how not good Chelf was in the Okla game. First game at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas versus FSU. I’ll take FSU pls and you can have 4 TDs. I like Gundy and just like I like Rhoads, down years happen,,,
TCU — Patterson used to be a cover machine by TCU hasn’t been over .500 ATS since 2010. On the plus, he is getting eight starters back on each side of the ball. On the down, he’s hatching some hare-brained scheme with co-coordinators (one from Houston, one from TTU) like that’ll double your offensive brainpower. No, that’ll give you an OC by committee and that doesn’t sound great.
Texas — Who doesn’t love Charlie Strong and who didn’t think Mack Brown should’ve been invited to retire years ago? No fresh takes on that subject from me, I agree with the consensus. The question is do you think David Ash will be good? I think he will be yes. I think there is talent because it’s freaking UT- Austin and no matter what Briles or Kingsbury or Sumlin do, Texas boys are always going to want to play for the Horns. Strong will uncover the talent and get it to play.
TTU — Football is fun in Lubbock. It was when Leach was there and it is again with Kingsbury. The problem is that they’re prone to turnovers and you can’t bet on a big offense, no defense team when they might give the other team a couple extra possessions.
WVU — I want to believe in Holgo. But I don’t. Just no defense, none. Maybe the worst defense I’ve ever seen in the Baylor game (73-42). You know the Mounties lost to Kansas last year?
Bet against: BC, NCST, UVA.
Avoid: Wake, GT, VT, Miami, UNC.
So. That was more than I intended. I’ll get to the other conferences, let’s break em up like this and shoot for Monday – Wednesday – Friday.
[And finally, this table doesn’t really fit anywhere, but I want to keep it handy.]
HEAD COACHING CHANGES FOR 2014
|SCHOOL||OLD COACH||YRS||NEW COACH (former position)|
|Arkansas State||Bryan Harsin||1||Blake Anderson (North Carolina Off. Coor.)|
|Army||Rich Ellerson||5||Jeff Monken (Georgia Southern Head Coach)|
|Boise State||Chris Petersen||8||Bryan Harsin (Arkansas State Head Coach)|
|Bowling Green||Dave Clawson||5||Dino Babers (Eastern Illinois Head Coach)|
|Connecticut||Paul Pasqualoni||3||Bob Diaco (Notre Dame Def. Coor.)|
|Eastern Michigan||Ron English||5||Chris Creighton (Drake Head Coach)|
|Florida Atlantic||Carl Pelini||2||Charlie Partridge (Arkansas DL Coach)|
|Louisville||Charlie Strong||4||Bobby Petrino (Western Kentucky Head Coach)|
|Massachusetts||Charley Molnar||2||Mark Whipple (NFL Browns QB Coach)|
|Miami OH||Don Treadwell||3||Chuck Martin (Notre Dame Off. Coor.)|
|Penn State||Bill O’Brien||2||James Franklin (Vanderbilt Head Coach)|
|Texas||Mack Brown||16||Charlie Strong (Louisville Head Coach)|
|UAB||Garrick Mcgee||2||Bill Clark (Jacksonville State Head Coach)|
|USC||Lane Kiffin||4||Steve Sarkisian (Washington Head Coach)|
|Vanderbilt||James Franklin||3||Derek Mason (Stanford Def. Coor.)|
|Wake Forest||Jim Grobe||13||Dave Clawson (Bowling Green Head Coach)|
|Washington||Steve Sarkisian||5||Chris Petersen (Boise State Head Coach)|
|Western Kentucky||Bobby Petrino||1||Jeff Brohm (Western Kentucky Off. Coor.)|
|Wyoming||Dave Christensen||5||Craig Bohl (North Dakota State Head Coach)|
- I was 56% ATS in CFB last year; 52% in NFL. [back]
- And here is covers’ ATS ranks. [back]
- In a strange Florida shuffleboard coincidence, the two proprietors of SBNation’s USF blog — Voodoo 5 — were cheddars with us last year. You’ll want to check their site for more and better USF info. [back]
- Given these biases it was only natural that that’s where my daughter chose to attend. [back]