That seems to be the case at Arizona State and the University of Arizona where the Sun Devils and Wildcats have jumped out to quick starts as Pac-12 play opens for both teams on Saturday.
Rich Rodriguez has breathed new life into the UofA fan base as the ‘Cats have jumped into the Top 25 (ranked 22nd) and a 3-0 start. Meanwhile in Tempe, Todd Graham is a play or two away from leading the Sun Devils (2-1) to a perfect start themselves.
Both teams quick starts have caught the attention of the rest of the league after many of the so-called experts predicted each would likely struggle to qualify for a bowl this year.
“After the first two weeks I was squarely aboard the ‘Todd Graham Train’,” Pac-12 Network analyst and former UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel told Brad Cesmat Thursday on ‘Big Guy on Sports.’ “I don’t think any coach in the country had a better first two weeks…I think they looked fast. They looked in shape. They looked organized. Everybody knows the Graham formula will work.”
He went on to say some of ASU’s youth and inexperience showed with key late-game mistakes in last weekend’s close loss at Missouri and the Devils could be in for another tough fight Saturday against the stingy Utah Utes.
“I think Utah is a really, really good team,” Neuheisel explained to Cesmat. “Especially on defense.”
The task is even tougher for Rich Rod and UofA who travel to Eugene for a showdown against Chip Kelly and the 3rd-ranked Oregon Ducks who have outscored their first three opponents 162-73.
“I don’t know if [Arizona’s] defense is up to the task,” Neuheisel said. “Personnel-wise I think they’re going to be on the short end of the stick, but I think their offense is up to the task. I look at this game like a tennis match. You gotta hold serve…I think it’s going to be closer than people expect.”
Regardless of how this weekend turns it, it appears both head coaches have their players believing they can win games when many believed victories would be hard to come by in 2012.