Neither team will be traveling this bowl season, but either Arizona or Arizona State can walk away feeling good after playing for the Territorial Cup on Friday in Tucson, Ariz.
The visiting Sun Devils (3-8, 2-6 Pac-12) are looking for a new head coach after firing Herm Edwards during the season and will finish with just their fourth losing regular season since 2003. Amid their troubles, they would love to continue to claim superiority over their neighbors to the south, looking to win their sixth consecutive game in the rivalry.
“It’s absolutely amazing that you can win one football game and most of the rest of the season will be forgotten,” said Arizona State’s Shaun Aguano, who has gone 2-6 as interim head coach. “It’s a legacy for this class.”
For Arizona (4-7, 2-6), ending the losing streak to Arizona State and finishing with five victories would widely be considered a successful second season for coach Jedd Fisch. The Wildcats’ triumphs include beating then-No. 12 UCLA on Nov. 12, but they were eliminated from bowl consideration by losing 31-20 at home to Washington State last Saturday.
“It’s a huge game for older guys that have been a part of this program for a while and having not gotten a win,” Fisch said of the matchup with the Sun Devils. “It’s a big, big game for our young guys … to take the momentum of winning this game into the offseason.”
Turnovers have been a common theme in Arizona’s losses, including when Jayden de Laura threw four interceptions last week. But when he is in sync with a talented group of receivers — de Laura ranks fifth nationally at 316.8 passing yards per game — the Wildcats are dangerous.
Arizona State recently turned to quarterback Trenton Bourguet, who supplanted Florida transfer Emory Jones. Bourguet, who is from Tucson, will be a major storyline this week, but the Sun Devils’ key offensive player is running back Xazavian Valladay, who has rushed for 1,095 yards. He will be going against an Arizona run defense that rates 125th nationally (213.5 yards per game).
The Sun Devils’ five-game run against Arizona is the longest in the rivalry since the Wildcats won five in a row from 1982 to 1986 to start a nine-year unbeaten streak that included a tie in 1987. Arizona State won 70-7 when the teams last met in Tucson in 2020, prompting Arizona to fire coach Kevin Sumlin.
–Field Level Media