College Football Betting: Eddie Walls Recaps the Power 5 Conferences
Every summer the painstaking task of pouring over countless teams that in the end, you’ll be lucky to find any betting value takes up a lot of time. But this season was quite different for me as a majority of Power 5 school were adopting a new scheme which we were able to key in on and profit from, specifically in the totals market. No conference illustrated this more than the Big XXII.
Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley is likely to end up on a NFL sideline sooner than later. He took a quarterback who couldn’t start at Texas Tech and turned him into a Heisman and may do the same with a soon-to-be pro baseball player. Riley is very intelligent and has a acute ability to realize weaknesses. While the Gary Pattersons and Matt Campbells of the world want to play slow and methodical offense and lean on defense, Riley realized his recruiting and coaching tendencies were superior to even the best shootout teams in the conference. If he stays your overs are safe and the playoffs will always be in reach. It’s a kids game to him. He will always get good enough defensive line play to stifle the run just enough and he is now going to gain a defensive back seven with experience. The Sooners however will never be a team I want to lay points with as they have no interest in defense once up by a comfortable margin.
Texas is a great underdog. I’m however completely dumbfounded as to why Tom Herman plays to the level of his competition. Even at Houston he was a bad favorite and terrific underdog. Unlike his mentor, Urban Meyer, he does not have the detail oriented special teams and can’t find the extra gear when trailing. While on a upward trajectory I still feel Herman is a counter puncher not the aggressor.
Patterson is in a weird place. The lone Big XII defensive-minded head coach was able to lean on a ball control offense and big play defense. He used three separate quarterbacks and while young skill position players could never find enough offense losing many low scoring games. I don’t believe that changes going forward. Matt Campbell, Matt Rhule, Bill Snyder and now Les Miles makes his routine look stale.
Oklahoma State won six games but only three in conference. They were uber-young at quarterback and wide receiver but as much as I love Mike Gundy and shootouts, he has a major flaw. This was his most experienced defense in the past six seasons and they were gashed repeatedly this season. He simply cares too much about offense and his bend-don’t-break mentality is oftentimes broke. They lose a lot of defense this offseason and their star running back from 2017 was ignored most games in 2018. Expect shootouts going forward but pretty shaky to predict wins.
West Virginia finally had a Heisman-quality quarterback and two NFL wide receivers but that depth chart on defense was shallow and caught up with the Mountaineers. Holgorsen looks to be on the move apparently. Just in the nick of time as he will need to rely on defense as he breaks in a new offense in 2019. Those are troubled waters for the one side of the field play caller.
Texas Tech was able to poach Matt Wells from Utah State. Lubbock has weird expectations for a perennial 6-7 win program. They want Mike Leach offense, have never recruited well on defense and regardless of talent or coaching have and will remain a hurry up squad. Wells is a line play specialist and is a magician at run defense but he inherits a pair of 4-star quarterbacks and group of special wide receivers. If he strays from his roots, which I fully expect, there’s maybe 7 wins to be had! Is he a upgrade to Kingsbury? Sure but if he wasn’t running a hurry-up spread at Utah State this season for the first time ever, would he have been hired? No chance.
I hate to be disparaging towards conferences in down seasons but here we go. The ACC is not the SEC. They lost so much talent to the NFL all at once that it was a disaster to handicap.
Beginning of the year we knew Louisville would take a step back without Lamar Jackson and Florida State would allow more points with the loss of a entire secondary to the NFL. Did we expect them sit with 2 and 5 wins respectively? No way. Did we expect Clemson to be a 4-touchdown favorites in the conference championship…well kind of! It’s extremely rare for a power 5 conference to be decided by experience charts alone. In 2018 we saw that anomaly occur.
Syracuse has a special head coach. Dino Babers is a offense-driven, detail oriented, disciplined guy. He had the most returning starters of the conference and half the talent. He has turned the corner though. We saw this same result at Bowling Green. He is an Art Briles disciple. He doesn’t need a lot of talent-only athletes. Will Syracuse win as many games now that they graduate so many starters? The better question is probably can they hang onto Babers? If so I wouldn’t bet against it.
