It’s Territorial Cup time, as the Arizona Wildcats and Arizona State Sun Devils are set to battle on Friday night in Tucson. Not only will the winner get to take home college football’s oldest rivalry trophy, it will also get to avoid a winless season.
Arizona is 0-4 and has lost 11 in a row, the longest skid in program history. ASU is 0-2, having missed three consecutive weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak before losing at home to UCLA last week.
Who will win the Duel in the Desert, pandemic version?
Here’s what our staff thinks.
Gabe Encinas — ASU wins 34-14
I get anything can happen in a rivalry game but I just don’t see anything lining up in Arizona’s favor.
I feel like at this point you roll with Will Plummer for the finale. The ground game is there for Arizona but there are definitely limitations with a freshman quarterback in a bad pocket.
Defensive has held from a points side, but has given up huge chunk plays and long scoring drives consistently this season.
Arizona State is the better team and I imagine Arizona is just reeling right now.
Adam Green — ASU wins 30-17
Arizona and Arizona State have met plenty of times on the football field, with the last three — and seven of the last 10 — going the Sun Devils’ way.
Generally speaking, we usually have a pretty good idea of what each team is by the time the rivalry games is played. Sure you can throw out the records if you want, but at the very least we know how good, or bad, each squad is.
That’s not the case this year, at least as it pertains to the Sun Devils. A trendy offseason pick to surprise in the South, ASU has played just two games due to their own Covid-19 issues. Both were losses to teams Arizona also played, but the common opponent thing probably doesn’t matter much here.
So what are we to make of this one? ASU is on paper the more talented team and they seem to have a more healthy (and filled out) roster. Their offense did not look too good against UCLA last week, but that may have been because of their long break between games.
At any rate, while it’s fair to point out that Arizona themselves have been in three of their four losses (the last two of which I’m convinced would have been wins if Grant Gunnell was healthy), it seems like too much to expect or predict a victory on Friday.
Ronnie Stoffle — ASU wins 31-20
This is once again on the assumption that Grant Gunnell will not play. If he does play and offensive line willing, Arizona will have more success with a balanced offense. That could make things exciting.
ASU should be able to dominate with their running game just as Colorado did last week. Jayden Daniels will probably not need to do too much for the Sun Devils to win. However, if he asked to do more than expected because the running game can’t get going, I’ll be interested to see if he can lead the team to victory.
Christian Mortensen — Arizona wins 31-17
I have yet to pick Arizona to win a game this season, but I absolutely refuse to predict a loss to ASU this week.
It’s definitely the fan in me, but oh well.
Here is the rational I’m going with.
The Sun Devils haven’t been able to establish any type of rhythm this season with all of their cancellations, and they didn’t impress me AT ALL in either of the two games they actually played. And while the Wildcats haven’t done much to impress me either, there is no doubt that they have played MUCH better at home than they did on the road.
Plus, absolutely anything can happen in a rivalry game.
Arizona by two touchdowns.
Brian J. Pedersen — ASU wins 28-16
Arizona has scored first in its last two games and still lost, leading 13-0 against Colorado and then never scoring again. Suddenly, instead of slow starts the dial has been turned to running out of gas. That’s not really what has happened the past two games, but it’s clear this team doesn’t have what it takes to close out a game.
Rivalry or not, ASU is the better team, and even when it was looking sloppy as all get out against UCLA after three-plus weeks off you could still see the talent and ability. We’ve not seen that from Arizona.
Throw in at least one more red zone trip that ends with three or fewer points, and this result will continue the trend.
Ryan Kelapire — ASU wins 28-17
I picked Arizona to win last week, and that didn’t go so well.
If Grant Gunnell plays—I don’t believe he will—I think the Wildcats could pull it off. But starting a true freshman quarterback behind a struggling offensive line is no recipe to win an intense rivalry game.
I don’t really fear Jayden Daniels and ASU’s passing game—he’s barely completing 50 percent of his passes—but I am concerned about Arizona’s ability—or lack thereof—to prevent long runs.
The Sun Devils are No. 1 in the Pac-12 in yards per carry (5.8). Scary considering Arizona just gave up 400+ yards on the ground last week. We could be looking at a 2016 Territorial Cup repeat, only with the Sun Devils being the ones setting the rushing records.
Arizona is gonna need at least a turnover or two like it had against Colorado to take the Cup.