Three coaches enter, one coach leaves. With three PAC 12 South coaches on the hot seat and a round robin division schedule, these guys are quite literally going to be coaching for their jobs. They can’t all win their games against one another, and with few gimmes on the schedule they will each need all the wins they can get. Let’s use G.A.W.P. to deep dive into this melee.
Jim Mora, UCLA Bruins- Following a disastrous 4-8(2-7) 2016 campaign, Mora cleaned house on offense. The 2017 version of the Bruins have a new OC/QB coach, WR coach, OL coach, and RB coach. He’s got plenty of weapons, starting with Josh “Chosen” Rosen and continuing on down the line. If he can’t make it work this year, it’s on him.
Todd Graham, ASU Sun Devils- The ‘Devils 5-7(2-7) run in 2016 wasn’t the worst, but the athletic department signaled that they were just about out of patience with Graham, declining to extend his contract as they had done every year before. Graham’s staff has been shaken up as well, with new defensive and offensive coordinators. There’s plenty of talent, but the bottom has fallen out for the defense, which is supposed to be Graham’s signature.
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona Wildcats- Rich Rod’s star has faded quickly, and the 3-9(1-8) effort last season didn’t help any. Despite uncertainty at quarterback, the offense should be good, but there’s not much hope for a stiffening of the paper bag Rodriguez called a defense in 2016. With a new AD, Rich Rod may have the shortest leash of the bunch.
Saturday, Oct. 23- UCLA @ Arizona- The Bruins visit the Wildcats off of a bye week, fourteen days after they host Colorado in the Rose Bowl. Arizona is the next team to face the Buffaloes, and will be only a week removed from a road game.
G.A.W.P. gives UCLA a 69.15% chance to win this match-up.
Saturday, Nov. 11- ASU @ UCLA- The Sun Devils come in to town late in the season. Both teams will have a pretty good idea of where they stand and just how high the stakes are in this game. ASU will have just finished up with the Buffaloes in Tempe, while the Bruins come in off what promises to be a physical Friday tilt against the Utes.
G.A.W.P. gives UCLA a 72.4% chance to win this match-up
Saturday, Nov. 25- Arizona @ ASU – A rivalry matchup. Last game of the season. Everything on the line for these two coaches. The teams are likely coming into this match up with losing records- a 50% probability for the Wildcats, 60% for the Sun Devils. If that’s the case, it could be win or go home for both coaches.
G.A.W.P. gives ASU a 65.95% chance to win this match-up.
Let’s say that to keep their jobs, these coaches need to get themselves bowl eligible. It’s possible they could squeak by with five wins, but in the cutthroat world of college football, it probably won’t do it. These teams all play tough PAC 12 schedules and none of them project to be very good. The odds of surviving to 6-6 are not great:
The two games against the other teams in this group will prove key to determining which coach gets fired, and which keeps their job another year.
UCLA is in the best position here, with a 97% chance of winning at least one of these games. That puts Jim Mora in a pretty safe place, with about a 12% chance of getting to six wins on the season. Assuming that bare bowl eligibility is good enough for AD Dan Guerrero, it’s pretty likely that Mora survives to 2018.
Arizona State’s problems start with UCLA but also feature a toss-up rivalry game that gives the Devils a 82% chance of losing at least one of these games. That puts Todd Graham on the skids. Drop just one, and ASU has a 37% chance of being under .500 at the end of the year- which likely means Graham is looking for work.
Arizona is in the worst spot, a problem heightened by the shakeup at Athletic Director that could mean even 6-6 won’t be good enough for Rich Rod to hang around. The Wildcats are given a 90% chance of losing at least one game, and if that happens there is a 40% shot they won’t get to six wins.
With everyone playing everyone else, chaos is the most likely result.
While UCLA might escape unscathed, fully 77% of scenarios involve both Arizona schools losing at least one game. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see both teams go 5-7 or worse, and for the entire state of Arizona to be on the hunt for a new head coach before spring practices.