An Arizona fan's take on the Territorial Cup
My 2-8 Wildcats visit Tempe to face off against the 6-4 Sun Devils in a game that, outside of the state of Arizona (and let's be honest, even inside the state), doesn't really mean much.
So, it goes without saying that I cannot wait for this one.
In fact, in a way I'd rather this game not happen. I'd rather this column not happen. But the schedule makers insist that this one be played, and the bosses (or karma, really) are making sure I write this. My just desserts for writing some ASU hit pieces, perhaps? I don't know, but I don't think anything I've written deserved the kind of season I've watched the Wildcats play.
At any rate, the game is going to happen and I'm already knee deep into this column, so no point in quitting now. I wish the Wildcats had the same mentality.
I'm going to be honest with you: I don't see myself leaving Sun Devil Stadium a happy person Saturday night. No, I fully expect the Sun Devils to more closely resemble the team that had people talking about a contract extension for their coach than the one that lost the last two weeks. The Sun Devils, after all, still have something to play for. The Wildcats? Not so much. In fact, most are referring to this as Arizona's "Bowl Game."
Have you seen the Wildcats in bowl games the last couple years? Eeek.
While you may think the Sun Devils haven't lived up to expectations, the team from the Old Pueblo has found a way to really underachieve, and that's saying something when few expected anything substantial out of them.
Big losses to Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon put the team in a hole they could not dig out of, but on the bright side at least Arizona can hang its hat on the fact that they were tied with the ninth, sixth and tenth ranked teams during their games. Yes, 0-0 at kickoff counts, and you can't take that away from me or the team.
Losses at USC and Oregon State cost head coach Mike Stoops his job soon after, and save one amazing night in Tucson against UCLA (how did that happen, by the way?), the beat has just gone on as the beatings have continued. Only now, instead of losing to some of the best teams in the country, the 'Cats have taken suck to an entirely new level, being non-competitive at home against Utah and on the road against Colorado. Yeah, the same Colorado team that had exactly 0 Pac-12 wins prior to playing Arizona.
Do the Wildcats have one more good game in them? Can they go to Tempe, pull off the upset and let me leave a college game with a smile on my face for the first time since October 23, 2010? (Yes, it's been more than full calendar year since I saw an Arizona victory in person.)
Now, you can say "anything can happen in a rivalry game" all you want, but the truth is only twice since 1978 has the team with a losing record beaten one with a winning one.
So while I'd like to point out many reasons why I think Arizona can win this game, there really is only one: ASU's pass defense.
Apparently the Sun Devils have just a handful of healthy defensive backs, and the fact that the team got torched for 494 yards by freshman Connor Halliday last week in Pullman should give plenty of optimism that senior and UA record-holder Nick Foles can do the same.
With receivers like Juron Criner, Dan Buckner, David Douglas and Gino Crump to throw to, Foles has tallied the third-most passing yards in the country to go with his 23 touchdown passes. The passing game can be elite if the offensive line can keep the QB vertical. They haven't been able to do that often enough this year, and ASU's much- maligned defense could easily right the ship Saturday.
Remember, there's a reason the 'Cats are 2-8 and, undeniably, the worst team in the conference. No matter how bad you think the Sun Devils are right now, I promise you ain't seen nothing yet.