Sun Devils seeking bowl eligibility vs. rival Wildcats
TUCSON, Ariz. – Arizona State has battled injuries and inconsistency through the worst season the Sun Devils have had under coach Todd Graham.
Arizona has been hit just as hard by injuries and is in the midst of its worst season under Rich Rodriguez.
The rivals end the regular season Friday night in the Territorial Cup, so you know what comes next.
“This is one of those must-wins on your schedule,” Graham said. “You can throw all the records out. It doesn't matter.”
Rivalry week may bring out the cliches, but it also brings out the best in both teams.
And there is still something to play for on both sides of the ball.
Arizona State (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12), despite all that has gone wrong this season, still has a shot to become bowl eligible. The Sun Devils have gone to bowl games five straight seasons, including all four that Graham has coached.
Arizona (2-9, 0-8) is looking more at avoidance than reaching a goal.
The Wildcats have lost eight straight games, their longest streak since 2003, and are trying to avoid their first winless conference season since 1957, when they went 0-4 in the Border Conference.
And, like the Sun Devils, a win in the Territorial Cup will wash away at least some of the disappointment from this season.
“As I told the team, and the upperclassmen certainly understand, it is the biggest game we play every year, regardless of what is at stake,” Rodriguez said. “Some years there has been a lot at stake, but for us, it is a rivalry school. We have one of the greatest rivalries in college sports, so I think as tough as the season has been, playing ASU certainly gives our guys something to really work hard for this week and try to achieve Friday night.”
A few more things to look for when Arizona State plays at Arizona Friday night:
THE TERRITORIAL CUP: The Territorial Cup is recognized by the NCAA as the nation's oldest rivalry trophy game. The first game between Grand Canyon State rivals came on Thanksgiving Day in 1899, when Arizona State was known as the Arizona Territorial Normal School. The teams have played annually every year since 1946, and the silver cup presented to the winner has been awarded to the winner every year since 2001. Arizona leads the all-time series 48-40-1, with the home team winning each of the last three games.
ARIZONA'S QB: The Wildcats have had five different players throw a pass this season, thanks to a slew of injuries. The question of who will start continues after Anu Solomon suffered a foot injury against Oregon State last week. Solomon made his first start since Sept. 3 but came out of the game in the second quarter after being sacked. He is listed as questionable on Arizona's injury report, so the Sun Devils will have to prepare for him or Brandon Dawkins, who threw for 305 yards, ran for 78 and accounted for three touchdowns against the Sun Devils last season.
A victory would be Graham's 40th at Arizona State. … Arizona's Nate Phillips has a catch in 44 straight games. … Arizona State is last in the FBS in passing defense for the second straight season, allowing 382.9 yards per game. … Arizona is 112th in total defense, giving up 467.3 yards per game.
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