The 85th “Duel in the Desert” is upon us, and for the
first time since Alex Zendejas kicked an extra point into
his own lineman, Arizona and Arizona State will face off
on the gridiron.
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
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
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
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
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.