The Territorial Cup has always been the biggest game of the year for both Arizona State and Arizona, as the rivalry between the two programs is up there with the best of collegiate sports. But this year is different, as both ASU and Arizona enter the game at 9-2 and have a reasonable shot at making it to the Pac-12 Championship game in Santa Clara. It's an exciting event, as the already-electric atmosphere that exists at any showdown between the Sun Devils and Wildcats will have its stakes higher than ever.
It wasn't always this way though, as the two programs have rarely been nationally relevant at the same time. In fact, while the Wildcats have produced many solid NFL players, the program has yet to reach the Rose Bowl. A win over Arizona State Friday coupled with a UCLA loss to Stanford would give Arizona an opportunity to possibly earn its way into the College Football Playoff. Same goes for Arizona State. Still, while Arizona State has made two trips to the Rose Bowl in its program history, winning one, Arizona holds a 47-39-1 all-time advantage in its head-to-head match ups with the Sun Devils. Most of Arizona's wins came prior to 1950 however, including an 11-game win streak over Arizona State. The Sun Devils will be looking for their third straight win over their arch-rival this Friday, looking to embark on an extended stretch of dominance over Arizona, but the Wildcats are in the midst of their best season in recent memory.
Being in position for a possible Pac-12 South title is a relatively new one for Arizona, but the Sun Devils were in better position last year headed into its rival showdown. Coming into the game at 9-2, Arizona State had bested the rest of the conference by holding only one conference loss, with it's September loss at Stanford joining a non-conference loss to Notre Dame as the Sun Devils' only blemishes. The sole conference loss, once Stanford lost to both USC and Utah, put Arizona State in prime position to earn home-field advantage in the Pac-12 Championship game. Having already won the Pac-12 South the week prior in Pasadena, all that separated the Sun Devils from a home bout with Stanford for all of the Pac-12 marbles was a game against the Wildcats.
Arizona came into the game at 7-4, and was one week removed from a dominating victory over No. 5 Oregon. Looking to dash its home-field hopes, Arizona came into Sun Devil Stadium to try and make the best of its role as spoiler. But Arizona State learned well from Oregon's loss the week prior, and didn't allow the Wildcats to throw its season off course. A pair of Zane Gonzalez field goals paced Arizona State to an early 6-0 lead, and a a 38-yard Darwin Rogers touchdown catch upped the Sun Devil lead to 13-0 at the conclusion of the first quarter. Arizona bit on what they thought was a run play, freeing up Rogers down the sideline for an easy pitch-and-catch score.
In the second quarter, Arizona State took what was already a solid 13-point lead and blew it open, scoring 17 points in the period to take a commanding advantage over the Wildcats. D.J. Foster's 14-yard run increased the lead to 20-0, and the Sun Devils were in full blowout mode when De'Marieya Nelson rumbled one yard for his first career rushing touchdown. Arizona's B.J. Denker rushed in for a one-yard score to put the Wildcats on the board before the end of the half, but it was Arizona State who walked into the locker room at intermission with a 30-7 lead.
Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona's All-American running back who currently plays for the Chicago Bears with former Arizona State All-American Will Sutton, didn't have a carry in the first nine minutes of the game and was stopped short on two fourth-down carries. In the second half, Carey finally got going, and his 8-yard scamper pulled the Wildcats within two possessions at 30-14. But Denker, who threw only four interceptions in his first 11 games of the season, was bitten by the turnover bug against the Sun Devils. After Carey's score and a subsequent Arizona State punt, Denker was picked off by Damarious Randall and Randall returned it 64 yards for a Sun Devil touchdown. Jaelen Strong's 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown capped the third quarter, and Arizona State held a comfortable 44-21 lead.
While the staunch Sun Devil defense continued to stifle Arizona, Arizona State's offense continued to add insult to Arizona's injury in the fourth quarter, as another Foster touchdown run followed by Nelson's second rushing TD of the night paced Arizona State to a dominating 58-21 win. The 37-point win would be the largest margin of victory for Arizona State over its rival since 1996, when the Bruce Snyder-led Sun Devils roasted the Wildcats 56-14.