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Why Willie Taggart’s record in opening games shouldn’t worry FSU fans

Willie Taggart is 6-1-1 against the spread in Power 5 openers.

NCAA Football: Florida State Spring Game Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Twitter gives everyone a voice. My mentions are often filled with nonsense, but sometimes that nonsense turns into good content ideas. That happened Tuesday as a user by the name of “Coach Bryan” tweeted me the following:

Did you factor in Willie Taggart is 1-7 in season openers/first game vs a Power 5 opponent? Last year was first win (42-35 vs Nebraska).

It was in reference to FSU being a small favorite over Virginia Tech.

Not only is this “factoid” not factual, it’s also lacking context.

For one, Taggart won the season opener in 2016 as well, as USF went on the road and beat Syracuse 45-20, more than doubling the 12-point spread.

So Taggart has won his past two opening P5 games.

But his record in prior opening P5 games needs context.

The context required is that his USF and WKU teams were often lambs being led to slaughter in exchange for a paycheck as he was building or rebuilding those programs. But his teams played their butts off.

  • In 2015, his Bulls took on Florida State. FSU won the game 34-14, but Taggart’s USF squad played FSU tough for a while and covered the 28.5-point spread.
  • In 2014, USF again lost the opener, but again, it was favored to lose by double digits (11) and lost to Maryland by only a TD, falling 17-24.
  • In 2013, his Bulls were underdogs of 21.5 points at Michigan State, yet lost by just 15, falling 21-6.
  • In 2012, his Western Kentucky team was a 38-point underdog to National Champion Alabama, and covered that spread, too.
  • In 2011, Western Kentucky was an underdog of 17 points against in-state Kentucky, and it lost by only 11.
  • In 2010, Taggart’s first year at WKU coming out of the FCS, WKU was a 39-point underdog at Nebraska and lost by exactly 39.

Willie Taggart is 6-1-1 against the spread in his first game of the season against a Power 5 team.

When talking about numbers against the spread, I find using history against the spread more useful than simply wins and losses without the context provided by the odds.