Arizona Wildcats vs. Arizona State Sun Devils: Complete Game Preview
This year's battle for the Territorial Cup between Arizona and Arizona State may have the biggest implications ever.
If the Sun Devils are victorious, not only will they hoist the cup for the second straight year, but they'll also host the Pac-12 Championship game.
As with all rivalry games, though, no matter what the point spread says, this one's going to be a dogfight to the finish.
The Wildcats hold the all-time edge 47-38-1 over the Sun Devils.
If the history of this rivalry is any indication for how Saturday's game is going to unfold, fans better strap in and be ready for a ride.
Seven of the last nine Territorial Cup games have been decided by seven points or fewer, and the Wildcats are coming off of the biggest win in program history as they travel to Tempe.
Here is all the information you need to know about this rivalry game.
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Location: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
Television: Pac-12 Network
Radio: Sun Devil IMG Sports Network, Fox Sports 910 AM
Spread: ASU -12.5, according to Vegas.com.
University of Arizona Keys to Victory
Control the Clock
In Arizona's big win over Oregon, the Wildcats dominated every facet of the game, including time of possession. Arizona had the ball for almost 12 more minutes than Oregon and will have to employ that strategy again this Saturday if it wants to be victorious. ASU has one of the nation's most dangerous offenses, and the best way to beat it is to keep it on the bench. If Arizona is controlling the clock, it also means its star running back, Ka'Deem Carey, is having a big day, which is also a key to victory for the Wildcats.
Force Taylor Kelly to Beat You
Arizona State's star running back Marion Grice's status is still uncertain for Saturday, which means it should be easier for Arizona to make the Sun Devils one dimensional. This will still be a tough task, but without Grice, Arizona has a chance to take ASU's ground attack away.
If they do so and force quarterback Taylor Kelly to beat them, they have a chance to pull the upset. Based on how Arizona's secondary played a week ago, forcing Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota's first two interceptions of the year, Kelly could be in for a long night.
Win Field Position Battle
Last week, the Sun Devils' special teams struggled mightily on kickoff and punt coverage. ASU's punting has also been an issue all year. If Arizona can catch a few breaks on special teams and force ASU to take over possession deep in their own end, the Wildcats will have a chance to end their season on a high note.
Arizona State Keys to Victory
Pressure B.J. Denker
The Arizona Wildcats' offensive line has done a great job protecting their quarterback all year, ranking second in the Pac-12 by only allowing 13 sacks. Will Sutton, Chris Young and company will have to pressure Denker Saturday, though, if they want to win. Denker played the game of his life last weekend against Oregon and had plenty of time to make reads and throws. ASU can't let that happen this weekend.
Win the Battle in the Trenches
If ASU can control the line of scrimmage, it'll win on Saturday. This goes for both sides of the ball.
The Sun Devils need to protect their quarterback and give their running backs lanes to run through, and they must push Arizona's line around to prevent Ka'Deem Carey from getting into a rhythm.
Last week, the Sun Devils dominated the UCLA Bruins in the trenches, and earlier in the year, they stifled Washington's Bishop Sankey by bullying the Huskies on the line. This Saturday should be no different.
Protect the Football
Rivalry games like this always come down to who makes a key, late mistake.
Last year, Arizona State forced Arizona quarterback Matt Scott to throw three interceptions and forced a fumble, which helped ASU win in Tucson.
The Sun Devils need to protect the ball this Saturday to prevent any big momentum swings and to ensure they don't suffer a letdown.
University of Arizona Players to Watch
Carey is currently the nation's fourth-leading rusher and needs to have a big game against ASU if the Wildcats want to pull the upset.
Arizona State's rush defense struggled early in the year, but ever since its meeting with Washington, it's played lights out. The Sun Devils now have the third best rush defense in the Pac-12, allowing only 123 yards per game on the ground.
Carey will need to make some magic happen this Saturday if the Wildcats want to reclaim the Territorial Cup.
The Sun Devils need to account for linebacker Jake Fischer on nearly every play on Saturday. The senior is a little small for his position but has a motor that makes him a potential late-round NFL Draft pick.
As Kerry Crowley of houseofsparky.com wrote, Fischer and Marquise Flowers may cause the Sun Devils headaches.
"Fischer makes up for the difference in his work ethic and nose for the football," Crowley wrote. "On the other side of Fischer is linebacker Marquise Flowers who has been all over the field this season as a playmaker."
Arizona State Players to Watch
With Marion Grice possibly missing this week's game, Foster may find himself as the starting running back. He's played well this year but has been primarily a wide receiver. The few times he's been called upon to run the ball, he's done so with a purpose.
With Grice graduating after this year, Foster's presumably in line to be the starter, so he'll need to step into the spotlight sooner or later. This may be his first game to carry the workload and make an impact as a starting running back.
Young has been a defensive leader for ASU all year and leads the team with 84 tackles. He earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors after having 13 tackles and three sacks in ASU's win over UCLA last weekend.
Young is exciting to watch and will likely have another big game this Saturday. He is also a key component to ASU's rush defense and will be tasked with stopping Carey if he makes it to the second level.
What They're Saying
Arizona State is having a good week of practice, but it's still uncertain whether it'll have its star running back on the field this weekend:
Graham after what he called "probably one of our best practices" said Marion Grice (lower leg injury) remains "day-to-day right now"— Craig Grialou (@Craig620) November 26, 2013
Sun Devil Stadium will officially be full Saturday night:
ASU head coach Todd Graham told ESPN.com's Ted Miller he isn't over-thinking this game.
I don’t worry about all that stuff. I don’t think what happened last year has anything to do with this year. People have a whole bunch of time in their hands to spend analyzing stuff. We don’t overanalyze it.
The Sun Devils' blacker jersey, black pants and white helmet uniform combination make it 12 different jersey combinations in 12 games this year for ASU.
Arizona 28, Arizona State 38
This game is going to be tight throughout, but in crunch time, ASU will make the necessary plays to keep the Territorial Cup in Tempe.
Arizona used all it had in last week's win over Oregon, and it's hard to imagine the Wildcats can do what they did a second week in a row.
At the end of the day, Arizona is a team that just a few weeks ago lost to Washington State at home. ASU is a far more talented team, and that will show on Saturday.
The Sun Devils will not only win the Territorial Cup for the second consecutive year, but they will also host the Pac-12 Championship game for the first time in school history following this big win.
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