(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
This season’s Arizona State-Arizona matchup brings less allure than most years, but it’s still the Territorial Cup nonetheless.
The teams have a combined 7-15 record and ASU has all of the Pac-12 wins between the two. That said, there are plenty of storylines to monitor Friday night in Tucson.
5. Who will start at quarterback for UA?
Brandon Dawkins has received most of the snaps under center this season, but has been more impressive running the ball than throwing it. He threw 17 passes last week against Oregon State as opposed to the 11 thrown by Anu Solomon.
Solomon has missed six games this season and hasn’t gotten into much of a rhythm since returning from his injury. Injury to starting running back Nick Wilson complicates the situation even more, as Dawkins’ legs may be counted on more than normal.
There isn’t a clearly superior option among the two, so Solomon’s health will be interesting to keep an eye on, as it will help determine how much Dawkins plays on Friday.
4. Will ASU’s defense finish strong?
The struggles of the Sun Devils’ defense have been well documented by now. However, this is potentially its easiest matchup of the season.
The Wildcats are 115th out of 128 teams in points per game, and have no consistent offensive threats. Add in the injuries to Wilson and possibly Solomon and it only helps ASU’s case.
They have only eclipsed 30 points twice, and the Sun Devils have only allowed less than 30 points three times, so something has to give.
3. Can the Sun Devils resurrect their running game?
In the early stages of the season, Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage comprised a two-headed monster at running back, while quarterback Manny Wilkins looked like a legitimate dual-threat. Now, all three have lost much of their efficiency.
Richard has seen the most significant drop-off, rushing for just 123 yards in his last four games. He has only one 100-plus rushing yard game, which came in week two against Texas Tech. It seems his injury that first popped up against Oregon is still lingering, as his playing time has seen a significant decline recently.
He is averaging only nine carries in those past four games.
Ballage went through a midseason lull after his eight-touchdown game, but seemed to have gotten it back together before another drop-off. In last week’s game against Washington, he ran for only nine yards on six carries.
Durability has always been a question with Ballage, but he seems to be answering at least some of those right now with his injury free season.
Ballage may have the upper hand in the running back battle just because of his effectiveness as a wide receiver. He has 34 catches to Richard’s 11.
2. Will past history play a big role?
ASU is 17-20-1 against the Wildcats all time, but have been better recently and have won three of four Territorial Cups under Todd Graham.
Playing away from home doesn’t seem to faze the Sun Devils in the rivalry matchup, as they are winners of three of the past five games in Tucson.
Both teams have been cold lately and on paper ASU is the superior team, but as we have seen before with rivalry games, anything can happen.
1.Will ASU make a bowl game?
Not much was on the line last season when these two teams met up, but this season the Sun Devils are finding themselves in a dangerous spot: fighting for bowl eligibility. A five-game losing streak has put them on the ropes, but all things considered, this is a game that they should win.
There is always a lot on the line in the matchup between these two teams, but the added element of whether the Sun Devils will find themselves playing in Las Vegas, Phoenix, or staying home in December should be interesting.
Prediction: Arizona State 38, Arizona 24