Since I am a little burned out on the whole "Secret Life of a Midwestern Athletic Conference" drama being played out right now on the interwebs, I thought we should take a few minutes to focus in on our upcoming opponent for this short week: the Arizona State Sun Devils. Mizzou and ASU have faced off five times, with Mizzou leading the series three games to two, although the last meeting was in 1990.
Over the last half decade or so, the Missouri program has seen a revival under Gary Pinkel and a return to the top 25 on a semi-regular basis. As the only Division 1-FBS program in the state, it was important for Missouri to become more competitive, and while we are still awaiting a conference championship in football since the Big 12 was formed 15 years ago, things are looking up.
Arizona State (along with Arizona) left the Western Athletic Conference in 1978 to move to the Pacific 8 conference (renaming it the Pacific 10). Arizona State has won or shared the conference title three times since moving to the Pac-10 (now 12), with the most recent title coming in 2007.
And yet...it seems that Arizona State should be a much stronger program than they have been.
The question is, why has this perception taken hold? Or, to be frank, when did this perception take hold?
The term used most often in reference to Arizona State is "sleeping giant." Arizona State is a sleeping giant just waiting for the right coach to unlock things and take them to the next level.
But why is that?
I mean, I understand sort of where the sleeping giant idea might have come from. Arizona was one of the fastest growing states in the country for a while, and most of that incoming population was settling in the Phoenix area. So an influx of people not too far from campus had to mean more talent coming into the state.
Additionally, the weather is going to be great 8-9 months out of the year (if you can deal with the summers), so talented players from cold weather climates should be able to be seduced by that when doing campus visits.
While I have not experienced this first hand, the women are considered by some to be among the best looking in the country, which again should appeal to 17 and 18 year old boys looking at schools.
So...if all of these advantages are in place, and it's not that far from Phoenix to Southern California (where there is an overabundance of football talent), then what has kept ASU from being that dominant force in college football? Has it been bad timing? Bad luck? Poor management?
The question for discussion: What keeps a sleeping giant (and you don't have to restrict it to Arizona State) asleep? What makes them so difficult to wake up?