The Duel in the Desert provides an intriguing matchup as Arizona State travels to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats. The two are tied in Pac-12 play and the winner will secure at least the seven-seed for bowl game assignments.
Arizona (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) is currently ranked 24th in the BCS rankings. The Sun Devils (6-5, 4-4) would like to change that.
The Territorial Cup awaits the winner, but there's no need to wait for the important details.
When: Friday, Nov. 23 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz.
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: Free Football Radio
Betting Line (via OddsShark)
Over/Under: 68.5, Spread: Arizona, -3
It's surprising to see the spread so close in this game, particularly with Arizona as host.
The Wildcats have four losses on the season, all to teams that are currently in the Top 20. They hold blowout wins over No. 25 Washington and No. 21 Oklahoma State.
The troubling loss for Arizona State was to Missouri (5-6, 2-5 SEC).
This game favors Arizona's strong offense and suspect defense over an Arizona State that is average in most statistical categories. Arizona also had a tougher schedule, facing Stanford and Washington instead of Cal and Washington State.
I always produce my scores before looking at the odds. I have Arizona by eight, but my total came in right on the over/under.
Injury Report (via USA Today as of Monday, Oct. 19)
Mike Pennel, DL, Questionable (Undisclosed Issues)
Villiami Moeakiola, S, Out (Hamstring)
Wayne Capers, Jr., S, Questionable (Illness)
Hank Hobson, LB, Questionable (Neck)
Chris Putton, OL, Questionable (Concussion)
Terrence Miller, TE, Out (Foot)
Dominique Austin, DL, Out (Foot)
Arizona is playing to hang on to its Top 25 ranking and to earn the sixth-seed for the Pac-12's bowl alignments. An Arizona State win would place the Sun Devils in the No. 7 slot with the Wildcats falling to eighth.
If the Oregon Ducks don't receive a BCS game, the No. 8 Pac-12 team wouldn't have a guaranteed bowl game.
The bowl implications make this game even more important.
Both of these teams have shown the ability to play with some of the best competition in the nation. They've also shown the ability to lose big.
They both deserve a bowl game, though, and will likely be favored to win.
Arizona State Player to Watch: Taylor Kelly, QB
Arizona State's offense starts and runs through Kelly. He's just under 3,000 combined yards for rushing and passing in his first season as a starter.
There have been some questions surround the sophomore signal-caller. Some slow starts and difficulties against quality Pac-12 teams called into question his status going into next season.
Kelly responded with a big day against Washington State last week. He completed a school-record 18 consecutive passes en route to a 46-7 win.
Kelly has his sights on one more mark. Brock Osweiler set the school record for completion percentage last season at 61.8 percent. Kelly currently stands at 66.8.
Arizona Player to Watch: Ka'Deem Carey, RB
Matt Scott is having a great season at quarterback. He has thrown for over 3,000 yards with 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
However, the key for Arizona will be moving the ball on the ground. He had a great day against a tough Stanford defense, rushing for 132 yards on 29 carries with three touchdowns. He added 68 receiving yards.
The Sun Devils have surrendered yardage on the ground and Arizona needs to let Carey run.
That shouldn't be hard to do. Carey has a lead to protect.
Zona’s Ka'Deem Carey leads nation in rushing w 1,585 yds--451 more than Wildcats had as a team last yr: cbsprt.co/SXaQkG— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) November 18, 2012
Prediction: Arizona 38, Arizona State 30
This game should be very competitive. Both teams will be playing with fervor to win the cup and ensure their bowl status.
The Wildcats will be able to control the ball on the ground and keep Kelly off the field.
Neither team is dominant on defense but Arizona State is certainly better on the surface. If they can shut down Arizona's rushing attack then all they'll have to do is stop a 3,000-yard passer.
Get ready for some offense.
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.
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