Stakes are high for Territorial Cup
Victorious members of the Arizona football team hoist the territorial cup into the air in celebration after Arizona's 56-35 win against ASU in Arizona Stadium on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016.
The Territorial Cup is one of the longest standing traditions in the state of Arizona, and this year’s match-up has more on the line than just a tin cup and bragging rights.
At 5-6, Arizona needs a win to reach bowl eligibility, while ASU has a chance to do something similar to what the Wildcats did to the Sun Devils in 2016. At that match-up in Arizona Stadium, the Wildcats ended the Devils’ hopes of reaching a bowl game with a 56-35 win. This year, ASU, at 6-5, also has a chance to finish the regular season above .500, which not many projected for ASU head coach Herm Edwards’ first year at the helm.
With the home team winning the last five matchups – ASU won last year in Tempe – the Wildcats have the slight historical advantage, as the past four matchups have been a 2-2 deadlock, but the home team is going to need all the help it can get.
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“I talk to people here in town and alums on how important it is to bring the cup back,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said.
Sumlin also said during his weekly press conference that he plans to bring in former UA players to speak to the team on what winning the rivalry means to the City of Tucson.
Saturday afternoon’s tilt also marks the beginning of a new era of the Territorial Cup. For the last six years, the rivalry had been coached by UA’s Rich Rodriguez and ASU’s Todd Graham. Now, it’s part one of Sumlin vs. Edwards.
Sumlin touched on his relationship with the ASU head coach, noting that the two got acquainted when Sumlin had an internship through the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1997-1998, where Edwards was serving as the defensive backs coach. Then, Sumlin brought in Edwards to give a motivational speech to his team two years ago at Texas A&M.
Arizona limps into the Territorial Cup coming off a game where they ran into an ambush in Pullman. Even though Arizona had two weeks to plan for the game, the Cougars still somehow seemed to surprise the Wildcats at every turn, leading Washington State to score an unprecedented 55 points in the first two quarters of the game.
The promise of another game isn’t the only thing on the line. The new practice facility being built next door to Arizona Stadium will cast a shadow over this game, and not just because it happens to be starting at 1:30 p.m. The future of Arizona’s football program looks ambitious, but with ambition, results must follow for those visions of grandeur to come to fruition. If Arizona loses to ASU on Saturday, the grand opening of the new facility will happen with a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.
On the other sideline, ASU also comes into Tucson with a loss, and a painful one at that. The loss that ASU suffered in Eugene easily could have gone the Sun Devils’ way. A missed call at the end of the game cost the Devils a chance to clinch the Pac-12 South in their rival’s home stadium.
Emotions in rivalry games run high, and this one will be no different, as both teams look to end the season on a positive note. Sumlin and Edwards will look to carry momentum into recruiting this off-season, trying to personalize the programs they inherited.
With both programs going through overhauls and culture changes. the importance of getting at least one step ahead of the new coach in the neighborhood is going to pay dividends for whichever program comes out on top.
Pressure? Stress? Anxiety? You better believe it. But what else were you expecting? It’s the Territorial Cup.
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