With huge ramifications in the Apple Cup, the Rumble in the Rockies, the Iron Bowl, The Game, and the Palmetto Bowl, one of this week’s forgotten rivalry games is the Territorial Cup between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona leads the all-time series 48-40-1, but the Sun Devils have won 11 of the last 17 and four of six in this decade. The stakes aren’t very high, but it’s always fun to watch college football between two teams that really dislike each other.
Arizona State vs. Arizona College Football Preview
Date/Time: Friday November 25, 9:30 p.m. ET
College Football Betting Odds from 5Dimes
College Football Betting Favorite: Arizona State -3
It has not been a good season for either one of these teams, but Arizona State can achieve bowl eligibility with a win here in Tucson. The boys from Tempe are 5-6 on the season, but they are bowl eligible against the spread with a 6-5 record. The Sun Devils are just 2-6 in conference play and 4-4 against the number in those matchups. It’s been a throwaway season for Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats. Between injuries and regression, Arizona is just 2-9 on the season and 1-10 against the spread. The lone cover came against Washington on September 24. The Wildcats have not really come close to covering recently either. Look no further than a 42-17 loss to Oregon State last week as a three-point dog in Corvallis to see just far this team has fallen.
Arizona State Sun Devils:
It’s not a big surprise that the Sun Devils has regressed again this season. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell went to be the head coach at Memphis and true sophomore Manny Wilkins entered the season with zero passing attempts. He’s posted a 60.9 percent completion percentage with a 9/8 TD/INT ratio. The job is back in his hands after injuries forced Todd Graham to burn the redshirt of freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole. As a team, this Sun Devils bunch has a 13/13 TD/INT ratio. Last season, Mike Bercovici had a 30/9 TD/INT ratio by himself. The running game is also awful. The Sun Devils have only averaged 3.3 yards per carry on the season, as Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage has combined for just 1,082 yards on 267 carries. Terrible offensive line play has forced Wilkins to carry 105 times for just 167 yards. Things are not promising in Tempe right now.
With an offense that bad, it should come as no surprise that the defense is having a rough year. The Sun Devils have allowed 38.4 points per game and 514 yards per contest. They’ve given up an average of 6.8 yards per play, but things are even worse in conference, where ASU has allowed 40.7 points per game and 537 yards per game. The Sun Devils play a very aggressive style of defense and leave their corners exposed, so it should come as no surprise that they have allowed 383 passing yards per game. That’s up 35 yards from last season’s output. Graham needs to do a lot better in recruiting and in the JUCO transfer market if he wants to fix this group. Since beating UCLA, Arizona State has allowed 224 points over its last five games.
The picture is just as ugly in Tucson, but Arizona hasn’t been able to win as many games as its rival. Brandon Dawkins has been everything and then some for Arizona this season, leading the team in passing yards with 1,271 and rushing yards with 761. Dawkins has accounted for 15 of Arizona’s 31 offensive touchdowns this season. The Wildcats have scored 21.9 points per game and have been held under 400 yards per game for the first time since 2009. In conference play, the Wildcats have only scored 18.4 points per game with just 5.4 yards per play. A talented crop of wide receivers hasn’t stayed healthy and/or hasn’t had anybody to get them the ball.
Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates left Boise State for this mess and he may be regretting that decision. The Wildcats have allowed 38.6 points per game and 467 yards per effort. Take away a non-conference schedule that featured BYU, Grambling, and Hawaii, and the Wildcats have given up 44.7 points per game and 479.2 yards in Pac-12 play. They’ve given up at least 34 points in every single Pac-12 game this season and Washington State hung 69 on them on November 5. This is a defense that gave up nearly 36 points per game last season, so we knew that they were undermanned, but they’ve been far worse than expected.
College Football Free Pick: Arizona Wildcats +3
The most dangerous team to face in college football is the one with nothing to lose. The Wildcats have nothing to lose this week and can salvage something from the season by bringing the Territorial Cup back home. The Sun Devils can get to a bowl game with a win and may be considered for a bowl at 5-7, but they aren’t exactly playing good football right now either. The initial line move has shown that the wiseguys are leaning with the Wildcats and that position has to be respected with a team that has dropped seven straight against the spread and 10 of 11 on the season.