College football spreads: Which coaches are exceeding Vegas’ expectations?

Oregon State’s Mike Riley sits squarely on the hot seat, but should he be? 

A coach’s record against the pointspread is a great gauge of whether his teams are exceeding expectations or failing to meet them.

The Beavers have covered the spread in 54.26 percent of games (70-59-1) under Riley. That puts him in the top 10 in winning percentage against the spread out all BCS coaches who have been at their school at least two seasons.

Pointspreads are primarily generated from computer generated statistical power ratings, but the public’s perception of a team also plays a role. The public’s perception is shaped by the media. The media creates expectations for a team.

Oddsmakers take it all in and post a line that in most cases they believe will generate even betting action on both teams. For example, Alabama is a 10-point favorite against Michigan in Week 1. If the Crimson Tide win by only a point, they will fail to meet the betting market’s expectations, much like a stock, say Facebook, for example, fails to meet Wall Street’s expectations.


Obviously, one game doesn’t mean Nick Saban’s program fails to live up to expectations. In fact, Saban has been one of the best at covering the point spread since arriving at Alabama. The Tide are 38-26-1 (59.3%) in Saban’s five seasons. Compare that to Les Miles’ 41-46-4 mark against the spread at LSU, and it’s pretty easy to see which coach has gotten his team to outperform the market more consistently; just in case last year’s title didn’t cement that point.

According to his record against the spread, one name that doesn’t seem to be appearing on too many hot-seat lists that should be is Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. The Wildcats are 31-41 ATS (43.05%) in Fitzgerald’s six seasons.

Coaches ATS Marks

(Stats are for current program only; list includes only coaches who have been at a program for at least two seasons).


Les Miles, LSU – 41-46-4

Nick Saban, Alabama – 38-26-1

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State – 19-18

Gene Chizik, Auburn – 21-18

Mark Richt, Georgia – 69-64-4

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina – 45-38-3

Derek Dooley, Tennessee — 11-14

Gary Pinkel, Missouri – 68-64-1

Joker Phillips, Kentucky — 12-13

Big Ten

Bret Bielema, Wisconsin – 40-34-1

Danny Hope, Purdue – 17-19-1

Bo Pelini, Nebraska – 27-26-1

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State – 35-27-3

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa – 86-76-3

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern – 31-41

Big 12

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma – 88-74-5

Mack Brown, Texas – 89-83-2

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State – 42-33-3

Gary Patterson, TCU – 70-60-4

Bill Snyder, Kansas State – 73-51* (Since 1998)

Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech -11-13-1

Art Briles, Baylor – 26-21

Paul Roads, Iowa State – 20-17


Jimbo Fisher, Florida State – 15-12

Dabo Swinney, Clemson – 25-21

Tom O’Brien, North Carolina State: 35-33-1

Frank Spaziani, Boston College – 18-19

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest – 64-64-3

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech – 99-71-3* (Since 1998)

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech – 25-23-2

Mike London, Virginia – 10-13-2

David Cutcliffe, Ole Miss – 24-19-2


Lane Kiffin, Tennessee – 13-12

Kyle Whittingham, Utah – 45-41-2

Chip Kelly, Oregon – 23-15-2

Jeff Tedford, California – 64-59-1

Mike Riley, Oregon State – 70-59-1

Steve Sarkisian, Washington – 20-18

Big East

Skip Holtz, South Florida – 10-14-1

Charlie Strong, Louisville – 15-11

Butch Jones, Cincinnati – 12-13

Doug Marrone, Syracuse – 17-19


Brian Kelly, Notre Dame – 12-12-1

*Pointspread records according to Phil Steele.