The Edge: UA favored to defend Cup

Quarterback

 

EDGE: UA

 

UA senior quarterback Matt Scott has been one of the best quarterbacks in the conference and gets the edge over ASU redshirt sophomore Taylor Kelly.

Scott is No. 2 in the conference with 3,008 passing yards behind USC senior quarterback Matt Barkley. He didn’t have his best game against Utah, throwing for only 160 yards.

Kelly finally had a good game following two poor performances at No. 15 Oregon State and USC. Kelly went 20-for-23 for 245 yards and four touchdowns against Washington State. He could be poised for another big game given No. 24 Arizona’s defense.

 

Running back

 

EDGE: UA

 

The Pac-12 has plenty of good running backs, including UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, Oregon’s Kenjon Barner, Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor and USC’s Silas Redd, just to name a few.

The Wildcats’ sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey tops this group. He is the best back in the conference.  Carey has 1,585 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns this season. He’s scored in every game except the 49-0 shutout against Oregon.

Senior Cameron Marshall, junior Marion Grice and freshman D.J. Foster are nice counters to Carey, but he’s just that good.

 

Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends

 

EDGE: UA

 

ASU’s wide receivers had a good game against Washington State, but the Cougars have a bad secondary.

No quarterback has more pass attempts than Scott, and his wide receivers have had big seasons as a result. Sophomore Austin Hill is having a monster year. He’s No. 2 in the conference with 1,119 yards behind USC’s Marqise Lee. Senior wide receiver Dan Buckner is No. 9 with 730 yards.

 

Offensive Line

 

EDGE: UA

 

The Wildcats have an experienced offensive line. They’ve allowed 17 sacks this season, ranking No. 4 in the conference. ASU has allowed 37 sacks this season, ranked 112th out of 120 FBS teams.

 

Defensive Line

 

EDGE: ASU

 

Junior defensive tackle Will Sutton averages just over a sack per game. He has 4.5 fewer sacks (10.5) than UA (15). ASU leads the conference with 48 sacks this season.

 

Linebackers

 

EDGE: ASU

 

ASU redshirt senior Brandon Magee needs 13 tackles to reach 100 tackles this season. He guaranteed he’d reach that mark this season, and it’s possible given UA’s offense. Fellow Sun Devil, redshirt sophomore linebacker Carl Bradford, has had a strong finish to the season and should be a key piece to this defense next season at the linebacker position.

 

Secondary

 

EDGE: ASU

 

UA has the fourth worst pass defense in the country, contrary to the Sun Devil’s No. 8 pass defense. ASU redshirt senior Keelan Johnson added two interceptions to his total on Senior Day. This game will likely be ASU’s biggest challenge this season given UA’s pass attack.

 

Special Teams

 

EDGE: Push

 

As the Territorial Cup has proved the last few years, this aspect of the game has been the difference between winning and losing.

UA senior kicker John Bonano is 12-of-18 this season. Five of his missed kicks have been between 20-39 yards. ASU junior kicker Jon Mora is 7-for-10 this season, but his longest kick is from 38 yards.

Senior punter Josh Hubner is No. 3 in the country in yards per punt average, but he wasn’t selected as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. Hubner has done a good job for ASU in terms of the field position game.

Wildcat junior running back Daniel Jenkins averages 20.2 yards a return on kickoffs. Sun Devil senior wide receivers Rashad Ross and Jamal Miles average 25.6 and 20.9 yards on kickoff returns, respectively. Ross returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown against Colorado.

Miles averages 7.7 yards a punt return, with his longest return of 25 yards. UA junior wide receiver Richard Morrison returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown this season and averages 10.2 yards per return.

 

 

Overall: UA

 

The last three road teams have won the Territorial Cup, but UA gets the slight edge.

The Wildcat’s offense could prove to be too much for ASU’s defense. UCLA’s Franklin had a big game against the Sun Devils, and Carey could be in line for a big night Friday. While ASU will get its chances against UA’s defense, how effective will Kelly be? He hasn’t played well on the road recently, and it’ll be a hostile “red-out” environment.

But as we’ve learned in this rivalry game, logic doesn’t always work, and it wouldn’t be surprising if ASU pulls it out on the road. These two teams have had unbelievable games in recent years, and it shouldn’t be any different this season.

 

Reach the reporter at mtesfats@asu.edu