It has been an up and down year for the Arizona Wildcats, but through all of it, they will enter territorial cup Saturday with a 7-4 record. After a 3-9 season last year it was clear changes needed to be made. They were made, and apparently they worked.
With an offense that scores just shy of 43 points per game, the Wildcats will look to give ASU’s inconsistent defense fits.
If the Sun Devils are to contain their rivals from down south and escape with a victory, here’s who they’ll need to focus on.
Khalil Tate - Sophomore QB
This one should be a no-brainer. Tate took over in the Wildcats’ fifth game of the season against Colorado after the incumbent starter Brandon Dawkins went down with an injury. All he did in his debut was break an FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a game with 327. Since then, he has lead Arizona to a 5-2 record and bowl eligibility following last year’s embarrassing showing. His arm isn’t what will hurt you though as he has only thrown for 1,157 yards and nine touchdowns, while he has run for 1,325 and 11 scores. Forcing him to throw as USC did late in their game, ended up exposing his weakness as they managed to pick him off twice late in the game to seal it. A native of Inglewood, California, Tate has not only impressed college football fans with his gaudy numbers, but he has made a mark on Heisman voters as he is currently ranked on ESPN’s Heisman Watch. In order to slow him down, Arizona State’s linebackers will need to step up to contain Tate and force the Wildcats to throw the football.
Zach Green - Senior RB
While Khalil Tate and J.J Taylor take the majority of the touches for U of A, the Wildcats have multiple backs that they have utilized en route to a season with 44 touchdowns on the ground to this point. Zach Green is a back that they use in close to punch the ball in from short range. The Miami native has 10 rushing touchdowns this season on just 61 touches and 300 yards. Green’s workload has increased recently as he has found pay dirt in each of the last five games, including two two-touchdown performances in that timespan. At just 5-10, Green may not be the fastest athlete on the field, but at 225 pounds, it is a tall task to as someone to bring him down. With ASU’s tackling struggles in weeks past, Green could prove to be a crucial player come Saturday night who could make or break this game. For Arizona State’s defense though, it will really boil down to tackling and containing Tate if they want to stand a chance.
Colin Schooler - Freshman LB
It’s not a secret that the U of A defense is not the team’s strong suit. They allow an average of 33 points (two more than ASU) as well as nearly 471 yards per game (23 more than ASU). However, there are a few stand outs in the Wildcat defense such as Colin Schooler. A freshman out of Mission Viejo High School in California has had an incredible season racking up 75 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two interceptions. With the success ASU has had running the ball in recent games, specifically through the use of Demario Richard, Schooler should be a key player for the Wildcats if they are to stop the Sun Devil run attack.
As last year proved, it doesn’t matter how either school is doing heading into the territorial cup, it’s a rivalry game and everything goes out the window.
Emotions will undoubtedly be high on both sides and in the stands, but if Arizona State wants a chance at revenge for last year’s loss, these are just a few of the guys they’ll need to key in on to do so.