Words can't describe what this game means to ASU and Arizona fans. Added to the intrigue of the Territorial Cup, if Stanford beats UCLA, a game being played at the same time, the winner will be the Pac-12 South champion. Our House of Sparky staff sat down to discuss this game.
What difference does it make if Anu Solomon does not play?
Emerson: It might be the advantage ASU needs to win. These are both good teams and one of those teams is missing their starter at the sport's most important position, it's a huge blow.
Krueger: On a scale of 1-10 on the scale of importance, I would say 8. Scroggins isn't completely incapable, but throwing him in for his first start of the season during the Territorial Cup would be a nightmare for Arizona. Solomon brings an x-factor that makes the Wildcat offense very multiple. Take him out of the equation and I can't see a scenario where Arizona would come close to winning this game.
Galvin: A huge one. Jesse Scroggins is not good. I saw him play plenty in high school and thought "this kid is the future of USC? That's not good." Solomon has been fantastic all season for the Wildcats, not making mistakes and finding big plays at crucial moments. I would be stunned if he doesn't go.
Bafaloukos: Anytime you are losing your starting quarterback it is a big deal. However, the Arizona offense will look the same with either Soloman or Scroggins. Both quarterbacks are mobile, both can extend plays and both can make plays on the run. Although I have not seen much of Scroggins, he did have scholarship offers from every Pac-12 school, plus Florida and LSU. I would think he would like nothing more than to win his first and potentially last start in a rivalry game.
Theodore: It's a huge difference. Anytime you're playing a freshman over a redshirt senior, that means that either the freshman is really good or the senior is really bad. Neither bode well for Arizona if Solomon can't go Friday. Solomon, although still learning and growing as a quarterback, gives the Wildcats their best shot to win. Jesse Scroggins is no Mike Bercovici.
Pelton: What's another word for huge? Ginormous? Let's go with that. While I do think it would be quite the story for Scroggins to go out and lead Arizona to a Territorial Cup win on senior day, there's a reason he has not been starting all year. He is an average quarterback that Arizona State's defense would stop with relative ease. I think it's Solomon or bust for the Wildcats.
Which Sun Devil will need to step up the most in order for ASU to win?
Emerson: Damarious Randall had a pick-six last year and I think the entire secondary needs to continue its hot play. Whichever team wins the turnover battle may win the whole thing and Randall, Jordan Simone and the rest of the defensive backs may turn the tide toward Tempe's sideline.
Krueger: D.J. Foster. He has been here before, knows what it takes to win this game and the Sun Devils don't function at peak performance without a hint of a running game (Exhibit A: The first half against Washington State.) Foster's ability to get to the outside edge will open up the read option for Kelly and the maroon and gold can find more success for that reason.
Galvin: Taylor Kelly. He has to be TK. Has to be. Not like TK from the second half against Washington State. I mean TK from the Colorado game, or from last season's win against Arizona.
Bafaloukos: Taylor Kelly has to play well, there is no doubt about that. This game may come down to which quarterback plays the best. I will say besides Kelly on offense D.J. Foster has to have another good game against Arizona and on defense I will say the ASU cornerbacks are going to be very important against Arizona's talented wide receivers.
Theodore: I agree with Jason, it has to be Taylor Kelly. Everyone else on Arizona State who is going to be important in Friday's game has been playing on an elite level as of late, except for Kelly. He's the guy who is going to win or lose this game for the Sun Devils.
Pelton: The easy answer is Taylor Kelly. It's also the right answer. The offense is just so much tougher to defend when he is firing on all cylinders. I don't know if I would say that a win or loss can solely be pinned on his play, but it will certainly be a key factor.
Let's talk about Taylor Kelly's legacy. He has gotten a lot of flak the last few weeks. Will all that be forgotten if he goes 3-0 against Arizona in his career?
Emerson: I would hope it will be either way. Kelly is one of the best quarterbacks to ever wear the maroon and gold and a foot injury shouldn't tarnish that. A perfect 3-0 record should help the healing process toward his reputation, but in the end Kelly will get the recognition he deserves.
Krueger: I would have to think so. The do-or-die fashion in which both fan bases look at this game makes whether or not a player could beat the other team during their career part of their legacy. While I don't think it would truly tarnish what Kelly has done at ASU, it might hurt a little that his senior season wasn't everything people had hoped it would be.
