ESPN Insider Travis Haney looks at programs with untapped potential that could break through into the nation's elite over the next few years, and he taps Arizona as a Pac-12 school that could move up in the national pecking order.
The Wildcats have been close in the past, just missing the Rose Bowl in 1993 and 1998. The commitment seems strong, with a $72 million football facility set for completion in 2013. "That sends a message right there," new coach Rich Rodriguez said this week. Coming from Michigan, Rodriguez added that he sees favorable weather as a strong selling point for the school, which will draw from recruiting-rich areas such as Phoenix and Southern California.
Haney leads his story with TCU, a program that appears poised to move up from non-AQ giant killer to just being one of the giants as it joins the Big 12.
As for the Wildcats, you probably could put a number of Pac-12 teams into that category, particularly the ones with new coaches.
Arizona State has long been burdened with the title of "sleeping giant." Is Todd Graham going to awake the Sun Devils?
UCLA has been successful before and there is no reason the Bruins can't surge under new coach Jim Mora. It wasn't too long ago when the Bruins, in fact, dominated their rivalry with then-faltering USC.
Mike Leach is just one of those coaches who gets more from less -- see what he did with Texas Tech. And Washington State has proved it can win in the Pac-12 -- see two Rose Bowl berths since 1997 and three consecutive 10-win seasons from 2001 to 2003. If Mike Price can do it, Mike Leach can do it.
Further, Washington is a team that seems to be putting it together -- A-list coaching staff plus good recruiting plus upgraded facilities. It certainly feels like the Huskies are close to challenging Oregon and Stanford atop the Pac-12 North.
And here's one that might seem strange: California.
While many Cal fans are frustrated with a present plateau of mediocrity under Jeff Tedford, it's not ridiculous to wonder what Tedford might get done now that he's been given long -- long! -- promised facilities upgrades. If the recent uptick in recruiting continues -- yes, even without Tosh Lupoi -- then the Bears could quickly get into the North mix.