Pittsburgh reached the conference championship with a freshman quarterback and four new defensive backs. That is a quietly amazing accomplishment. I am still not sold on Pat Narduzzi though. He overachieves with less and underachieved in 2016 and 17 with more. He will have his best overall team in 2019 but the Panthers’ success this season was more on the rest of the ACC needing to reload.
Miami was the biggest overall disappointment in all of college football this season. A team with a regular season win expectation of 10 never stood a chance. Mark Richt wasted Manny Diaz and his most experienced defense he will have for years to come. His ego simply got in the way. A quarterback coach at heart just couldn’t let his proven run game dictate things. This is nothing new for Richt. Go look at what Georgia is doing on offense since he departed. He simply prefers to pass to a fault. When you lose your All-American wide receiver and play musical chairs with quarterbacks this is the result. Miami will lose a ton to the draft on the defensive side of the ball and if Richt doesn’t give up play calling duties his first-year success will look like a mirage.
Not coach to qualify for the postseason was less deserving than Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson. The man who crushed MAC teams with his hurry-up offenses also played musical chairs with his quarterbacks before finally handing the reins over to QB1 documentary star now Jamie Newman. What was upsetting about Wake was their complete lack of effort at times and a defense with so much potential wasn’t prepared to play the breakneck speed Clawson seemingly overnight decided to go with. I have no issue with any coach thinking outside the box but do it when you have a experience advantage on defense and a seasoned quarterback. He got fortunate to get to six wins and keep his job. They should remain a great over bet in the future.
Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson decided to retires; the Yellow Jackets were a major thorn in my side this season. It’s a very odd team for whoever lands there. Johnson recruited for his system which was a option offense and a bend-but-don’t-break defense. They’ll be loaded on defense but could be completely inept on offense should they switch to a traditional look.
My home team of Boston College has a major problem. They have a 7-win ceiling it appears. This was the best BC team on paper since the Flutie days and they have a Heisman quality running back in Dillon when healthy. They’re not recruiting well and Addazio goes from starting the season on fire with a up-tempo offense but backing off when things get tight. He doesn’t develop quarterbacks well for a former quarterback coach and I’ve always felt he was more comfortable in a 10-7 game than a 31-31 type. They start over on defense in 2019 so they better figure it out quick or else Addazio will be a coordinator for hire somewhere by mid-season.
Virginia Tech was a disaster. Preseason dismissals to the defense and losing their starting all-conference quarterback left them with zero identity. They didn’t have the weapons or depth on defense to defend for 60 minutes and didn’t have the quarterback to play the shootouts the defense would inevitably create. The problem I am afraid will remain in 2019. Fuentes wants offense but his program and DC has been the star for so long that much like Texas Tech has poisoned the program. Can they become a offense-first program with a still young defense and will Fuentes survive 7-win seasons when his losses are the 45-42 variety? I sincerely doubt it.
North Carolina hired Mack Brown who at 67 years old has shown signs of dementia as a TV analyst. It is easily the strangest hire I have come across since Herm Edwards! UNC has some great pieces to build around but for everything that Fedora built with his occasional genius offensive play calling, it’s obvious that the school and boosters want a clean and conservative program before all else.
Duke has been a steady earner for me over the past few years and has a serious chance to compete at a top-15 level in 2019. A team that was steady for the majority of the season lost both all-americans on defense and their quarterback battled through injuries. The constant seven wins has serious upside as they started the most juniors in the Power 5. They’ll have a big experience advantage going forward.
NC State lost four NFL defensive linemen and still dominated versus the run and had a dynamite pass rush. I’m not however a big believer in Dave Doeren who tends to waste his offensive talent. He won’t have nearly that opportunity going forward as his quarterback is NFL bound in April. Under is always a safer bet than the opposite regardless of who plays for Doeren.
Louisville lost 20 kids to transfer, lost 10 games, failed to beat a Power 5 team, and was blown out by practically everyone. Who do you hire? One of my favorites in Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield but when you lose that many kids, the only route to go is JuCo’s and freshmen.
