The Arizona Wildcats are hoping to bring the Territorial Cup back to Tucson for the first time since 2016, when the UA did not throw the ball during the second half of a 56-35 win over ASU.
Arizona (1-10, 1-8 Pac-12) hasn’t won in Tempe since 2011, and DraftKings Sportsbook doesn’t think it will be beating ASU (7-4, 5-3) this time, either, as the Wildcats are 20-point underdogs.
Who will win? Here’s what our staff thinks:
Kim Doss — ASU wins 35-21
Both numbers are above the teams’ scoring averages, but there are enough variables in rivalry games to expect anomalies. I don’t think the Sun Devils are a good team, but Arizona isn’t even on the level of being mediocre right now. The Wildcats may be improving, but they are not good by any stretch of the imagination.
ASU allows an average of 4.9 yards per play on defense. That’s exactly where Arizona stands on offense. On the flip side, the Sun Devils have gained 6.4 yards per play this season. The Wildcats may keep them below that since they give up 5.9 per play but probably not by much.
Neither team is disciplined, so Arizona’s best hope is to have an unusually clean game when it comes to penalties while ASU is its typical flag magnet. The Sun Devils are penalized an average of 79 yards per game compared to 68.09 for the Wildcats. Even if ASU hits its average and Arizona stays well below, the Wildcats must be able to put the ball in the end zone rather than kick field goals or turn the ball over on downs if they want to take advantage. That’s not much to hang your hat on.
The best-case scenario is that Arizona loses, ASU keeps Herm Edwards, and the Sun Devils continue to stagnate under him while the Wildcats start on an upward trajectory next season.
Adam Green — ASU wins 31-17
This is a classic Arizona State team, one with plenty of talent that is hindered by poor coaching, silly mistakes and untimely bad performances. The Sun Devils are plenty beatable, and given all that’s going on with their program a loss Saturday wouldn’t be a surprise.
Except, that loss only happens if ASU doesn’t care, a la 2016.
It’s not that Arizona can’t beat the Sun Devils; the Wildcats have faced better teams than ASU this season and been highly competitive. Add in the rivalry game aspect and how for the Wildcats this is the bowl game, and you should have a focused team believing it can leave Tempe with a victory.
But while Arizona is an improved team from last season and even from Week 1 of this season, injuries and attrition have only served to highlight the overall lack of talent on the roster. The team plays hard and the game-plans are sound, but that can only get you so far when the opponent is simply better.
If Arizona’s defensive front can contain Rachaad White and Jayden Daniels on the ground, the game will be close. If that happens while on the other side Will Plummer and the offense move the ball and not turn it over, the Wildcats will have a chance.
That’s too many ifs to count on, unfortunately. But hey, at least better times are ahead for one program playing Saturday, and it’s not the one that will leave with a win.
Ronnie Stoffle — ASU wins 27-17
There is a chance that Arizona pulls off the upset. Rivalry games can largely be unpredictable. Factor in that ASU blew their shot at a division championship weeks ago so there’s no added incentive for them to win and Arizona is offended from last year’s game, there’s a chance.
However, this just comes down to ASU being more talented. Don Brown will coach his last game for the Wildcats and will try his hardest to make life miserable for a mediocre passing attack. The issues will arise with defending the run, though. The ASU will win in convincing fashion.
Brandon Combs — Arizona wins 38-20
I can never, and will never, pick ASU to beat Arizona. However, I also don’t think ASU can pull this off.
Yes, ASU has a more talented roster. Yes, Don Brown’s announcement was poorly timed and, most likely, a distraction. But I don’t believe that the players will let last year go and I believe Arizona will want it more.
This feels like the 2016 T-Cup. Everyone expected Arizona to get steamrolled by ASU but the ‘Cats ended up beating the Sun Devils 56-35 without attempting a pass in the second half.
It’s Hate Week. I’m a Tucson native. Arizona will win. And I don’t feel bad about saying that.
Brian J. Pedersen — ASU wins 34-17
Much like with the Homecoming win over Cal, the possibility of a Hollywood-like result is very possible here, and it would be a fitting end to Arizona’s first season under Jedd Fisch. He mentioned the UA’s win over ASU in 2004, in Mike Stoops’ first season, earlier in the week, so he’s well aware of how beating the Sun Devils makes up for so much else.
Yet this team just hasn’t shown it can win those kinds of games yet, just that they can stay in them for a while. ASU is better across the board and, unless the Sun Devils lose this game on their own, Arizona can’t win it.