Galvin: It will all be forgotten either way. Taylor Kelly has received flak because he clearly shouldn't have returned when he was still injured. But ten years from now, Taylor Kelly will be remembered as the quarterback who rose up out of the ashes of a program in flux and pointed the Sun Devils in a direction they hadn't been pointed in since Jake Plummer was in Tempe. Kelly should go down as the third greatest quarterback in school history. He should be inducted into the Sun Devil Athletics Hall of Fame one day. And if I had to guess, he'll also be the offensive coordinator sooner than later.
Bafaloukos: If he beats Arizona, he will go down as one of the top three quarterbacks in ASU history. He will be ahead of players like Andrew Walter and Rudy Carpenter. I would say only Plummer and Danny White will be ahead of Kelly. Plummer's Rose Bowl is the only thing that puts him ahead of Kelly, who statiscally is one of the best quarterbacks in program history.
Theodore: A third straight win over Arizona, especially since Arizona is a higher ranked team than ASU right now, would be huge for Kelly's legacy, and not many ASU quarterbacks can say they've beaten the Wildcats in Tucson twice. A win in the inevitable Fiesta Bowl that would follow a win over Arizona would really cement his legacy, but Kelly already is up there with the best quarterbacks in program history.
Pelton: Absolutely. But even if the Sun Devils do lose, his legacy is by no means tarnished. You might hear some grumblings for the next few weeks (or months, with a bowl loss), but in the years to come we will realize just how big a difference he meant for this program. Let's not forget that he's only lost one game this season. It's not like he has been god awful back there. But 3-0 would look mighty nice.
What difference does home field advantage make in this rivalry?
Emerson: The atmosphere is so amped up and fiery, both teams love playing in it regardless of which city hosts. The Sun Devils are just as excited to play in front of a crowd that hates them as much as the Wildcats are excited to play in front of a crowd that loves them. There is no advantage to playing on the home field.
Krueger: Well not much recently, but from the research I've done on first hand accounts from players, it can play a role. The hatred for the opposing team from the fans can be brutal and if ASU can't zone it out Friday and just play the game, it might not end well for ASU.
Galvin: It doesn't. The school's are 90 minutes apart. Both have numerous alumni in their rivals city. The team's don't care what field it's on. This game is a war. Where it's played means nothing.
Bafaloukos: ASU has won the last two meetings in Tucson and Arizona won the matchup in 2011 in Tempe. Between the lines, I am not sure if home field means that much. Obviously you would rather play at home and most teams play better at home.
Theodore: It shouldn't make too much of a difference. I don't imagine that the Arizona crowd will be so raucous enough that it messes up the Arizona State snap count, and Todd Graham does a great job keeping his team away from penalties. It'll be electric, but won't change the game.
Pelton: A little bit. It's always nicer to play at home, but like others have noted, that hasn't mattered much as of late in this series. The Zona Zoo might induce a couple of false starts, but this team falls victim to those even when playing in silence at home. At the end of the day I don't think it matters. The team that plays the best will win the game.
And finally, who wins the Territorial Cup?
Emerson: This is difficult, in that everything I do is an attempt to be as objective as possible. I predicted ASU to lose games in the past and right now I think the Wildcats are due a win in this rivalry. Arizona 35, ASU 27.
Krueger: ASU in a classic game 34-31.
Galvin: Arizona State, 34-31. Zane Gonzalez is the difference in this one. He won't miss a field goal, and he'll hit the one that matters most.
Bafaloukos: I think this is the year Arizona beats the Sun Devils and Rich Rodriguez gets his first win in this rivalry. The Sun Devils have had a hard time putting together complete games, they will look great for a half but they have not put together 60 minutes of complete play. It is going to close and it may come down to the final drive. Arizona 38, Arizona State 34.
Theodore: At the beginning of the year I picked Arizona to beat ASU, and while I wish I could take credit for the foresight into Arizona's 9-2 season, I think that Arizona State will take this one in Tucson. 41-35 Arizona State.
Pelton: Arizona State, 31-28. The Sun Devils lead by 14 at halftime but Arizona storms back. Rally falls short as Casey Skowron's attempt at the tie is blocked. This is all assuming Solomon plays, by the way. If he sits, ASU should win by at least 17.