This is the sixth in a series of seven 2009 college football story lines. Next week, columnist Chris Dufresne begins a daily countdown of his preseason top 25.
A segment we're calling: fresh coaching faces in new pigskin places.
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1. Washington. Steve Sarkisian replaces Tyrone Willingham. Sark, moving up the coast from Pete Carroll's staff at USC, swims violently upstream as he inherits a winless 2008 squad that opens the season at home against Louisiana State. Jake Locker's return to quarterback this year after an injury-plagued 2008, though, should be worth at least three wins.
2. Syracuse. Doug Marrone replaces Greg Robinson. The man Marrone replaces was 10-37 in four seasons, so you can understand the switch. Opening against Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern, however, is not the way you want to break in the new guy.
3. New Mexico State. DeWayne Walker replaces Hal Mumme. Walker, the former UCLA defensive coordinator, takes on possibly the worst major-college job. Yet, the man who orchestrated UCLA's 13-9 upset win over USC in 2006 is talented enough to parlay this into a better gig.
1. Kansas State. Bill Snyder replaces Ron Prince. Snyder, in his first stint in Manhattan, led Kansas State to the most amazing turnaround in college football history. But he's 70 and running against the game clock.
2. Mississippi State. Dan Mullen replaces Sylvester Croom. Mullen, a former offensive guru at Florida, ushers the spread offense to Starkville in an attempt to jump-start what many people believe is the hardest place to win in the SEC.
3. San Diego State. Brady Hoke for Chuck Long. Unlike Long, who was 9-27 in three seasons, Hoke arrives from Ball State with head coaching experience. It's still San Diego State, though, which continues to underperform despite great weather, a solid recruiting base and terrific fish tacos.
Successor-in- waiting transitions
1. Oregon. Chip Kelly replaces Mike Bellotti. The Ducks' dynamic spread offense should not be hampered by the departure of Bellotti, who moved to the athletic director job after hand-plucking Kelly out of New Hampshire.
2. Purdue. Danny Hope replaces Joe Tiller. Hope inherits a 4-8 team that lost star quarterback Curtis Painter, so it might take a year or two to see whether this succession plan was a success.
You changed coaches . . . why?
1 and 1-A. Tennessee/Auburn. Lane Kiffin replaces Phil Fulmer; Gene Chizik subs in for Tommy Tuberville. Only in the SEC do you run two coaches off who were a combined 145 games over .500, but Fulmer hadn't won a national title since 1998 and Tuberville hadn't gone 13-0 since 2004.
Kiffin has proved to be a deft director of marketing, using the old Hollywood edict that "there's no such thing as bad publicity," even if it costs you a few NCAA secondary violations. Chizik gets a head-coaching do-over after making the regrettable choice of once leaving Mack Brown's Texas staff for Iowa State.