Regular season win total odds are almost always lower than the expectations set by a team’s fans, but you don’t build massive casinos by being consistently wrong.
With that in mind, let’s examine several situations in which, if Vegas is right, a major program’s coach might be in trouble. These over/unders are based on win totals from BetOnline.
Mike MacIntyre at Colorado: 4.5 wins
MacIntyre won the Pac-12 South in 2016. But in 2017, the Buffs slipped to 5-7.
Steven Godfrey: MacIntyre’s job security rests less in a 2018 win total and more in recruiting and player development. He has to prove 2016 wasn’t an outlier.
His situation isn’t easy to explain. He’s been involved in a domestic scandal similar to the one Urban Meyer is currently in, yet was a name attached to multiple job openings in the last two cycles, including Ole Miss and Baylor.
Bud Elliott: But 2016 was an outlier. Even if he were to substantially exceed his Vegas number, it still might not near his 2016 total. But I think MacIntyre deserves credit for digging the on-field product out of its hole. I think he is safe this year.
Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech: 6 wins
Johnson has three division titles and an ACC title, and improved defense could get things back on track. But in the last three seasons the Yellow Jackets have finished last, fifth, and third in the Coastal. Tech’s inability to recruit its extremely talented state is an embarrassment.
Richard Johnson: It’s long been time to figure out if Georgia Tech cares about becoming like a Stanford of the South. The Yellow Jackets actually have — gasp — swag now, too!
GT’s holding onto an identity, but not in the best way. The pure flexbone option doesn’t appeal to most of the talent close to home.
If Tech misses a bowl again, that’s three empty postseasons in four years. Your division is not getting any easier, now that Miami’s getting it figured out. Keep up with the Joneses, or keep wasting Metro Atlanta’s natural resources. Six wins should be Tech’s floor, not its goal.
Bud: 6-6 would mean going 4-4 in these games, plus losses to Clemson and Georgia: at USF, at Pitt, at Louisville, vs. Duke, at Virginia Tech, at UNC, vs. Miami, and vs. Virginia. That would be rather embarrassing. I think he would have to go. You can’t be bad and boring.
Lovie Smith at Illinois: 4 wins
That would be an improvement for Smith, who went 3-9 in his first year and 2-10 in his second. But would it be enough?
Godfrey: AD Josh Whitman blew up an improving program under Bill Cubit to make a splashy media hire. It hasn’t worked yet, as many predicted. But Illinois won’t likely cut bait if Smith finishes the year with four wins. The athletic department is still financially healing, and a fired Smith would be owed $12 million. Whitman played at UI under Ron Turner; he knows the slow path firsthand.
Matt Brown: Illinois has two blue-chip commits in its 2019 class right now, and the school could decide to give Lovie one more year, to try and keep a promising class together. The preseason Big Ten media poll has Illinois projected dead last in the conference, though.
David Beaty at Kansas: 3 wins
He is 3-33 in Lawrence, and our Kansas site was writing about potential replacements months before the season kicks off.
Godfrey: He wasn’t quite as doomed as most believed until Kansas switched athletic directors. Considering the roster is — fairly or unfairly to Beaty — still not ready to compete in the Power 5, coaches assume the Kansas job is opening.
Matt: Kansas also just brought in a new AD (Jeff Long), who presumably would want to make his own splash. Baring a miracle, this sure seems like a question of when, not if.
Mark Stoops at Kentucky: 5.5 wins
If Vegas is right, UK will be in contention for a third straight bowl. Does Kentucky expect more than that? If so, why?
Richard: We talk a lot about Kentucky’s ceiling, but what if it’s right around this? That’s hard to hear, but Kentucky’s only won nine or more games once in the last 40 years. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
Godfrey: The right people at UK like Stoops, but he’s finished just under the expectations boosters have for their second-interest program. If the Cats finish bowl-eligible again, Stoops should be fine, but UK fans pose a decent question: why shouldn’t this team be as good as Louisville?
Ed Orgeron at LSU: 7 wins
Interim coaches are expected to win immediately, and Orgeron kept the job with the idea that his recruiting ability would help LSU compete with Alabama on the trail. Hasn’t happened so far. But LSU also signed him to a large guaranteed contract, and this is only his second full year.
