2018 opens in the PAC-12 with a massive amount of coaching turnover as Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State and UCLA will begin new eras.
Kevin Sumlin is the new man at Arizona after being fired at Texas A&M so the Aggies could go after Florida State's Jimbo Fisher. That led Florida State to pluck Willie Taggart away from Oregon after Taggart spent just one season with the Ducks. Oregon promoted from within by handing the reins to Mario Cristobal. The opening for Sumlin's new gig became available when Arizona fired Rich Rodriguez in the wake of a sexual harassment claim that could not be substantiated.
Herm Edwards moves from the broadcast booth and back to coaching as the new head honcho at Arizona State where he replaces the fired Todd Graham. Edwards last coached football from 2006-2008 as the head coach of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. His only time as a college coach was spent at San Jose State from 1987-1989 where he was in charge of the defensive backs.
Oregon State on November 29 inked a deal with one of its former standout players to become its next head coach. Washington offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Jonathan Smith becomes the first Oregon State grad to serve in that capacity.
On November 25, UCLA announced former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly as its new head coach, replacing the fired Jim Mora. Kelly was 46-7 in 4 seasons at Oregon, reaching BCS bowls each season and losing 22-19 to Auburn in the 2010 season BCS national title game. He was 33-3 in PAC-10/PAC-12 games, as opposed to Mora's 28-26 mark. Kelly left Oregon to become head coach of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles from 2013-2015, and the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. He was 26-22 with Philly, 2-14 with the '49ers.
So what do all those changes mean for those five schools?
Arizona is expected to see the most positive immediate effect as the Wildcats are projected by the Congrove Computer Rankings to go 9-3 under Sumlin. Arizona was 7-5 under Rodriguez before losing to Purdue in the Foster Farms Bowl.
Arizona State is forecasted to go 6-6 after going 7-5 a year ago, followed by a Sun Bowl loss to N.C. State.
Oregon is saddle with a 5-7 prediction after managing a 7-5 regular season mark in Taggart's only season. The Ducks also lost in the postseason, 38-28 to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Likewise, UCLA lost its Cactus Bowl game to Kansas State to drop to 6-7 after a 6-6 regular season. The Bruins are given a dreadful 3-9 forecast for 2018.
Oregon State is the only one of the five teams to change head coaches that didn't make the postseason last year. The Beavers were just 1-11 and will open the Jonathan Smith era with the first goal of halting a 10-game losing streak. The computer says the losing streak ends at 11 with a victory over FCS member Southern Utah on September 8. The following week, a 12-game losing streak to FBS teams ends with a win at Nevada. Unfortunately, the losing resumes the following week and continues on through to a 2-10 season.
As for the rest of the PAC-12, look for Washington and USC to square off in the championship game with the Trojans favored by all of 0.30 points. With that outcome, both the Huskies and Trojans would be 12-1 on selection Sunday, and the Trojans would likely be in the Final Four. If Washington were to beat USC, the computer would have the Huskies at 13-0 and a virtual lock for the Final Four.
Expect Stanford to pose its usual threat in the North after claiming the division in 2017 for the fourth time in the last 6 years. In fact, the Stanford at Washington game on 10/27 winds up determining the division winner, according to the computer, with the Huskies favored by 4.5 points.
The South has no such competitiveness as USC is seen clearing the field by 2 full games over both Utah and Arizona State.
*-Tie-breakers: Utah beats Arizona; UCLA beats Colorado