College Football Betting: The Best and Worst Coaches Against the Spread in Bowl Games

College Football Betting: The Best and Worst Coaches Against the Spread in Bowl Games article feature image
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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Doc Holliday

Inter-conference matchups, warm-weather neutral fields, players sitting out in preparation for the NFL Draft …

There’s a long list of differences between regular season college football and bowl season, but the one that bettors might be most interested in is the amount of time teams have to prepare for their bowl-game opponent.

While regular season games are usually separated by a single week, some teams are currently in the midst of a full-month (or more) hiatus between their most recent game and their upcoming bowl.

With that comes a greater focus on head coaches. After all, they’re the ones drawing up the game plans, so the extended break could create a wider edge for the ones who are able to make better use of that time.

Whether on not you buy into the theory, it couldn’t hurt to know which coaches thrive — and shrivel — come bowl season.

The following records date back to 2005 (the beginning of our Bet Labs database), and are filtered to show only active coaches for this bowl season.

Best Head Coaches Against the Spread (ATS) in Bowl Games

  1. Doc Holliday (Marshall): 6-0-0, 96.4% ROI, 5.79 units
  2. Dabo Swinney (Clemson): 10-4-0, 39.3% ROI, 5.50 units
  3. Kyle Whittingham (Utah): 8-4-0, 29.8% ROI, 3.58 units
  4. Skip Holtz (Louisiana Tech): 7-3-0, 35.5% ROI, 3.55 units
  5. Ken Niumatalolo (Navy): 7-3-0, 34.8% ROI, 3.48 units

Since taking over as the head coach at Marshall back in 2010, John “Doc” Holliday has led the Herd to six bowl games … and won them all. More importantly for bettors, he’s covered in every bowl appearance (four times as a favorite, twice as an underdog).

While coming in at No. 3 on the ATS list, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham has been the most profitable bowl game coach on the moneyline in our database. He’s led the Utes to a 10-2 straight-up record, good for 9.98 units and a 83.1% return on investment since 2005.

Worst Head Coaches Against the Spread in Bowl Games

  1. Rod Carey (Temple): 0-6-0, -100% ROI, -6.00 units
  2. Mike Leach (Washington State): 2-7-0, -59.9% ROI, -5.39 units
  3. Brian Kelly (Notre Dame): 3-8-0, -46.3% ROI, -5.09 units
  4. Blake Anderson (Arkansas State): 1-4-0, -61.1% ROI, -3.06 units
  5. Mike Norvell (Florida State), Clay Helton (USC): 0-3, -100% ROI, -3.00 units

Still looking for both his first bowl win and cover, Rod Carey will now get that chance at the helm of a new team (his six losses all came while at Northern Illinois). Temple is down to a 4.5-point underdog to UNC in the Military Bowl after opening at +6.

And despite his disappointing record, Brian Kelly doesn’t look to be having any trouble attracting bettors to the Irish in the Camping World Bowl. Seventy-three percent of early bets have landed on Notre Dame as a 3.5-point favorite over Iowa State.

ATS Records for 2019-2020 Bowl Game Head Coaches

Biggest Head Coach Mismatches

Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall (+17.5) vs. Central Florida

  • Doc Holliday (+5.79 units) vs. Josh Heupel (-1.00 units)

Military Bowl: North Carolina (-4.5) vs. Temple

  • Mack Brown (-0.20u) vs. Rod Carey (-6.00u)

Fiesta Bowl: Clemson (-2) vs. Ohio State

  • Dabo Swinney (+5.50u) vs. Ryan Day (0.00u)

Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force (-3) vs. Washington State

  • Troy Calhoun (-0.48u) vs. Mike Leach (-5.39u)

Holiday Bowl: Iowa (-2) vs. USC

  • Kirk Ferentz (+1.65u) vs. Clay Helton (-3.00)

Camping World Bowl: Iowa State (+3.5) vs. Notre Dame

  • Matt Campbell (-1.08u) vs. Brian Kelly (-5.09u)

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