Pac 12 football isn’t poised to win many achievement awards in 2018, yet five new coaches give the league a certain breath-mint freshness: curiously strong.

While I can’t see any of the new faces leading their respective schools to anything above the Las Vegas Bowl, the infusion of new thoughts and ideas should continue to make the Pac 12 much more interesting than the Sun Belt.

Here’s my look at the Fab Five in order of O and X appeal:


5: Jonathan Smith (Oregon State)

I love watching kids grow up and I still remember wanting to pat Smith on the head when he played quarterback for Dennis Erickson. He was so cute.

Smith still looks more like a claims adjuster than a D-1 coach, but also hear this: No player in the history of Corvallis State better embodied the eager-Beaver ethic of hard work and over-achievement. I bet most people forget that it was Smith, not later prototype QB Derek Anderson, who led Oregon State through the glorious 2000-season campaign.

Smith brilliantly spaghetti-armed his team to an 11-1 finish, final ranking of No 4 capped by a 41-9 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

Smith wasn’t just along for the ride: in the win over the Irish, he completed 16 of 24 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns and then sat out the fourth quarter.

Jonathan Smith

What Oregon State needed most after its last two coaches (Mike Riley and Gary Andersen) walked off, was a former walk-on who understand the school, and the conference, to the core.

Smith, who comes to Oregon State after mentoring as OC under Chris Petersen at Washington, may be this season’s most harmonious hire.

That said, Oregon State isn’t leaving the basement anytime soon.

“Building is tough,” Smith said at Pac 12 Media Day. “…But it’s been down before. We can do it again.” The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.