USC Has Clay Helton on a Tight Leash, Odds Are Also Short He’ll be The First College Coach Fired This Year

Posted on: August 28, 2019, 04:11h. 

Last updated on: August 28, 2019, 05:09h.

Clay Helton, head football coach at the University of Southern California (USC), was bound to enter the 2019 season on the hot seat after the Trojans stumbled to a 5-7 record last year.

Oddsmakers agree USC’s Clay Helton is on the hot seat and see him being the first college coach fired this year. (Image:

Oddsmakers are affirming as much, installing Helton at +550 to be the first football bowl subdivision (FBS) coach fired this season. At those odds, a bettor would win $550 on a $100 wager. Coaches must be fired for gamblers to win on bets of this nature. Sportsbooks will consider the bets losers if the coach in question resigns.

The next shortest odds are for coaches of two moribund Big 10 programs – Chris Ash of Rutgers at +600, and Lovie Smith of Illinois at +900. Bettors on those lines, if successful on $100 wagers, would garner winnings of $600 and $900, respectively, if one of those coaches is the first to be sacked this year.

USC has a real chance of carrying a losing record after the first five weeks of the season, and that would really put a lot of pressure on the administration,” according to Adam Burns, head linesman at

Conventional wisdom may dictate that a season featuring 10-plus wins for USC could be enough to help Helton retain his job. But Las Vegas isn’t keen on that figure, either. Last month, the Westgate SuperBook placed a season win total over/under of seven on USC, good for second-best in the Pac-12 South behind Utah.

Rugged Schedule

As Burns notes, its possible USC could be sitting on a losing record after the first five weeks of the season because the schedule is brutal. After Fresno State, the Trojans face Stanford, then head to BYU before facing Utah in a Friday night game. Translation: USC starts the year with a foe coming off a 12-win season, a conference rival, a road trip to a hostile environment, and a game against the defending Pac-12 South champion on a short week.

Those are USC’s first four games, and the second quartet of tilts for the Trojans features road clashes at Washington and Notre Dame, teams ranked No. 13 and No. 9, respectively, in the Associated Press poll. Bottom line: Bets on USC’s win total and Helton’s fate are two separate wagers, but they are very much correlated.

Another coach with somewhat short odds on the first-to-be-fired front that could be done-in by a rough schedule is Auburn’s Gus Malzhan at +1000 (bet $100 to win $1,000). The Tigers open with No. 11 Oregon before facing five other teams ranked in the preseason top 25, four of which are ranked in the top 10, including Georgia, a national title favorite among gamblers.

Worse yet for Auburn is that three of those five games are on the road – at Texas A&M, Florida and LSU.

Helton Looking Over His Shoulder

Coaches never admit to looking over their shoulder, but in Helton’s case, he could hardly be blamed if he did. Since Urban Meyer left Ohio State at the end of the 2018, speculation has swirled in Southern California that if Helton doesn’t have a big year, USC would act swiftly to can him and put together a “whatever it takes” financial package to lure Meyer out retirement.

And yes, there are odds on Meyer returning to the sidelines by Sept. 1, 2020, and short odds at that. Some offshore books have the three-time national championship winning head coach at -300 (bet $300 to win $100) to be leading another team for the 2020 season.