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We are waist-deep in the college football offseason which means it’s the time of year when everyone is posting rankings, lists and comparisons. And we love them for it.

Athlon Sports recently ranked the Pac-12 coaches and gave us something to talk about by putting the guys from the Grand Canyon State in the top two spots.

The only thing better than an offseason opinion piece is an opinion about that opinion. Athlon takes into account the entire head coaching resumes of Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez and Arizona State’s Todd Graham but those other jobs don’t mean much to fans of the Wildcats and Sun Devils. Who has been the best since moving to the desert in 2012?

Pac-12 South8-711-4
Best BowlFiestaHoliday
Best Bowl WinNew MexicoSun
South Champs11
Pac-12 Champs00

The overall wins and losses are about even with Graham ahead in Pac-12 games and RichRod posting a better record in non-conference games.

Graham has certainly faced a tougher out-of-conference schedule however. Rodriguez’s best non-league win was a victory over Oklahoma State in his second game in Tucson. ASU has played five games against Power 5 conference teams in the last three seasons and won three of them (Illinois in 2012, Wisconsin in ’13 and Notre Dame last year).

The edge is clearly Graham’s in Pac-12 play as he’s never finished worse than tied for second in the South division. He has a combined 3-3 record against USC and UCLA while Rodriguez is just 1-5 against the L.A. schools including an oh-fer versus the Bruins.

Then there’s head-to-head, the ultimate trump card in rivalry debates. Graham’s Devils have the winning record and the most convincing victory with the 58-21 thrashing of Arizona in 2013.

Where RichRod has caught up is on the bigger-ticket items at the bottom of the table. His breakthrough season of 2014 got the UA even in Pac-12 South titles and he was the first of the pair to get to a BCS / New Year’s Six game with the Fiesta Bowl appearance.

The conference crown is the real race between the two programs. The coach that can win the game in Santa Clara at the end of the year will become a legend at his school. Of course, that’s a fair statement to make for any Pac-12 South coach who breaks the northern schools’ (i.e., Oregon and Stanford’s) six-year run of conference dominance.

(Bonus stat: Either Oregon, Stanford or USC has won at least a share of the Pac-12 championship for 15 consecutive seasons dating back to 2000.)

(Bonus link: Graham’s bio from his lone season at Rice is still online for your viewing pleasure.)

Graham had a bit of a head start in that he took over a 6-7 team instead of a 4-8 team but it can’t be denied the Arizona State coach has had more success over his first three seasons. It is also safe to say Rodriguez has closed the gap with last year’s Territorial Cup victory and South championship and the two programs are on equal footing heading into year four.

All the largest prizes are still out there as both schools chase that elusive “next level.” The race continues for elite bowl victories, conference championships and trips to the College Football Playoff.

The bottom line is both fan bases are happy with their guy. Cats and Devils have enjoyed the last three seasons and are optimistic about their football future.

We’ve come a long way from the Mackovic / Koetter days.

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