Handicapping Greg Schiano and two other new college coaches

Handicapping Greg Schiano and two other new college coaches

LAS VEGAS — Unlike the NFL, in which the coaching carousel is a somewhat short ride highlighted by “Black Monday,” when coaches are typically fired the day after their regular-season finales, the process in college football is more extended.

This offseason, the process really lasted almost three months. Rutgers hired Greg Schiano as head coach on Dec. 1, and Colorado named Karl Dorrell on Feb. 23, though that might not be the last change we see before the season kicks off. Coaching changes always make a huge difference in a team’s prospectus and must be considered near the top of the list of important factors in handicapping college football.

Head coach is one of the key variables I use in my College Football Stability System, which I publish at the beginning of each season. In more cases than not, teams with new coaches are “play against” teams, particularly early in the season. With college football season win totals having been released last week, it’s a perfect time to start digging into three of the 2020 newcomers:


2019 record: 2-10 SU, 4-8 ATS
New coach: Greg Schiano (replaced Chris Ash and interim Nunzio Campanile)

Analysis: Since Schiano left for the NFL after the 2011 season, Rutgers has had just two winning seasons and has plummeted to only three wins over the past two years. You can’t blame the athletic program for trying to relive the golden era of Scarlet Knights football. It is a curious hire, though, because when Schiano was last there, Rutgers was in the Big East. Schiano did serve as defensive coordinator for Ohio State under Urban Meyer from 2016-18, so he knows the Big Ten landscape. It’s hard to see this program coming back up in the immediate future, though, with Schiano’s recruiting talents taking time to show an impact.

Better or worse in 2020? Similar. Currently overmatched in Big Ten East.

Michigan state

2019 record: 7-6 SU, 4-9 ATS
New coach: Mel Tucker (replaced Mark Dantonio)

Analysis: Dantonio spent 13 years in East Lansing, mostly good, but was forced to step down in February after allegations of recruiting violations surfaced. After winning 53 games in six years from 2010-15, he won only 27 in his last four seasons, so perhaps a change was due. In the past five seasons, the Spartans are just 26-39 ATS, so bettors might embrace the change to Tucker. ESPN, however, ranks the Spartans 117th of 130 teams in returning production, and with the internal problems the athletic program is enduring, this might be a team in the beginning stages of taking its lumps.

Better or worse in 2020? Worse. Very unstable situation, potential for rough first season under Tucker.

Florida State

2019 record: 6-7 SU, 4-8-1 ATS
New coach: Mike Norvell (replaced Willie Taggart)

Analysis: Taggart’s 2019 Seminoles were supposed to be one of the best teams in the ACC, with a ton of returning experience, yet they finished just 6-7 and showed little spark in a 20-14 Sun Bowl loss to Arizona State. Florida State used to be considered one of the premier programs in the country, having won a national title just seven years ago. That seems like a generation ago. However, if a young offensive mind is needed to bring the Seminoles back to prominence, Norvell could be the perfect choice. Memphis averaged about 42 ppg in his four-year stint, and he was the mastermind.

Better or worse in 2020? Better. Could be one of the country’s biggest surprises.

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