It’s probably safe to say that both Arizona State coach Todd Graham and Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez are entering pivotal 2017 seasons.
Whereas not long ago each had led a team to a Pac-12 South title and some measure of national prominence, now both sixth-year coaches are trying to rebound following seasons that saw them miss the postseason for the first time since being named to their posts.
Graham’s Sun Devils fared a little better in 2016, with a 5-7 overall mark that included a 2-7 Pac-12 record, while Rodriguez’s Wildcats were just 3-9 overall and 1-9 in the conference.
Their lone Pac-12 win? A 56-35 thrashing over ASU, in which the Wildcats ran for 511 yards and did not even attempt a pass in the second half.
At any rate, confidence in each coach’s ability to win at their respective schools has certainly waned a bit, therefore it likely comes as no surprise that neither is rated particularly highly in coach rankings.
In this instance, CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli placed the two near each other in his list of Power Five coaches, with Rodriguez at No. 44 and Graham No. 42.
Of Rodriguez, who was ranked 24th last year, he wrote:
RichRod was in our top 25 last season, and he drops all the way down to No. 44. It’s a steep drop, but his Wildcats have taken a step back in each of the last two seasons, so it’s certainly a justifiable one.
Rodriguez’s team has taken some giant steps back following its Pac-12 South title in 2014, struggling through injuries to a 7-win campaign in 2015 and then last year’s debacle.
For Graham, however, it has been two straight seasons with sub-.500 records after winning 10 games in both 2013 and 2014. Of ASU’s coach, who was 36th last year, Fornelli wrote:
I honestly expected Graham’s stock to take a bigger hit than this considering he’s gone 11-14 the last two seasons with a 6-12 mark in Pac-12 play. Also, he ditched the Britney Spears headset during games, and he should be penalized for that.
Graham’s sense of style notwithstanding, the fact that his Sun Devils have struggled mightily — especially defensively, where they have been among the worst in college football — is reason for concern.
Both Graham and Rodriguez were hired around the same time, and given their history together (Graham was part of Rodriguez’s staff at West Virginia), they figured to always be somewhat tied at the hip.
Just, ideally, not this far down the rankings.
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