Arizona State (6-5) and the 24th ranked University of Arizona (7-4) will play on Friday night for the oldest trophy in college sports: the Territorial Cup. This year will have some added intrigue, as it is only the second time in the last 19 years that both teams will play with winning records.
An ASU win finishes both teams’ seasons with identical 7-5 records, while an Arizona win relegates the rival Sun Devils to a .500 record on the year, certainly an embarrassment after their 5-1 start.
Arizona leads the all time series 47-37-1. The Wildcats won in Tempe last year, and rest assured that is fresh on the Sun Devils’ minds as they march to the 86th Duel in the Desert.
Last Saturday against Washington State, ASU QB Taylor Kelly regained the passing dominance he displayed early in the season. He completed 20 of 23 passes for 246 yards and 4 touchdowns. His 157.3 passing efficiency is 3rd in the Pac-12, and he has a superb 66.9% completion rate on the season. In order for ASU to come away victorious, Kelly needs to have a big day.
Ka’Deem Carey is an absolute monster. The Wildcats’ star running back has rushed for 1585 yards (1st in the nation) and 19 touchdowns (T-3rd among running backs). That’s 144.1 yards per game. He has only failed to record 100 yards in three games. Even more impressive is that over a third of those yards came in the last two games. meaning he is heating up at the right time, making him the player to watch for Arizona.
ASU’s defense has allowed 1772 yards on the ground this season, 161.1 yards per game. That number looks better considering they allowed only one yard against Washington State on Saturday. Before that, the number was 177.1 yards per game. All season ASU has been suspect against the run, and Arizona will be sure to exploit that.
However, Arizona State excels in defending the pass, allowing only 174.2 yards per game through the air, which leads the Pac-12. While Arizona quarterback Matt Scott is averaging over 300 yards per game passing, in order to win, the Wildcats will need to rely on Carey and their ground game, as the Sun Devils’ secondary is as good as any team in the nation.
In contrast, Arizona’s defense has been relatively weak against the pass. They’re allowing 305.5 yards per game, and ASU’s strength is certainly its passing game. They even allow 182.5 rushing yards per game, meaning that in order for them to compete, the defense is going to have to step up. While the Wildcats are certainly capable of winning a shootout, particularly on their home field, the Sun Devils are 6-1 when scoring at least 27 points, and 0-4 when scoring less.
This season, Arizona State is outscoring their opponents 124-63 in the opening quarter, while Arizona is being outscored 69-50 in that same timeframe. Expect ASU to take an early lead, but the Wildcats will strike back right after the half. They have scored more points in the 3rd quarter (131) than in any other, while the Sun Devils put up less in that quarter (60) than any other. The fourth quarter is where this game will be decided. Both teams have scored exactly 102 points in the final quarter.
Final prediction: ASU jumps out to a 14-0 lead at the end of the 1st and enters the half up 17-7. Arizona scores two touchdowns and a field goal in the 3rd while ASU fails to score, giving Arizona a 24-17 lead. ASU will tie it up late in the 4th quarter, with the Wildcats kicking a field goal as time expires.
The Arizona Wildcats defeat the Arizona State Sun Devils in the 86th Territorial Cup, 27-24.