Clemson is a runaway train. They continue to pump out top 5 recruiting class after class. They have the most versatile head coach and the best defensive coordinator in all of college football. They are on the verge of winning a National Championship with a true freshman quarterback. They’ll be young in spots of defense with as many as six headed to the NFL. But they are loaded with NFL-talent on offense. They’ll be over-heavy as they have to make statements going forward.
I have to admit that I don’t follow the SEC as much as I do other conferences but here are some quick impressions.
Missouri wasted a 10-win season by hiring a flunkee offensive coordinator in Derek Dooley and then have found a terrible end-game head coach in Barry Odom. He blew leads and kept teams in games for no reason other than he simply could it seemed.
Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House deserves to be paid more than Stoops. They had their best season with no offense. Heck, at times their attempt at offense was a scoring chance for the opposition.
Mississippi State was loaded with a NFL defensive line and a mediocre but mistake-free quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald. Joe Moorehead loses every unit that is a current strength this offseason. I’m a big fan of his but he inherited the best roster of any new head coach. Next season we find out if he has the goods or not.
Tennessee has a lame duck coach who is all about running the ball and playing sound defense…next!
Arkansas has a prolific head coach in Chad Morris who inherited a team with no talent, no recruiting out of state and a terrible defense who’s too slow to play with the pace their coach wants. Yikes!
Georgia’s Kirby Smart is special. He has strayed away from his predecessors and while he recruits especially well he doesn’t let any player just have the starting role. 5-start or 3-start, in preseason you fight for reps.
Ole Miss was a fun offense until it wasn’t. The defense was never a factor. Their recruiting sanctions will continue to disable them from making a jump.
Vanderbilt’s Derrick Mason Vandy overachieves and simply beats who he is supposed to. Great coach who won with offense at times this year. He will need to lean on a defense going forward, something he’s excelled at doing in the past.
The Big Ten was rated as the toughest conference preseason but laid a egg this year.
Maryland and Purdue exceeded my expectations by scoring a ton of points in very non-conventional ways. Matt Canada’s first attempt at head coach was a huge upgrade. The Terps went from a boring Big Ten team with a conservative offense to a well prepared, fun offense and young defense.
Purdue leaned on a strong pass offense. Jeff Brohm, a coach who excels with run offense, showed why he is a top-10 coach. He found a run defense out of all freshman and sophmores up front and won just enough shootouts to find a bowl game. They’ll be great going forward.
Wisconsin was bad. They proved that a Heisman running back is fairly useless if you have no pass offense to offset his threat. They also proved that no matter the system a really young secondary will be the death of any team.
Ohio State was a mediocre team considering all the talent they collect year in and out. With Urban Meyer reportedly stepping down, it’s hard to envision what this team will look like in the future.
Michigan has the best defensive coordinator I’ve ever graded out in Don Brown. They also have a head coach who can’t beat elite teams. He calls games of importance to the strength of the opposition. Great recruiter but at some point he has to hire a OC that matches his DC’s prowess. I think he just missed his best chance to prove everyone wrong.
Michigan State is dead. They are proverbially stuck in 1955. They are playing the slowest pace in the nation and also throwing it due to a lack of run game. Relying on defense is great but when you have no offensive game plan it’s getting 10-7 vs. Rutgers weird quick.
Indiana is in trouble. They have a coach who is recruiting well but he prefers defense and slow pace. He had some real pieces on offense the past two seasons and managed to never exceed six wins. Now a rebuild on offense while the Brohms and Frosts of the conference are just getting started.
Iowa and Northwestern are interesting studies for me every season. Iowa has the longest tenured head coach and for good reason. Ferentz does well with line coaching, recruiting, and has even adapted to the year 2000 of late. However he clammed up in pivotal games the last two seasons. Iowa was young in the secondary this season but the conservative play calling against Wisconsin and Northwestern was reflective of his normal self.
Pat Fitzgerald is a different animal. A live dog versus anyone, a bad favorite and a outrageous amount of success with very little talent. The amount of scholarships he can offer and to whom while winning 8,9, 10 games a year is astounding. He starts over at quarterback next year and the game plan is pretty slow already.
