UCLA’s meteoric rise owes its success to Jim Mora’s offensive genius and timely defense. This Bruins squad has finished the season ranked 17th in the final BCS poll, a phenomenal feat considering they weren’t even on the Top-25 radar prior to the season. In his first season, Jim Mora transformed a team that went 6-8 in 2011 into this year’s 9-4 squad and Pac-12 South division champions. Perhaps more important than the Bruins’ 2nd consecutive Pac-12 Championship game appearance was the 38-28 victory over crosstown rival USC.
Mora isn’t the only new coach in the Pac-12 this season, and he is one of a multitude of new coaches to take over high profile positions all across the nation. Mike Leach and Rich Rodriguez made their Pac-12 coaching debuts this season, and nationally the coaching carousel continued to turn.
Rich Rodriguez, known for his high-powered offensive teams in West Virginia and Michigan, took the helm in Tucson this year, and did not disappoint on the offensive side of the ball. The defense left much to be desired, giving up more than 30 points in 8 of their 12 games. Despite the terrible defense, Arizona finished with a record of 7-5, an improvement of 3 wins from last season.
Bill O’Brien of Penn State came into the most turbulent situation with the Jerry Sandusky scandal, forced resignation and ensuing death of Joe Paterno, 4-year postseason ban and loss of scholarships hovering. After dropping the first 2 games to Ohio and Virginia, the Nittany Lions pulled it together to finish the season with a respectable 8-4 record including big wins against Northwestern and Wisconsin.
Urban Meyer left Gainesville for Columbus, taking over Ohio State right after the rocky end to the Jim Tressel era. The Buckeyes are serving a one-year bowl ban this season, but Meyer was able to motivate his team to play very inspired football, en route to an undefeated 12-0 season.
Kevin Sumlin took the reigns of a Texas A&M team going into their first season in the ever-competitive SEC. Sumlin’s high-powered offense is led by dual-threat redshirt freshman quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Johnny Manziel. Their only losses of the season came to the hands of Florida and LSU, each game was decided by less than a touchdown. The defining moment of coach Sumlin’s season came when Texas Tech upset then #1 ranked Alabama late in the season.
If all these coaches maintain their winning ways, they should become mainstays at their respective universities. Jim Mora has already helped his cause at UCLA with 9 four-star recruits out of 19 total verbal commitments so far. The Bruins’ roster remains extremely talented and built to win. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say future is very bright for Jim Mora in Westwood.