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ASU Football: Storylines to watch at Arizona

Setting up to be an intense matchup in Tucson

Zac BonDurant

TEMPE - Are rivalries more interesting when nothing but pride is on the line?

Arizona (4-7, 3-5 Pac-12) and its fans are starving for the Territorial Cup, which has not established residency in Tucson in the last six years. Arizona State (3-8, 2-6), on the other hand, could do wonders for the program’s identity going forward with a rivalry win to positively cap-off an otherwise negative season.

As always, the annual in-state clash will have storylines galore, so here is what House of Sparky will be watching on Friday afternoon in Tucson.

Does Trenton Bourguet have a happy homecoming? Plus, Valladay against a poor rushing defense.

Bourguet is a well-know Tucson-native who set the Arizona 5A record for career touchdown passes (89) at Marana High School. He combined for 966 yards on a 75.2 percent completion rate, with eight touchdowns and three interceptions in the Washington, Colorado and UCLA games, but he has since cooled off since sustaining an injury in the 28-18 loss at Washington State. Will there be some extra motivation for the junior quarterback? Almost certainly.

Arizona touts the second-worst total defense in the Pac-12, but most of that is due to a struggling run-defense unit that allows 213.5 yards per-game on the ground to opponents.

Cue X Valladay.

A 200-plus-yard performance would slingshot Valladay onto the Sun Devil single-season leaderboards, and improve his draft stock leading into the college all-star games post-bowl season.

Ben Scott dressed last week, but backup Ben Bray received the start. Scott has no injury designation this week, so expect him to be back. Meanwhile, captain and left guard LaDarius has a questionable tag for Friday’s game. With no practice viewing this week, participation statuses are unknown.

Which team keeps a cooler head when emotions flare?

It was perfect social media fodder for Sun Devil fans when Pac-12 Network cameras caught Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura and receiver Dorian Singer getting into an altercation on the sidelines.

While same-team scuffles have not been an issue for ASU (we assume), the Sun Devils are far from the most disciplined team in the Pac-12. Unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties are common. The Sun Devils were a score-and-a-stop away from a potential game-tying drive against UCLA when Khoury Bethley was flagged for extracurriculars, essentially sealing a Bruin win.

This game will be chippy. It is a guarantee. Which team is smart about it? And which team will be the instigator? It is an age-old cliche in football, but the officials always punish the retaliator. Sometimes, the best words are the ones left unsaid.

Will there be healthy scratches and/or new faces?

As much as Aguano and the coaching staff wants the focus to be on the Territorial Cup, it is clear-as-day that the transition process into next season is underway.

ASU has reportedly had talks with Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny DIllingham about the head-coaching position, per On Wednesday afternoon, Sun Devil defensive lineman Omarr Norman-Lott, who returned to ASU from the transfer portal last offseason, tweeted an ominous thank you-slash-goodbye to Sun Devil Nation.

Will Norman-Lott even play on Friday? How many others have made up their mind to jump ship? Or will the Territorial Cup be the final farewell for seniors and prospective-transfers? As coaching rumors heat up, players are obviously thinking about their respective futures, but how will that impact personnel for Friday’s game?

It’s possible some players off the two-deep make an appearance against Arizona, particularly on defense.