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ASU vs. Arizona: Staff Gameday Roundtable

Our staff fires off its last hot takes before ASU-Arizona begins.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Our Panel:

Ryan Bafaloukos - Co-Managing Editor | @RyanBafo
Josh Nacion - Co-Managing Editor | @Josh_Nacion
Kaelen Jones - Staff Writer | @kaelenjones
Kristina Vicario - Staff Writer | @KristinaV_18
Connor Pelton - Staff Writer | @ConnorPelton28

Short-answer questions

What were you most impressed or surprised about the most in ASU's win over Washington?

Bafaloukos: I think the way the ASU defense played in the second half was most impressive. Down Laiu Moeakiola, Jordan Simone and no Kareerm Orr, the unit forced four turnovers and did not allow a point in the final 30 minutes. Washington can score, they hung 49 on Arizona a few weeks back, but ASU held them in check and made key adjustments at halftime.

Nacion: ASU kept running the ball! In the last two games prior to the Washington game, I kept scratching my head why Mike Bercovici would keep firing away in the second half despite big games from Demario Richard and/or Kalen Ballage. With no Scooby Wright III in the middle, I don't see any reason why Ballage and Richard shouldn't be getting the ball in any point of the game.

Jones: Coming back from 17 points. Considering how lifeless the offense looked early on, the comeback seemed so unlikely but, they somehow managed to pull it off.

Pelton: You had to like the team's response to that awful first half. Coming off three straight losses, they could have easily rolled over after that first 30 minutes of football. Instead, they came out with a lot of energy and passion, and it paid off for them. That was really impressive.

Vicario: I was impressed with ASU's fourth-quarter play last week. They've struggled to close out the game in their last three contests prior to Washington, and came up with three, pivotal interceptions that allowed ASU to end their three-game losing streak.

Which senior will be missed the most next year?

Bafaloukos: I'm going to bring on out of left field but I am going to say Nick Kelly. He has been a fixture on the ASU for the past two seasons and has done a great job at center. The center is the player who makes all the calls along the offensive line and I think that leadership and experience will be missed next season.

Nacion: I'll go with a popular answer — D.J. Foster has been the poster child of ASU's "#StayTrue" campaign ever since he arrived on campus four years ago. This season has been an anomaly, but Foster was a major weapon in his first three years, and it will definitely be strange not having Foster around the program as he was a significant part of it since he's a freshman. Like Graham said last week, fans would generally root for a hometown hero like Foster louder than someone like Cameron Smith from Texas.

Jones: Antonio Longino. His versatility as both an edge rusher and as an interior linebacker has been vital to what Todd Graham has been able to do from a schematic standpoint.

Pelton: I'll go with D.J. Foster. He has proved to be so useful all year long and is really a jack of all trades that can be used on offense. It will be very tough to replace that kind of production.

Vicario: Vi Teofilo. He is one of the anchors of the offensive line and holds down the right guard position with excellent blocking skills and has been one of the main reasons the offensive line has improved in its pass protection this year. Teoflio is one of the most important leaders on this team and his presence will be missed next year.

How big of a loss is Jordan Simone to ASU's defense?

Bafaloukos: I'm not sure what it means that ASU played a lot better on defense without Simone. Obviously, Simone is a good player who has a nose for the football, but he struggled mightily this season in the passing game. He was a leader on the ASU defense and was a force in the run game so I think he presence will be missed but I don't think it's as crushing a blow to ASU as losing Fiso, Moeakiola, Smallwood or Longino would be.

Nacion: The biggest way Simone's presence will be missed is from a leadership perspective. I wouldn't call Simone an elite safety, but he's still ASU's undisputed defensive captain.

Jones: I'll say this—Simone isn't the best all-around safety in college football, but his impact in the run game and as a leader has been crucial to the defense's success. At the very least, the volume of his production will be missed.

Pelton: I think the toughest thing to replace will be his leadership. His on-field performance definitely took a dip this season, but Graham needs someone back there as the "quarterback of the defense". Simone was that guy, and that is almost invaluable.

Vicario: Simone's loss is a big one for ASU. Not only was he a leader of the Sun Devil defense, but also his ability to read the opposing team's offense is something that a back-up cannot learn to the same caliber in the last two games of the season.

No one should ever root for their rival. However, rivalries always get more outside attention when both teams are elite heading into their matchup, like last year's Territorial Cup that aired on the main FOX channel and decided the Pac-12 South champion. Is it wrong to hope a rival does well before the big game, or should fans root for their rival to lose no matter what?

Bafaloukos: I'm probably in the minority but I do not think it is wrong to hope your rival does well. Think of how much energy there was last year when the Pac-12 South came down to this game. Not that there isn't buzz surrounding this game, but at the end of the day it is two five-loss teams playing in a game that doesn't mean much for the conference and means nothing on a national scale. To me, this rivalry is a lot better when both teams are good.

Nacion: I see a few too many ASU and UA fans lashing absolute hatred on their rival, then complaining why the Territorial Cup isn't really taken seriously by others. If ASU and UA fans want their teams and their rivalry to be taken seriously by everyone outside of the state, they need the other team to be decent. There's a common theme why the Iron Bowl between the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide is always aired on the national primetime slot, same goes with USC-Notre Dame. Better matchups yield better football and a better atmosphere anyway, and everyone in the conference wins (check the revenue share) if someone shines across the nation.

Jones: Personally, you shouldn't care. Take pride in them being complete trash; look forward to upsetting them if they're good. All you should be concerned about as far as rivalries (nationally-recognized or not) is if you win. Having both teams ranked with conference implications is just extra incentive. Up to you to root for them to be good or not until you play each other.

Pelton: I'm not one of those fans that tells others how and who they should root for. Fandom is personal, and it always will be. However, I rarely, if ever find myself rooting for a rival.

Vicario: In my opinion, fans should always root for their rival to lose no matter what. If you're a fan of the New England Patriots and a Giant's player ends your perfect season in the Super Bowl on a helmet catch, you can bet that every New England Patriots fan wants to see the Giants suffer in every game they play to following year. Yes, it's always exciting to watch a good game, but its also exciting for a fan to watch their team prevail as they see their rival burrow into the earth.

One word answers

Bafaloukos Nacion Jones Pelton Vicario
ASU senior that needs to step up the most? Bercovici Foster Demetrius Cherry Bercovici Foster
Who on ASU rushes for 100 yards? Ballage Ballage & Richard Richard No one Ballage
What bowl do you see ASU reaching? Independence Armed Forces Independence Hawai'i Holiday
Final score? ASU, 34-27 ASU, 35-24 ASU, 33-26 ASU, 31-30 ASU, 27-24