The state of Arizona hosts two teams in the Pac-12, and according to one coach, the conference is stronger than ever.
Rich Rodriguez, head coach of Arizona Wildcats football, was interviewed Wednesday on Burns & Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. When asked about there not being a Pac-12 team in last year’s final four playoff, he said that’s just how things are.
“I do think that if you win the Pac-12 you should be in a playoff,” Rodriguez said. “But that being said, if we beat each other up and have two losses and there’s four undefeated teams or four really good teams with just one loss, we’re not going to get in there and that’s just the way it is.”
Though he pointed to Pac-12 teams handing each other a lot of losses, he didn’t diminish the quality of play in the conference.
“I think our league has proven that it can compete with anybody,” he said. “You look at our non-conference results and our bowl results, that bears to be true. Our first goal is always to win the league championship. If we can do that, then I think we’ll be in a playoff. You might not be, but you think you will be.”
Last month, ASU head coach Todd Graham said the Pac-12 winner should be in the playoff, seemingly more adamantly than Rodriguez did.
“If you win the Pac-12 Conference Championship then you should be in the playoff,” Graham said. “Then it (nonconference scheduling) wouldn’t matter. Then you could play whoever you wanted to. There’s such a different disparity between conferences.”
Regardless, Rodriguez said the conference is doing quite well.
“There’s good football players everywhere but in our league – and I know it sounds like coach speak – but our league truly is better than it’s ever been, with all the teams in the league,” he said. “Everybody’s made a commitment to football, everybody’s doing a great job of recruiting and more talent from out in the west is staying out in the west.”
Last season, Stanford (12-2, 8-1 Pac-12) beat USC (8-6, 6-3 Pac-12) in the Pac-12 Championship.
Meanwhile, Rich Rodriguez’s Arizona Wildcats (7-6, 3-6 Pac-12) finished fifth in the South Division. His in-state rival, the Arizona State Sun Devils (6-7, 4-5 Pac-12) finished fourth.
It’s hard to say where each team will finish this year, especially for a Sun Devil team that lost many of it’s key players from last year. Nonetheless, Rodriguez notes that the Pac-12 is a solid conference, nationally, and has improved since it began.
“So, the Pac-12 top-to-bottom is better than it’s ever been and I don’t think it’s going to go slide backwards.”