Penn State lost Barkley, Moorehead and an NFL wide receiver. This year they will lose their quarterback, another NFL receiver and almost their entire offensive line. James Franklin is exceptional but has leaned on offense while at Penn State and he will be tested in many ways in 2019. I’m not sold on him as a defensive mind any longer and he will have to prove me wrong.
Illinois retained Lovie Smith and Maryland is doing a coaching search while having their best one in a decade. Silly Big Ten!
The PAC-12 is not in good shape. They have lost their identity and recruiting has dropped compared to other Power 5 conferences. A myriad of coaching changes hasn’t helped either.
Colorado wasted a 5-0 start and was up 21 heading into the fourth quarter against a bad Oregon State team. They lost that game and the season shortly followed. The choice to go with a defensive minded Georgia coach doesn’t sit well with me. Their defense was not the issue. He has no experience recruiting the area and the talent is lacking.
USC retained Clay Helton and then made a home run hire in Kliff Kingsbury as OC. Helton has a high defense IQ and with the talent he has on offense paired with Kingsbury I think they are a good team in 2019 and going forward.
Washington won the conference in the most unimpressive manner that I can recall. Peterson apparently decided that a offense full of veteran leaders and a 4-year starting quarterbacks would be better off playing a slow pace and taking as little chances as possible. Going forward the terrific recruits they have been accumulating on offense will be heading elsewhere. I can also argue that this would be a 6-win team in the Big XII, Big Ten, and SEC.
Washington State came from nowhere to win 10 games!! New quarterback, new receivers, new defensive line…and they simply were impressive in ways that no one could have predicted. They have a special DC in Claeys and a head coach who can flat out call a offense better than almost anyone. They were young this year as well. They are going to be good if not great going forward.
Kevin Sumlin did everything wrong in his first year. He tried to change a Heisman quarterback finalist, he changed a offense that was second in the nation, he went hurry up and then changed that before going back to it. The bar was high and maybe that was the mistake in the first place. 2019 is pivotal for Arizona. I’m not a believer that it won’t look any different with the exception of the offense will be improved out of necessity and experience.
Herm Edwards fooled me constantly in the beginning of the season before it dawned on me that he is strictly reactive. He is very good with run defense but his offense plays whatever pace and style the other team dictates. He loses his senior quarterback and two wide receivers. ASU will be a defensive-driven program moving forward.
Oregon has one of the worst head coaches in the nation and wasted a NFL quarterback. Cristobal abandoned the run constantly and leaned on defense when it was unnecessary. Outside of his quarterback, which he mishandled, he will return a lot of experience on both sides of the ball. I’m not sure it will matter. End games will continue to be a disaster.
Stanford underperformed in 2018 but were also very young on defense. They found a real passing game the last four games of the season and if they continue that type of offense in 2019 they could be special.
Utah was the best PAC-12 team overall. They had some terrible injury luck while losing their quarterback, running back and numerous defensive players but with a great defensive front and special teams being such a large weapon I don’t see any way they don’t continue trending upward.
I’d like to give special thanks to my mentor and good friend Alan Denkenson who has always has a huge influence on me as a handicapper and a person.
He also introduced me to Eric Waz who in turn has turned into a great friend. Waz had the faith in me to bring me onto the BettorIQ team this season. I’ll forever be thankful for that.
The amount of support this football season has been overwhelming. I have enjoyed doing the podcast with Andrew Lange every week more than most would ever guess. It was a tremendous season and one that will never leave my memory for so many reasons.
My best friend, Bret Defnet, has always told me my life was full of smiles and cries due to my ability to take a lot of knowledge and put a lot of risk with that information. There were a lot more smiles than cries this season in a time in my life when it was needed more than ever before.
May all the bad beats be someone else’s problem and all the hooks go your way!
Eddie Walls has been BettorIQ’s top college football handicapper. Close out what has been a remarkable season (80-47 63% +34.1 units) with one of Eddie’s subscriptions.