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Arizona’s Rodriguez ranked as nation’s 22nd-best NCAA head coach

Rich Rodriguez’s image needed some repairing when he took over the University of Arizona football program.

Because while he had great success at West Virginia, his three-year tenure at Michigan was nothing short of a disaster.

So he moved to the desert, and promptly led the Wildcats to an eight-win season and victory in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

Given that,, who set out to rank the nation’s 125 FBS head coaches, placed Rodriguez 22nd.

Although his lack of success at Michigan is an eyesore on an otherwise stellar resume, Rodriguez is still one of the Pac-12’s top coaches. And if there was any doubt about his coaching prowess, he answered those questions with an 8-5 debut at Arizona in 2012. The Wildcats’ eight victories were a four-game improvement from 2011 and three of their losses were by seven points or less, including an overtime defeat to Stanford. Rodriguez should win big at Arizona, as he is a much better fit in the desert than in the Big Ten with Michigan. In seven years with West Virginia from 2001-07, Rodriguez led the Mountaineers to 60 wins, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia in 2005. West Virginia also claimed at least a share of the conference title in four years under Rodriguez’s watch. Arizona must replace quarterback Matt Scott in 2013, but the Wildcats could be pushing for a spot every year in the top 25 as long as Rodriguez is on the sideline.

Rodriguez is ranked ahead of notable coaches like LSU’s Les Miles, Texas’ Mack Brown and Nebraska’s Bo Pelini.

He’s also ahead of Arizona State’s Todd Graham, who comes in, at No. 29.

As for the entire Pac-12, the coaches are ranked as follows:

20. David Shaw, Stanford
21. Mike Riley, Oregon State
22. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
29. Todd Graham, Arizona State
31. Mike Leach, Washington State
44. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
45. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
54. Jim Mora, Jr., UCLA
55. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
56. Sonny Dykes, California
57. Lane Kiffin, USC
73. Mark Helfrich, Oregon