Thanksgiving weekend or rivalry weekend? Both answers are correct, but I am simply thankful to be a Sun Devil. Bias aside, Todd Todd Graham appeared to fired up for his first Territorial Cup game.
"It's the biggest game of the year every year, this game is about Arizona State winning the territorial game," Graham said. "This is what college football is all about, rivalry games."
The cross state duel is always heated, and both sides are very familiar with one another. Coach Graham worked under Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia, and each possesses similar schemes. Although, Graham does not believe it will be a factor come kickoff.
"Most of us have relationships with each other, there's only 124 of these jobs," Graham said. "People do different things over time."
Personnel wise, U of A's explosive offense is known nation wide. Running back Ka'Deem Carey's 1,585 yards and 19 touchdowns rank amongst the country's best.
"Number one rusher in the country, I think he (Carey) is the best running back that we've played," Graham said. "He is no question the guy you have to stop and that is a tall order."
Throughout the 2012 campaign, Graham has been determined to find an identity for upcoming seasons. Graham places extra emphasis on defense, and the results have paid off.
Heading into Friday, Graham stated trick plays could be a factor. Conversely, he is placing the majority of focus on fundamentals.
"It's going to boil down to the team that can block the best, tackles the best, the team that's the most disciplined," Graham said.
Despite ASU leaving Tucson victorious in two of their last three meetings, Graham knows it will be a hostile environment. Maybe the crowd won't be insanely loud because of Thanksgiving food babies.
"You're are not going to remember what said some person said to you hanging over the real, you're going to remember who won the game," Graham said. "I just told them to stay focused on each play and not get distracted."
Recruiting wise, the Territorial Cup outcome is invaluable. Kids want to play in winning programs, and that starts with representing your own state.
"Obviously winning is the key component, attracting the best and brightest players in the state." Graham said.
Graham's unique nuances and approaches are rare, starting with the digital clock counting down until the U of A game. In addition, ex-players make routine visits, among the many themes discussed is the overriding message of beating the Wildcats.
"I think our guys this year really learned to appreciate what is to be a Sun Devil, and how in the world could you do that without understanding the significance of this game."