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ASU Football: First Look at Arizona

Will the Cats take back the Cup?

Oregon State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona State Sun Devils (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) are coming off a huge win after knocking off the No. 6 Oregon Ducks and crushing their college football playoff dreams.

The question now is will they be able to keep the momentum going to beat the Arizona Wildcats (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12) in the Territorial Cup, or will the hype from last week get in their heads too much?

As with any rivalry game, there is some bad blood between the teams. The Wildcats will be coming into Tempe hot on Saturday night and looking for revenge after the Sun Devils came back from a 19-point deficit to take home the win and keep the cup for back-to-back years.

Arizona State is currently a two-touchdown favorite, but the Wildcats have lost six straight and if there’s one game for them to get hungry for a win, it’s this one. However, they haven’t won in Tempe since 2011.

Let’s take a look at the school from down south:

Struggling stars on offense

On paper and on the field, senior quarterback Khalil Tate is not having as great of a season as his did in 2018.

This season, Tate only has 1,700 passing yards compared to his 2,500 last season. He has thrown eight interceptions and only 12 touchdowns.

Interceptions are the same for Tate, but his touchdown total is almost cut in half compared to last season. His run game has improved from 224 to 335 yards.

He has been competing with freshman Grant Gunnell, who has 1,200 passing yards, nine touchdowns and one interception. Gunnell started over Tate on Senior Night last week against Utah.

It wouldn’t be surprising if fans saw Gunnell get the start against the Sun Devils’ Saturday.

J.J. Taylor came into the season with intents to be Arizona’s star running back, but he’s struggled for most of the season dealing with an ankle injury he acquired in September against Texas Tech.

Taylor returned to action in the game against Colorado, but only had one carry for four yards.

His first complete game for the Wildcats came against Stanford late in October where he had 16 carries for 107 yards. He has five touchdowns total.

Taylor announced last week that he is going to forego his senior year and enter the NFL Draft.

Defense needs to step up

The Ducks found out how terrifying Jayden Daniels’ arm is last week, and it is something that Herm Edwards has talked about as well. He connected with Brandon Aiyuk and Frank Darby multiple times, leading them to success.

This is something that the Wildcats need to be prepared for as well, as their numbers on the defensive side aren’t great. They are giving up an average of 308 passing yards per game, and 176 rushing yards for a total of 483 yards per game.

Linebacker Colin Schooler leads the Cats with 88 total tackles. Schooler has 214 tackles combined from his first two seasons in Tucson. He averages eight tackles a game.

This defense, starting with Schooler, has the tools to get pressure to Daniels, which could lead him to make mistakes leading toward the Wildcats’ favor.

They have 11 interceptions, the third most in the Pac. However, they’re getting outscored by their opponents 405-309, and their opponents are averaging 36 points a game.

With all the hype from last week lingering over into this week, the Sun Devils might come into this game cocky, which will be where the Wildcats could capitalize.