Godfrey: Troy, Matt Canada, and the debacle at Mississippi State notwithstanding, Orgeron still has the total support of athletic director Joe Alleva. Eight wins is the assumed floor. New/old offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger showed promise in 2016 and needs to deliver a league-quality passing game immediately, to stave off critics.
Bud: If LSU is 7-5, I think he should be let go. But should does not mean will. Since Alleva is tied to him, Orgeron would probably get a lame duck 2019 if he were to go 7-5.
But 7-5 would mean no recruiting momentum and that Alabama, Auburn, and Texas A&M put distance between their rosters and LSU’s. For an interim promotion, the proof-of-concept year needs to be Year 2, not Year 3.
Larry Fedora at North Carolina: 5.5 wins
Fedora has a Coastal Division title, a tie for first, and a tie for second in his seven seasons. But he also went 3-9 in 2017, and now 13 (mostly depth) players have been suspended in some key games. Also, NC State is crushing North Carolina in recruiting.
Godfrey: UNC lost basically its entire offense entering 2017. If roster turnover had followed a slightly different schedule, Fedora might be somewhere else right now (Texas A&M? Tennessee?). Coaches respect Fedora and credit him with turning a program hit by NCAA investigations into a division winner. A .500 2018 should be enough.
Richard: Between the shoes and Fedora’s ACC Kickoff comments, the Heels had better do something on the field. Missing a bowl isn’t that. Early losses to Cal and UCF are highly possible. But projections might not take into account the full picture of UNC’s roster. I think Fedora gets another year.
Chris Ash at Rutgers: 3.5 wins
If Vegas is right, he will have gone 2-10, 4-8, and either 3-9 or 4-8 in his first three seasons, plus a credit card fraud scandal this summer.
Godfrey: The best thing going for him is that every coach I’ve spoken with begins their assessment of his tenure the same way: “It’s Rutgers, so ...”
Matt: Rutgers AD Pat Hobbs has been adamant that Ash is not on the hot seat. Given how difficult this job is and how badly Rutgers could use some continuity, I’m inclined to believe him.
Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech: 6 wins
He has lost at least five games in every season. His best finish in the Big 12 is a tie for fifth in 2015. Early games against Ole Miss and Houston are crucial.
Richard: I think the defense is going to be improved enough to make Tech a pleasant surprise. This year, it’s almost as much about the look as the results. I think a defense with a pulse is enough, even if he misses a bowl by one win, because few doubt he’ll have the offense up to par just about every year. But if that defense continues to get shelled, 2019 is not a good proposition. The Red Raiders are about to lose a lot of veteran defenders.
Godfrey: Kingsbury has seemingly lived on the hot seat, yet he’s begun to do the unthinkable: build a balanced roster that features a not-total-ass defense. His win totals have made it hard for a booster network that generally likes the native son to pull the trigger. If things fall apart this year (four or fewer wins), Troy head coach Neal Brown would be a perfect fit to take TTU’s beloved air raid in a new direction. If canned, Kingsbury could end up as a QB coach in the NFL.
Derek Mason at Vanderbilt: 4.5 wins
If Vegas is right, Mason will have gone to a bowl only once in five seasons.
Godfrey: Vanderbilt is a giant question mark. A recent report shows their faux-athletics department is handicapped by university policies, and there’s no progress on a much-needed improvement to the stadium. Yet the memory of James Franklin is still vivid in Nashville, and a ton of coaches would be willing to take a shot. But maybe Vandy is satisfied with Mason’s quiet tenure. Maybe they don’t want to play the game like everyone else.
Jason Kirk: Vandy should keep a football program active in order to ensure SEC membership, and you need a head coach in order to have a football program. Therefore, Vandy should either keep Mason or hire a new guy. It probably doesn’t matter.
Also, at Maryland, DJ Durkin could be fired before the season really gets going.
Vegas expects the Terps to narrowly miss a bowl for the second year in a row, but far more critical are the school’s investigations into the death of lineman Jordan McNair. Durkin is currently on leave.