Staff predictions for Arizona football against ASU

Arizona State beat Arizona 42-30 for the territorial cup on Nov. 25 at Sun Devil Stadium.

Arizona football travels up to Tempe to take on the ASU Sun Devils for the annual Territorial Cup. The Wildcats are currently on a six-game losing streak heading into the weekend. Beat reporters, Jack Cooper, Amit Syal and Austin Wales predict what will go down this weekend on the road.

Jack Cooper:

Trying to make a prediction about this game is impossible. But with that being said, I’ll try my best.

For Arizona to have a chance today, it’s going to have to be a classic Duel in the Desert game where things that wouldn’t normally happen do happen. The last three years, for example, have had just that. In 2016, Arizona won without attempting a pass in the second half. In 2017, Khalil Tate and Arizona were in control but then right before halftime Tate threw a Hail Mary and got injured on the play and ASU came back and won. And then last year, Arizona had a 19-point lead going into the final quarter and blew it.

So with history now behind us, what should we expect this year? We know Kevin Sumlin is going to continue to use the two quarterback system with Tate and Grant Gunnell but we don’t know who will start. I think Arizona will have a better chance in the game with Tate playing the majority of it, but expect Sumlin to have a quick leash with either quarterback if they don’t perform early.

I also think J.J. Taylor will have a huge game. He has to if the Wildcats are going to win. He needs to have over 100 total yards and multiple touchdowns. The wide receivers also have to step up and make big plays. They can’t drop many passes especially if they’re wide open. 

By far the most important way for Arizona to stay in this game is for them not to take bad penalties. They’ve become accustomed to doing it for weeks now. Whether it’s a false start to begin a drive or a killer 15-yard penalty on defense. Those types of penalties can’t happen for a team to win when they have been struggling this much. 

The offense for the Wildcats is going to have to score early. Not just a field goal, they have to find the end zone just to build momentum on the sidelines and show the defense they’re here to play. We know ASU has one of the best defenses in the conference but they still can give up points. The ASU offense also has a quick strike ability and can score from anywhere on the field. 

If Arizona can actually find the end zone a couple times just in the first half to get some momentum, it would go a huge distance in determining who wins this game. Unfortunately for Wildcat fans I don’t think it will be enough and I think they’ll come up just short in another close Territorial Cup. 

Prediction: Arizona 24 ASU 30

RELATED: Get ready for the 93rd edition of the Duel in the Desert.

Amit Syal:

Arizona football is officially out of bowl game contention just in time for the biggest game of the season — the Territorial Cup. The Wildcats are on a six-game losing streak going into the annual game against their in-state rivals. Sumlin and his crew are 4-7 on the year and 2-6 in conference play right before they take on the Sun Devils. In case you couldn’t tell, the Wildcats are in the pits right now.

On Senior Night this past weekend, Head Coach Kevin Sumlin decided to start a true freshman, Grant Gunnell, in place of senior Khalil Tate. To make matters worse, the Sun Devils are coming off their largest victory all season against No. 6 Oregon. ASU pretty much eliminated Oregon’s chances at making the CFP with a 31-28 victory at home.

ASU true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels is a leader on the field for the Sun Devils. On Saturday night against the Ducks, he threw for a total of 408 yards on 22-for-32 completions with three touchdowns. Saturday’s action between the Wildcats and the Sun Devils should be an interesting battle between two true freshman quarterbacks — Grant Gunnell and Jayden Daniels.

Ultimately, I don’t think the Wildcats have any gas left in the tank to grab their fifth victory of the season. The Sun Devils will take home the Territorial Cup for a second straight year.

Prediction: Arizona 21 ASU 35


Austin Wales:


Arizona football (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12) comes into the Territorial Cup after a defeating loss to Utah last weekend, 35-7, on their Senior Night. Arizona was shut down on offense by the Utah defense, with only 61 yards rushing against the Utes. This came as no surprise however, as Utah is No. 1 for rush defense in the nation. 

Arizona is slated to have a much easier go-around this week as they play against ASU, whose pass defense is ranked No. 112 in the nation in pass yards allowed, which bodes well for Grant Gunnell and the Wildcats. Arizona State’s run defense is one of the top in the nation, as opposing teams are averaging 120 yards rushing, which means the Wildcats should still look to run the ball but more so in short yardage situations.

ASU brings to the table one of the best freshman players in college football in Jayden Daniels. Daniels threw for over 400 yards in their win over Oregon last weekend and is just as dangerous running the ball as well. Look for the Sun Devils to lean on Eno Benjamin as well, as Benjamin had a ton of success against Oregon with 31 carries for 114 yards. Arizona is going to have to get pressure on Daniels and make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket and also contain him, as he’s just as good at running the ball as Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley. 

The Wildcats are going to need to have an effective pass game as well as be able to catch the Sun Devils off guard when they run the ball. Expect to see the Wildcat defense playing the best they have all year because they still have a bad taste in their mouth from last year’s Territorial Cup. If they’re able to do this, the Wildcats will have a good chance at bringing the Cup back home, and I think they’ll be able to do it. 

Prediction: Arizona 28 ASU 21


For a different perspective, Wildcat Sports teamed up with the football beat reporter at ASU's The State Press, Kaleb Martinez, for more insight into Saturday's matchup.


Kaleb Martinez:

Although I think ASU is the better team, the magnitude of the rivalry and experience of what happened to Arizona last year will keep the game close early. The Wildcats remember the blown lead on their field last year and will play with pride. Despite their struggles of late, their season could be salvaged with a win over the Sun Devils. On the other hand, after the massive victory over Oregon, I don’t envision a letdown game for ASU because Herm Edwards will have the team ready. With rumblings over Kevin Sumlin’s job security, it seems that ASU has the coaching advantage. Jayden Daniels and the ASU offense found their stride last week and that will continue against the UA at home. Down the stretch, the defense will make enough plays to give ASU a winning record on the season and its third-straight victory over Arizona.

Prediction: Arizona 20 ASU 31


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