College Football Coaching Hot Seat & Betting Tracker
The college football season hasn’t even kicked off yet, and already some head coaches are finding their seats to be uncomfortably warm. There’s pressure to win, and if things keep trending in the wrong direction—well, it’s the coach who pays the price.
For those who bet on college football, there’s an easy baseline established when it comes to how hot a head coach’s seat might be — the season win total set by sportsbooks combined with the points spreads of each game.
Stay ahead of the pace against the spread? You're exceeded expectations and things cool down. Start to slip? Well, that job might be slipping away, too.
While boosters and alumni may not accept anything less than perfection, savvy bettors take a much more realistic view, and gauge success or failure by the win total set in the preseason.
No one ever said it was a sport for the meek. Here are the coaches on the hottest seats for the 2019 campaign. Each week we’ll see if their seats get cooler or warmer, but also how their next game could impact their fortunes – and yours.
Biggest College Football Coaches on the Hot Seat
|Clay Helton, USC||7.5||Fresno State|
|Willie Taggart, Fla. State||7.5 wins||Boise State|
|Gus Malzahn, Auburn||8 wins||Boise State|
O/U win totals set preseason by 888Sport
1. Clay Helton, USC
Why it’s warm: The former interim coach (pictured above) took one of America’s glamor programs and went 5-7 last season, the Trojans’ first losing record since 2000.
Season win total: 7.5
Season opener: Fresno State, Aug. 31
Betting Impact: Potentially devastating. It’s already hard to find eight wins on USC’s schedule, and a loss in the opener (as 13.5-point favorites) would make it even more so.
The Bulldogs don’t have the same quarterback who powered the defending Mountain West champions to a 12-2 record a year ago, but Fresno State has found its footing under coach Jeff Tedford and will be spoiling for an upset in the Coliseum.
The Trojans still have young quarterback JT Daniels and a ton of great skill athletes, but also clear issues with defense, cohesiveness, and confidence making -13.5 points seem far too wide a spread.
Even a close win would be worth feeling good about, given how far Fresno State has come, although the high-dollar boosters in the Trojan Club might not agree. iven the hair-trigger state of the USC athletic program, it could get bad in a hurry should the Trojans drop this one. And remember, they’ve fired coaches immediately after losses before.
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2. Willie Taggart, Florida State
Why it’s warm: As if Taggart’s 7-6 debut wasn’t bad enough, the Seminoles in his second season cratered to 5-7—a stunning collapse for a program ranked No. 1 just five years ago.
Season win total: 7.5
Season opener: Boise State (Jacksonville, Fla.), Aug. 31
Betting Impact: The Seminoles have a couple of true cupcakes on the schedule, and outside of Clemson every ACC game is winnable. But if you’re trying to get to eight wins, then Florida State needs this one.
The good news is that Boise State is hardly unbeatable; the bad news is that Taggart looked out of answers at times last season, during the Seminoles’ first losing campaign since 1976.
While “Blame Jimbo Fisher” is a popular cry in Tallahassee, the collapse can’t solely be blamed on recruiting shortcomings under the former coach. Taggart has turned programs around before, though none under this kind of microscope.
Still, given that Boise State will be traveling east, breaking in a new starting quarterback, and looking for a replacement for all-everything tailback Alex Mattison, the Seminoles could take a big first step by covering the 4.5-point spread
3. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Why it’s warm: High preseason expectations and a hotshot starting quarterback last year translated into an underwhelming 8-5 record plagued by offensive dysfunction, all while rival Alabama continues to excel.
Season win total: 8
Season opener: Oregon (Arlington, Texas), Aug. 31
Betting Impact: For bettors siding with the over, this is a fairly notable opener given that Auburn will be starting a true freshman quarterback and has a recent history of struggling on offense even with veterans behind center. The SEC West slate allows few breathers aside from Arkansas, so it’s going to be the toss-up games that determine how far the Tigers can go.
And the opener against Oregon certainly fits that mold, given that the Ducks enter with one of the nation’s elite quarterbacks in Justin Herbert and are very capable of winning as a 3-point underdog on a neutral field. This might not be the start Malzahn is looking for.
Auburn’s running game should be solid, and freshman QB Bo Nix should find himself eventually. But there are a lot of unknowns to figure out for a first game, and fans on the Plains aren’t known for their patience.
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