The annual football rivalry game between Arizona and Arizona State doesn’t come until the end of the schedule, but don’t think college football fans around the state don’t continually size up the prospects for their favorite team on a weekly basis.
And right now, Arizona State has to be stacking up as the favorite to win the Territorial Cup match-up at the end of next month.
The fact that the game will be played in Tempe this year gives the Sun Devils a slight edge. But looking at the results of both team’s progress through the first half of the schedule also points to an ASU advantage.
Yesterday’s big win over Colorado shows the explosiveness of the Sun Devil offense and its ability to dominate a game. They ran up 532 yards of offense on the Buffaloes in the 54-13 rout, including 276 yards on the ground, the second time this season the ground game has pushed past 200 yards.
Senior running back Marion Grice rushed for 88 yards and picked up two more touchdowns to give him 15 on the season and Jaelen Strong added 109 yards on receptions, the fifth straight game the redshirt sophomore wide receiver has gained 100 or more yards. Taylor Kelly threw for 233 yards before taking a seat on the sidelines after ASU had run up a 47-6 halftime lead.
OK, Colorado (3-2) hasn’t won a game since its first two non-conference wins, but it did give the Sun Devils a conference win to put them 2-1 in the Pac-12, and did show what happens when an opposing team fails to keep up with ASU’s hurry-up offense.
The Devils are 4-2 overall, but one of those losses was by three points to Notre Dame, which played for the national championship last year, and the other was to Stanford, then the No. 5-ranked team in the country.
But they also upset No. 20 Wisconsin and handed USC one of its worst losses ever, beating the Trojans 62-41. And last Thursday, USC dominated Arizona for the entire first half before eventually running up 546 yards of total offense on the Wildcats and winning 38-31.
USC took a 28-3 lead before the Cats could put together a touchdown drive, and it took the longest pass play of the season to seal the deal. Nate Phillips pulled down a B.J. Denker pass and took it 57 yards for the score.
Ka’Deem Carey ran for 174 yards, his eighth straight 100-yard rushing game, and finished the night with 174 total yards. But it wasn’t enough to stave off a second straight loss.
Arizona’s other loss came at the hands of then-No. 16 Washington, which won the battle of the second half and posted 409 yards of offense for the game.
The Cats are still holding on to a winning record at 3-2, but those three wins came courtesy of a non-conference schedule which most analysts considered one of the weakest in the country. They beat Northern Arizona, UNLV, and Texas-San Antonio by a combined scored of 131-26.
And next week, they will have to really take it up a notch to avoid dropping to .500 on the season. The Cats take on Utah, which just beat No. 5 Stanford (which dropped to No. 13 after the loss) to end the Cardinal’s 13-game winning streak. It will help that the game is being played in Tucson, but it will take more than home-field advantage to beat the 4-2 Utes.
ASU will be tested next week by No. 20 Washington (4-2), which will try to take out its frustrations on the Devils following a 45-24 loss to No. 2 Oregon yesterday.
A lot can change between now and that No. 30 rivalry game. But, for now, the smart money has to be on the Devils.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)