The 94th edition of the Territorial Cup is here and with that comes another series of Staff Picks from our sports desk. Here are our predictions for Friday's game.
Jacob Mennuti - Loss (Arizona-24, Arizona State-34)
I hate this matchup for the Wildcats for a couple different reasons. Arizona’s downfall week in and week out has been poor offensive line play and terrible run defense. I expect those woes to continue against the Sun Devils who have proven to have a disrupted defensive line, posting eight sacks in just two games. ASU’s run game has also been one of the only bright spots on that offense with DeaMonte Trayanum (7.1) and Rachaad White (6.8) both averaging around seven yards per carry.
I don’t expect Grant Gunnell to play again but, honestly, I don’t think that matters. Arizona’s problems this season go far beyond their quarterback. If this offensive line struggles and fails to protect Will Plummer again, this game will play out exactly the same as the previous ones. I’m going to remain optimistic since it’s a rivalry game and we’ve seen crazier things play out in the Territorial Cup before. Just Google the 2016 game to understand the madness of this rivalry game.
Ari Koslow - Loss (Arizona-17, Arizona State-27)
Arizona and Arizona State both enter this game winless, so one of them has to come out with a win, right?
It has been a weird season for the Sun Devils as they have played just two games with another two games being canceled due to COVID-19. The two games they have played were losses to USC and UCLA. Arizona State sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels has been somewhat limited so far this season in the passing game, throwing for a mere 134 yards against USC before he threw for 225 yards against UCLA on significantly more passing attempts. Where Daniels can beat you, however, is with his legs as he ran for over 100 yards against the Trojans. He was held to just six yards on 12 attempts against the Bruins, but Arizona saw first-hand how dominant that pass rush is this season.
If Arizona is going to have a chance in this game, they are going to have to contain both Daniels and the dynamic backfield of DeaMonte Trayanum and Rachaad White on the ground. We saw the Wildcats get run over by Jarek Broussard last week for over 300 yards rushing. One of the biggest areas Arizona has to clean up is tackling in the open field, and that will be crucial here against the trio of Daniels, Trayanum and White.
On the offensive side of the ball for Arizona, it remains unclear whether or not Grant Gunnell will be back under center, but protecting the quarterback will once again be another key factor on that side of the ball. Despite only playing two games so far this season, Arizona State is tied for fifth in the conference in sacks this year.
I believe this will be a tight game throughout, but the Sun Devils rushing attack will wear out the Wildcats defense late in the game.
Austin Wales - Win (Arizona-35, Arizona State-24)
The Territorial Cup. The rivalry that most of the state of Arizona would say is the tightest battle and rivalry in the Pac-12. Hard to make an argument against that as both the Arizona Wildcats and Arizona State Sun Devils come into this game with a combined 0-6 record.
Arizona (0-4) looks to find their first win of the season against their bitter in-state rivals. The season has been anything but what was expected as there was high praise for the offensive line of Arizona coming back, which has given up 17 sacks in four games. The lone bright spot for this Arizona team has to be Anthony Pandy as he leads the team in total tackles and interceptions as a linebacker. Both picks came in the last game against Colorado when the Wildcats were backed up against their own end zone. Look for Pandy to try and disrupt the pass and running attack of Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels.
Arizona State (0-2) has not had that many games this year because of a COVID-19 outbreak halfway through the season, but the Sun Devils look for their first win of the season against the Wildcats. The Sun Devils in their two games played this year have shown some positives, such as the balanced running and throwing attack. Their leading receiver? Running back Rachaad White, who has 123 yards receiving and one touchdown as well, with 129 rushing yards as well. Quarterback Jayden Daniels is a true threat to run the ball as well as has a great arm, however his youth has shown in some throws this season forcing some balls into double coverage, so look for the Wildcats to exploit that and bait Daniels into those throws.
C.J. Lala - Win (Arizona-24, Arizona State-21)
The Arizona Wildcats take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in the last week of a shortened 2020 Pac-12 football season. Both teams are looking to get their first win of the season, ASU comes in with a record of 0-2 after losing to UCLA 25-18 last week. ASU had three games canceled this season due to positive COVID-19 tests. The Sun Devils bring in a talented offense led by sophomore Jayden Daniels who will look to take advantage of Arizona’s poor defense. Arizona is also looking to end their season with their first win as they come in at 0-4 after they lost to Colorado 24-13 last week. Arizona’s quarterback situation does not help their odds in this game as it is still uncertain if Grant Gunnell will be able to return from his shoulder injury he sustained on the first play of the UCLA game. However, with the uncertainty of rivalry games and the game being held in Tucson, I’m going to pick Arizona to get their first win of the season in a 24-21 victory over ASU.
Ryan Wohl - Loss (Arizona-24, Arizona State-31)
The Wildcats have given up 1,082 rushing yards this season and their run defense has another tough matchup against their interstate rival with Arizona State on Friday in Tucson. The Sun Devils had 258 yards on the ground against USC in week one before being off for a few weeks and had a little less than that last week against UCLA but being their second week back playing their offense will most likely be back to normal.
Arizona is 11-point underdogs at home against ASU and that is a very high number for a team that hasn’t played a lot of football in the last month. Kevin Sumlin hasn’t said who will start at quarterback yet, but I would assume it will be Will Plummer again who didn’t play too bad against Colorado last week and looks to be improving each week. I believe that this will be a one touchdown game and the Wildcats will keep it close until the fourth quarter and then not be able to keep up with the Sun Devils’ electric offense when fully healthy.
Devin Homer - Loss (Arizona-13, Arizona State-34)
My prediction is solely off of the Wildcats not being able to stop anyone on defense. The Wildcats defense is ranked last in total defensive yards given up in the Pac-12. They have also given up the most average rushing yards in all the Pac-12 at a crazy 273.5 yards a game. The defense has looked horrible through the first part of the season and I do not see a way they are going to get batter. The Wildcats will remain winless in the Pac-12 and get embarrassed by their rivals.
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