It's rivalry week in Arizona, and the Territorial Cup is on the line on Thursday evening with the Sun Devils and Wildcats meet in Tucson. We've teamed up with Patrick (uofafanatic) from AZ Desert Swarm to discuss the game, and for some reason I've agreed to give him some space, on my blog, to tell us why the Wildcats are going to win. He has been kind enough to allot me the same space over on his AU blog.
Personally, I think his assessment is off base. The Sun Devils are moving in the right direction and will pull out the win in Tucson. Am I right? Anyway, onto the Q&A.
Cory: Arizona has lost three games in a row, going from Rose Bowl contender to 7-4 and fighting for a positive record in Pac-10 play. What happened? Is this a case of coaching problems, or are the players to blame?
uofafanatic: Ultimately, it's always the head coach's fault, isn't it? That's the burden of leadership. The reality is a mix of several factors. The most obvious of these is that Oregon and Stanford are elite this season. Not good, elite. Arguably the top two teams in the nation, with perhaps Auburn being in that same class. Another major factor has been Trevin Wade's horrible stretch of games since taking a helmet to his thigh against Oregon State. After heading into the season as an all pac-10 DB and a lock to be a first or second round draft pick, Wade spent the last month looking horrible. He has been falling down, and giving up huge plays. Most importantly, he has been outplayed by a freshman, Shaquille Richardson. Many are now calling for Wade to be benched, and for Shaq to start. Stoops says that Wade has improved dramatically this week, but we'll see come game time.
Overall, I'd say that the major factor in going from Rose Bowl hopefuls to a 3 game skid was simply the incredibly high level of competition in the Pac-10 this season. You won't get too much whining or finger pointing from me. The only loss that really frustrates me is the Oregon State loss. But the Beavers played a heck of a game, with QB Ryan Katz having a day only seen in video games. He, several times, completed passes of 20 yds or more as he was being dragged to the ground. The Beavers have a good QB in Katz.
Cory: Did you see Brock Osweiler decimate UCLA? Doesn't that scare you? 380 yards, 4 touchdown passes, 1 touchdown run. He's 6'8", capable of seeing over everyone on the field.
uofafanatic: Perhaps, if Arizona didn't have the best defensive line in the Pac-10. While he will present a challenge, he lacks experience. I think playing in front of a tremendously loud and hostile crowd will have quite an effect on him. Also, you might recall hearing about one Jake Locker making a trip down to Tucson this season. He's not 6'8", but he's a big guy at 6'3", 230. He not only lost, but had his worst rushing game (-24 yds.) and one of his worst passing games. I'd say that I'm optimistic, and that a guy that big makes a pretty big target for our defense.
Cory: What are Wildcats fans thinking right now? This season went from "dream" to "nightmare" pretty quickly.
uofafanatic: As would be expected when a fan base gets caught up in the BCS fever, it was tough to come back down to earth. But the overriding opinion now is that the season as a whole has been a good one, and we should be grateful for that. We can all agree that we'd have killed to be in this position in the Mackovic era.
Read more after the jump...
uofafanatic: Are you kidding me? Yes. A thousand times yes. The 'Duel in the Desert' will always carry a ton of weight, and a win will absolutely make an 8-4 season, with a likely Alamo Bowl berth, a success.
uofafanatic: At the moment, Keola Antolin. Grigsby looked good against Oregon, but this seems like more of the same from him. Grigsby was benched for Antolin in 2008 for a couple games, as a result of a bout of fumble-itis. Then Grigsby remarkably figured out how to hang onto the football.This season, after losing his starting job to Keola, he suddenly looks like the RB we've been waiting for all season against Oregon. I'll take Mr. consistency, over the guy that needs to be reminded that he's not guaranteed a starting spot.
uofafanatic: First, take a look at the teams that are in the discussion for a non-AQ slot in a playoff. Utah, TCU, and Boise State. That's it. The rest aren't good enough. Utah, as you know, will be joining the Pac-12 next season and will not be a non-AQ any longer. Likewise, TCU has announced that it will be joining the Big East. That just leaves Boise State, and the only reason they aren't in another conference right now is that their four-year graduation rate is a staggeringly poor 6%. How could any conference admit them, without damaging it's overall reputation?I am absolutely against a six or eight team playoff right now. Don't reward teams like Boise St. that play two tough games and then run the table. Reward those that face tougher competition, like Utah and TCU, who are taking the step up to play with the big boys.The only realistic playoff situation, is one that will likely occur within the next five years or so. Four 'super-conferences', with the conference winners facing of in a four team playoff. Most likely it will be the Pac-16, Big Sixteen, ACC, and SEC. Any team that is not in one of those conferences, doesn't deserve a slot in a championship playoff. Want to prove that you're the best? Play them nine weeks out of the year, every year. Until then, be quiet and be happy with whatever bowl you are allowed to play in.
Finally, because I'm a sucker, here's what you've been waiting for.
"Why Arizona will win the Territorial Cup, and keep it in it's proper home." By uofafanatic, Shameless UA Fan (editor's note: description added for clarity's sake. - CW)
"Put simply, ASU will be unable to stop the Arizona passing attack. And I say that regardless of who lines up under center. (For those of you wondering, Matt Scott's completion percentage is actually better than Nick Foles'.) While Foles will certainly be QB1 for this game, don't be surprised to see Scott involved in some way or another. Clearly, the ASU defense will have to play far better against the pass than they have to this point. I would expect that Foles will throw a pick somewhere along the line, and that will probably be the highlight of the game for the defense. Expect much gnashing of teeth and frustration in the ASU secondary.
Don't forget that Arizona defense either, they're scary good when focused. And you're insane if you don't think they've had December 2nd circled on the calendar all year. I expect to see Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore in Brock Osweiler's face all night long.
Perhaps most importantly, ASU lacks the best weapon to use against Arizona, a potent rushing attack. (The Sun Devils rank 7th in the Pac-10 in rushing.)
I'm picking the Arizona Wildcats to win big in Tucson, and send little brother ASU back up to Tempe with a loss. Arizona wins big, 31-10."
Well, thanks for that, Patrick! It's nice to see Wildcat fans dreaming big. See you tomorrow night.