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'Run It Up' College Coaches

   by Al McMordie - 10/31/2006

Stats, trends and betting angles all factor into handicapping analysis. Another factor to consider is coaching. There are coaches in both pro and college football that cover the spread on a consistent basis. For the most part, coaches don’t consider the point spread each game, and certainly rarely talk about it. Former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel was fired because he was playing a college basketball tournament pool at school, so you will never find a coach saying, “We hope to cover the number this weekend.“

However, it’s important to understand why certain coaches cover often, and why some continually fall short ATS. A large part of it is preparation, organization and in-game adjustments. Football is about organizing 30-40 players each week to perform at a high level and that’s not easy to do. Super Bowl winning coaches like Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Bill Walsh have that ability. They are able to maximize a team’s strengths, have a talent for teaching, and get the most out of athletes and their teams.

In addition, some coaches, particularly ones with good offensive minds, gain a reputation for running up the score. They do this to clinch games, of course, or to help their team’s poll rankings. When Jimmy Johnson was at Miami of Florida, I recall one game where he purposely ran up the score on Notre Dame, winning 58-7 on national TV, because he needed a boost in the polls for a shot at a national title game in the bowls. Here’s a look at some current coaches who cover on a consistent basis or have a run-it-up reputation.

June Jones (Hawaii): I don’t think Jones is purposefully running up scores this season, but you have to be impressed with their run-and-shoot offense. Everything is clicking behind QB Colt Brennan with the team tops in scoring and passing. They blasted Idaho 68-10 on Saturday and Brennan has an NCAA-leading 33 TD passes. They topped New Mexico State 49-30 two weeks ago, which was on the heels of a stunning 68-37 win at Fresno. Hawaii is 5-0-1 ATS this season because of that explosive offense. Hawaii is also 12-5 ATS its last 17 home games.

Bobby Petrino (Louisville): Another brilliant teacher and offensive mind. The Cardinals average 43 points and over 210 yards rushing and passing! Thanks to USC's fall, the pivotal game between West Virginia and Louisville Thursday will be the first top-five matchup for the rebuilt Big East. The third-ranked Mountaineers and fifth-ranked Cardinals each moved up a spot in the AP poll. Louisville is 22-12 ATS its last 34 games.

Jim Tressel (Ohio State):Tressel has always preferred a balanced offense, but the last two seasons, he’s had so many offensive weapons that the Buckeyes have been running it up on everyone. They just shut out Minnesota 44-0. And that followed a 44-3 triumph over Indiana, so the Buckeyes recorded their first back-to-back wins by 40 or more points since 1996. Ohio State has outscored opponents 161-17 in the past four games. Ohio State is 16-0 SU, 15-1 ATS its last 16 games! By the way, the Buckeyes are 34-2 SU, 24-10-1 ATS their last 36 home games.

Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech): Don’t feel sorry for the Hokies after they lost two in a row to Georgia Tech and BC. They currently have a winning spread mark this season after beating up Southern Miss and Clemson the last two games. It is the third straight year they have had a winning ATS mark and Beamer is 23-9 ATS Virginia Tech’s last 32 games. They are also on pace to have a winning spread mark at home for the fourth straight year.

Steve Spurrier (South Carolina): The grandaddy of run-it-up coaches is still getting the job done. His days at Florida were legendary, with several games where they moved the ball and scored late in blowout wins. One game they were throwing the ball for a late TD in the final seconds to cover! His Gamecocks are also solid ATS winners. Despite that loss to Tennessee Saturday, South Carolina is 5-2 ATS this season and 11-8 ATS since he’s been there. Don’t underestimate the value of above-average coaches! Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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