Over the course of the remaining weeks separating us from the return of Sun Devil football, House of Sparky is taking a week-by-week look at the opponents ASU will face this season. So far we've covered ASU's non-conference schedule as well as their first seven Pac-12 opponents of the year. After hosting the Huskies at home, ASU will welcome in Arizona on November 21 for the much-anticipated Territorial Cup.
Opponent Primer Schedule:
July 8 - Texas A&M - Read
July 13 - Cal Poly - Read
July 15 - New Mexico - Read
July 20 - USC - Read
July 22 - UCLA - Read
July 27 - Colorado - Read
July 29 - Utah - Read
August 3 - Oregon - Read
August 6 - Washington State - Read
August 10 - Washington- Read
August 12 - Arizona
August 17 - California
Arizona's 2014 Season:
Arizona had a season remarkably similar to Arizona State in 2014. The Wildcats went 10-4, with a huge Week Five upset of a No. 2 ranked Ducks team (Oregon's only regular season loss) and a five-game winning streak to start off the season.
USC snapped the streak in Tucson and the Wildcats dropped another game in Los Angeles to UCLA before cementing a 7-2 conference record and claiming the Pac-12 South Title with a 42-35 Territorial Cup win over Arizona State.
Arizona leapt up to No. 8 in the AP Poll at the end of the regular season but was embarrassed in its rematch with the Ducks in the Championship game (lost 51-13) and ended its impressive regular season with a 38-30 loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Arizona had the third best scoring offense in the conference in 2014, behind Oregon and Cal, with 42 touchdowns on the season.
However, Arizona loses five starters on defense as well as a big chunk of its offensive line, with both its tackles and its center running out of college eligibility.
C Steven Gurrola
The Wildcats lose a lot in the leader of their offensive line. The smaller sized center (6-foot-2, 286 pounds) had two years of experience alongside both veteran tackles, started in all 14 games at center and had the versatility to shift into either guard position.
S Jared Tevis
Tevis was a huge physical presence in the Wildcat's secondary, collecting 120 tackles (79 solo), with nine for a loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles in the 2014 season.
OT Fabbians Ebbele
The Wildcats lose 315 pounds of pure muscle on their offensive line in their right tackle who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Green Bay Packers after his senior season. The 6-foot-8 tackle was a member of the o-line that allowed Arizona to rush for 163.7 yards a game for 17 rushing touchdowns last season.
LB Scooby Wright
Wright is undeniably Arizona's most valuable player and arguably the nation's top defender going into the 2015 season. He nearly swept every defensive player of the year award last season, led the country in stops with 163 and with tackles for a loss per game with 29 for a loss of 96 yards through 14 games. The 6-foot-1, 229-pound LB accrued 14 sacks for a loss of 71 yards and forced six fumbles, making him the most prolific player on the Wildcat's defense.
QB Anu Solomon
The QB proved wildly efficient in his freshman campaign, throwing for 28 touchdowns and 3,793 yards (270 yards a game), as well as rushing for two touchdowns to accumulate 4,094 yards of total offense.
RB Nick Wilson
The freshman running back combined with his freshman counterpart at QB to average 34.5 points per game of Arizona's 35.7 points per game average. Wilson averaged 105.8 yards a game for a total of 1, 375 yards on the season.
Reasons for ASU Optimism:
IN ESPN's preseason rankings, the Sun Devils ring in at No. 17, with the Wildcats at No. 18. ESPN also predicts a 65.2 percent chance for ASU to win this matchup.
Both ASU and Arizona face tough bouts of conference play and losses to their offensive line, however the difference is all in the schedule.
Arizona bookends its conference play with UCLA and Stanford at the beginning and USC, Utah and Arizona State (for the Territorial Cup on the road) at the end. And Arizona must face all of that without a bye.
Going against a team with a tough schedule while returning just six senior starters, ASU has every opportunity to come off two easier games (at Washington and home for Washington State) to take advantage of a fatigued Wildcat team for a home Territorial Cup victory.
Reasons for ASU Pessimism:
Scooby Wright. ASU also needs to replace both offensive tackles. The Sun Devils need to fill those ends that will give Mike Bercovici, a QB that is a lot less mobile in the pocket than Taylor Kelly was, a fighting chance.
ASU needs to carry the momentum into this game as they did in their five-game midseason winning streak last year. ASU defeated USC -- remember the Jael Mary? -- to propel them for victories over Stanford, Washington, Utah (in OT) and Notre Dame, only to then stall out and lose to an unranked Oregon State team, pulling themselves out of the CFB Playoff conversation.
However if the Sun Devils allow the momentum to stall again, falling to Oregon and then getting upset in either of their two Washington games in which they are favored, and Arizona pulls off an upset and rides into the matchup with the Pac-12 South again at stake, ASU fans could see another too-close-for-comfort Territorial Cup battle.
Besides, this is a rivalry game. Just about anything can happen.