Game Preview: ASU football aims to bring Territorial Cup back to Tempe

The home team has claimed the Territorial Cup in each meeting since 2013

While a bowl game is in ASU football’s near future, the Territorial Cup game against the UA Wildcats (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) precedes the Sun Devils’ (6-5, 5-3 Pac-12) postseason appearance. 

The annual rivalry game will be played in Tempe, which seems to bear a hefty advantage since the last four meetings were won by the home team

Home Cooking

With ASU’s offense fresh off another impressive rushing performance, the Sun Devils will need to crank it up a notch to beat the Wildcats. 

The common denominator in UA losing two of its last three games has been the opposition’s ground attack.

Both the No. 11 USC Trojans (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) and Oregon Ducks (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) accumulated more than 330 yards and four or more scores on the ground. 

Although ASU’s recent outings were heavily dependent on senior running back Demario Richard, the Sun Devils need contributions from anyone and everyone.

Out of ASU’s 11 games thus far, the Sun Devils stormed to 300 rushing yards just once this season, and have never scored four rushing touchdowns. 

It’s a matter of capitalizing on the Wildcats glaring weakness — a lousy run defense. 

Not only is the Sun Devils’ recent ground success smirk worthy for ASU fans, but so is knowing that the home team has claimed the Territorial Cup each year since 2013.  

ASU’s defense will need to dicTATE 

Part of what makes UA such a tricky matchup for ASU is the Wildcats sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate.

Tate is listed as a quarterback, but he might as well trade that title in because he has 42 more rushing attempts than he does passing completions. 

With UA’s lead gunslinger being one of the Pac-12’s most dangerous players, he carries the weight of a loss harder than most.

To be blunt, when Tate isn’t scrambling for 100 rushing yards or more, the Wildcats won't see results. 

At best, the one-dimensional UA squad relies on its lead guy to do everything offensively, which makes the task of ASU’s defense simple – contain, contain and contain.

It sounds easy, but few have corralled Tate, leaving him with the fifth most rushing yards in the Pac-12.

ASU’s redshirt quarterback Manny Wilkins, senior tailback Kalen Ballage and Richard have a combined 1,674 rushing yards on the year.

Tate has 1,325. 

In the games Tate has played in this season, opposing defenses only managed to hold him under 100 rushing yards three times.

The Wildcats lost two of those three. 

However, prior to the Ducks locking up Tate for a mere 32 yards on the ground, no team bottled him for fewer than 100 since Sept. 9. 

Crossing enemy lines 

This UA team is one relying heavily on the efficiency of the offense. When the Wildcats score, they do so in bunches and rarely look back.

Tucson’s best is averaging 42.9 points per game, good enough for sixth in the FBS. Not to mention, UA’s 331.6 rushing yards per game place third in the entire country. 

Now that’s all fine and dandy, but when the Wildcats have lost this season it’s because their offense doesn’t show up. UA is 0-4 when scoring fewer than 40 points this season. ASU, on the other hand, is 0-3 when opposing teams reach 40 or more points in game this year. 

It’s clear the Wildcats can hang with just about anyone in the country when it comes to scoring, so this isn’t the game for the Sun Devils to try and just trade touchdowns. 

ASU’s best chance at bringing the Territorial Cup back to Tempe is to simply dominate defensively. 

Few thought the Sun Devils could hang with the majority of their ranked foes, or travel to Utah and win by 20. 

Even so, ASU’s defense hit unseen highs to capture two ranked upsets and a road-whooping over the Utah Utes (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12). 

The case will be the same come Saturday – play lights-out defense and the cup will once again rest with ASU, but it won’t be easy, especially since the victor of the last five meetings scored 41 or more points.

Reach the reporter at or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.   

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