- David Lombardi, ESPN Staff Writer
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Perhaps the biggest driver of this decade's Pac-12 football surge has been the infusion of quality head coaching talent around the conference. Nowhere has that leadership impact been more profound than the state of Arizona, where the two programs were the last ones standing in a brutal Pac-12 South title race last year.
Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham, of course, are the two main men in the desert, and their situations share similarities on and off the field -- despite the fact that they may not exactly be best friends. The two do have history working together: In 2001, Rodriguez hired Graham to be his linebackers coach at West Virginia.
Grantland's Michael Weinreb took a fascinating look at Rodriguez and Graham, their past, their current teams and their fit within the Arizona landscape in this article. It leaves us with several worthwhile excerpts, some of which verge on the poetic: "But for now, at least, this is a golden age for college football in the state of Arizona: a pair of teams trending upward, a pair of teams whose coaches appear to have found at least a small measure of contentment in careers defined by both high-profile successes and high-profile mistakes."
Weinreb examines the competitive philosophies of both coaches, and his questioning of ASU's fixation on the 2016 national championship -- a goal that's plastered all over the Sun Devils' facility -- provides insight on Graham's mentality that's worth reading in and of itself.
“Why would you not have a goal of that?” the coach asks. “Is that abnormal thinking? Maybe. Is it elite thinking? Yes.”