3 keys for both teams in Territorial Cup
Today is the day. The Arizona Wildcats (7-4) and Arizona State Sun Devils (6-5) enter this year’s Territorial Cup with a lot at stake. The winner will get a higher quality bowl game and end the season the second place in the Pac-12 South.
Here’s how each team can come away victorious and hold the cup when the clock hits triple-zeros.
Draw first blood:
Since 2008, the team to score first in the Territorial Cup has won eight of the last nine matchups, with the only exception being in 2012. Arizona is also 6-1 this season when it strikes first. In a game that figures to be a high-scoring affair, the team that scores first will hold a clear early advantage.
Win turnover battle:
Arizona is a perfect 5-0 in 2017 when it wins the turnover margin against its opponent. The Wildcat defense also leads the Pac-12 in interceptions and is tied for fourth in total turnovers forced.
However, the Sun Devils have a better turnover margin so far on the year, plus-six compared to UA’s plus-three, and quarterback Manny Wilkins has only thrown four interceptions all season.
Tate must pass:
Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate must pass the ball efficiently in order for the Wildcats to win. He is dynamic with his legs and while the ‘Cats have the best rushing attack in the Pac-12, his right arm could be the difference. Tate showed earlier in the season that he could make plays through the air, but has struggled the last three games. He must step up today.
Limit UA’s running backs:
It’s clear that UA quarterback Khalil Tate is one of the most explosive college players but he is most dangerous when the defense gets caught trying to defend the other parts of UA’s offense. Tate is lethal when he can work off of play-action and use the read option to his advantage. The best way to limit some of his damage on those plays in stop Arizona’s duo of running backs in Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor. This will make Tate’s designed runs and run-pass option plays a little easier to diagnose, especially if the other offensive threats on the field are neutralized.
Convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns:
UA and ASU have the Pac-12’s top two red zone offenses, with the Sun Devils ranked at the very top. ASU has converted 40 of its 41 red zone trips into points and the 97.6 percent success rate that equates to is head and shoulders above everyone else. The Wildcats sit behind the Sun Devils with an 89.4 percent success rate in 47 trips. With both schools boasting top tier offenses, the team that can come away with touchdowns and not field goals will probably win.
Force Wildcats to make mistakes:
Forcing mistakes doesn’t just apply to the turnover battle. Arizona played uncharacteristically in its loss last week against Oregon. It had a defensive touchdown wiped out by a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and in total committed eight penalties against the Ducks. The punting unit was also abysmal as several punts were duds. The Sun Devils must rattle the Wildcats with the environment in Tempe and force them to make similar mistakes.
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