College football betting: Which coaches are bowl season moneymakers?

·6-min read

There's nothing better than betting on college football during bowl season. Handicapping bowl season is borderline impossible. Both statements can be accurate and that's probably part of the reason why betting bowls is so enjoyable. Lines for all 42 bowl games are already up at BetMGM.

We've already seen players opt out of bowl games to prepare for the NFL draft. More of those announcements will certainly be coming. The coaching carousel has been ridiculous this offseason and there are many teams currently with head coach vacancies who will be coached by interim coaches in bowl games. There's always the question of motivation and preparation. 

Motivation and preparation are tied to coaching. Some coaches have clearly proven to be better than others in getting their teams ready and excited to play in these bowl games. These coaches also have nearly a month to prepare for their opponents and instill game plans to give their teams an edge. 

New faces and interim coaches

Eleven teams participating in the bowl season have either replaced their coach or are in the process of replacing their coach, meaning they'll be coached by an interim coach in their coming bowl game. Those teams include Oklahoma, Oregon, LSU, Florida, Miami, Virginia Tech, Louisiana, Texas Tech, SMU, Fresno State and Nevada. 

There are also 16 coaches making their bowl debuts this year:

  • Marcus Freeman (Notre Dame)

  • Mel Tucker (Michigan State)

  • Dave Aranda (Baylor)

  • Sam Pittman (Arkansas)

  • Eli Drinkwitz (Missouri)

  • Shane Beamer (South Carolina)

  • Jeff Hafley (Boston College)

  • Mike Locksley (Maryland)

  • Jonathan Smith (Oregon State)

  • Jake Dickert (Washington State)

  • Andy Avalos (Boise State)

  • Charles Huff (Marshall)

  • Mike Houston (East Carolina)

  • Thomas Hammock (Northern Illinois)

  • Dana Dimel (UTEP)

  • Ricky Rahne (Old Dominion)

Which coaches are worth backing?

We're not dealing with a large sample size here. I've mostly ignored the coaches who have coached in three or fewer bowl games for the purpose of this exercise. Despite going 0-3 straight up, Eastern Michigan's Chris Creighton is 3-0 against the spread. Eastern Michigan is an 8-point underdog against Liberty. Wyoming's Craig Bohl is also 3-0 against the number. His perfect record will be put to the test as Wyoming is a 3.5-point favorite against Kent State.

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25: Texas A&M Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher is interviewed on the field during the  Southwest Classic college football game between the Texas A&M Aggies and Arkansas Razorbacks on September 25, 2021 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.  (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jimbo Fisher has been money in bowl games. (Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jimbo Fisher: In his 12-year coaching career at both Florida State and Texas A&M, Fisher is 8-2 straight up in bowl games. He's also good at covering the betting number, as his teams are 7-3 against the spread in bowl games. Texas A&M is a 5.5-point favorite over Wake Forest in the Gator Bowl.

Mike Gundy: Gundy has been in Stillwater as head coach of Oklahoma State since 2005. His Pokes are 10-5 both straight up and against the spread in bowl games under Gundy. This is one of Gundy's best teams. Oklahoma State is a 2.5-point underdog against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

Dabo Swinney: Usually, we see Swinney in the College Football Playoff. This year, we'll see him in the Cheez-It Bowl where Clemson is a 1.5-point favorite over Iowa State. Against much better competition (and admittedly with better teams), Dabo has gone 10-7 straight up and 11-6 against the spread in bowl games.

James Franklin: Franklin is 5-4 straight up and 6-3 against the spread during his coaching career with Penn State and Vanderbilt. Penn State is a 3-point favorite over Arkansas in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day. 

Dave Doeren: Doeren has been the head man at NC State since 2013 after a previous stint with Northern Illinois. Doeren's teams are 5-2 against the spread in bowl games while posting a 4-3 overall record. NC State is a 1.5-point favorite over UCLA in the Holiday Bowl.

Kyle Whittingham: Whittingham has been at Utah since 2004. Utah is 10-3 in bowl games under Whittingham while posting an 8-5 record against the spread. Utah faces a stiff challenge this season as they are 6.5-point underdogs in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State.

Kirk Ferentz: Kirk Ferentz has been at Iowa since 1999! The Hawkeyes are 9-8 straight up in bowl games under Ferentz during his tenure. Since 2005, Ferentz has gone 8-5 against the spread in bowl games. This year, Iowa is a 2.5-point underdog in the Citrus Bowl against Kentucky.

Which coaches are worth fading?

Some coaches are good at getting their teams ready to play during bowl season. Other coaches? Not so good. Which coaches struggle in the postseason?

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04: Houston Cougars head coach Dana Holgorsen looks at the scoreboard during the game against the Houston Cougars and the Cincinnati Bearcats on December 4, 2021, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Fading Dana Holgorsen during bowl season has been free money. (Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Dana Holgorsen: Previously the coach at West Virginia and now the head man at Houston, Holgorsen's coaching abilities expire at the end of the regular season it seems. Holgorsen's teams are just 2-6 in bowl games and he's covered just one spread in eight games. His only cover was the memorable 2011 Orange Bowl where West Virginia hung 70 on Clemson. Houston is a 3-point underdog against Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl.

Mike Leach: All college football fans have an appreciation for Leach, but he's been fade material in bowl season during his coaching career. Leach has had stops at Texas Tech and Washington State before his current job with Mississippi State. Leach is 8-8 in bowl games but he's just 3-8 against the spread since 2005. Mississippi State is an 8.5-point favorite over Texas Tech in the Liberty Bowl.

Dave Clawson: Over a 13-year coaching career with Bowling Green and Wake Forest, Clawson is just 3-5 in bowl games. His record against the spread is just 2-5-1 in those games. Wake Forest is a 5.5-point underdog against Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl.

Rick Stockstill: Stockstill is just 2-6 both straight up and against the spread in bowl games as the head coach of Middle Tennessee. Middle Tennessee is a 10-point underdog in the Bahamas Bowl against Toledo.

Blake Anderson: It's Anderson's first year as head coach of Utah State, but he had seven years as the head man at Arkansas State. Anderson was just 2-4 straight up and against the spread in his bowl games with Arkansas State. Utah State is a 7-point underdog against Oregon State.

Seth Littrell: Littrell has been at North Texas since 2016. Over that time, the Mean Green are 0-4 in bowl games and covered just one time. North Texas is a 3.5-point underdog against Miami Ohio this year.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting