Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez promised to “raise the bar” when both arrived in Arizona.
Through their first three seasons both have kept their word leading Arizona State and the University of Arizona from flat-lining programs to Pac-12 South Conference Championships.
Despite losing a handful of key players to graduation and the NFL many feel the Sun Devils could contend for the South title again. Down in Tucson Rodriguez returns his top quarterback (Anu Solomon), running back (Nick Wilson) and wide receiver (Cayleb Jones). He’s also proven he can beat the top dog (Oregon) having done it twice already since his arrival in the Old Pueblo.
The rest of the conference has excelled, as well flexing their muscle in the bowl season going 6-2 and seeing the Ducks advance to the college football playoff championship.
Their collective success from last fall continues to draw attention, particularly with the college football playoff decision-makers.
“Very strong presence,” Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock said to Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a recent interview. “The committee absolutely respects the Pac-12 and I think that will continue. They’re getting it done on the field.”
Despite losing Marcus Mariota, Oregon is expected to start the season in the top five nationally and USC is expected to be the favorite in the South behind star quarterback Cody Kessler. Add UCLA, Stanford and Utah to the mix, along with an improving Washington team and the Pac appears as appears as balanced as ever heading into next season.