Week 13 Game Matchup: Arizona Wildcats VS. Arizona State Sun Devils

By Dave Consolazio and Sam Saig, November 27, 2009 10:01 am

Arizona Wildcats (6-4) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (4-7)
Saturday, November 28, 12:30 PM PST
Las Vegas Favorite: Arizona -3.0

Sam’s Take (49 – 19):

This year’s installment of the Dual in the Desert had tremendous potential a week ago. After all, if Arizona could have hung on against Oregon and/or if ASU could have found a serviceable offense against the Bruins, one or both programs would have something special to play for. As it stands, the Devils have no shot at a bowl game and the ‘Cats have no shot at the “The Granddaddy of Them All”

So what is there to play for now? Much like this year’s UCLA-USC game, the Territorial Cup comes down to bragging rights in 2009. The two schools steaming hatred for one another will still provide plenty of motivation, and I expect aggressive physical play before, during and after the whistle.

Arizona heads to Tempe mentally drained and injury plagued. It has been a “what if” season for the ‘Cats, as the program really was only a few wacky bounces away from an undefeated conference record. Sonny Dykes offense will be without RB Nic Grigsby for yet another week, and it could also be without RB Keola Antolin. Arizona State is a good run-stopping team to begin with, so the Wildcats could really struggle to establish a ground game with their two most explosive backs out.

Fortunately for UA, QB Nic Foles is playing so well that it may not matter. Arizona will likely utilize their quick passing attack often this week, especially against a makeshift ASU secondary that has struggled with consistency.

For the second straight week, the Sun Devils will turn to QB Samson Szakacsy. Szakacsy is the best playmaking QB on the roster, but he’s also prone to making mistakes (as he proved against UCLA). If the sophomore has a big game against UA it will provide a huge shot in the arm for a program in search of an offensive identity (and Szakacsy would likely be at the top of the depth chart for 2010).

On paper this is a 10-point UA win, but rivalries are never that simple. I expect a physically dominant ASU defensive front seven to make life tough on Foles and Co. Will frustrating the potent ‘Cats attack be enough for the Devils to win? I don’t think it will. ASU has wasted great defensive performance all season, and I expect to see it happen again because of another underwhelming offensive performance.

Prediction: Arizona 27 – Arizona State 21

Arizona Player to Keep an Eye On: DT Earl Mitchell - Mitchell has been a dominant presence in the middle of the UA d-line, and I expect him to overpower a vulnerable ASU o-line.

Arizona State Player to Keep an Eye On: WR Kyle Williams - Williams has flourished since Szakacsy took over at QB (150 receiving yards 3 TDs in 2 games), and I expect to see more of the same this week.

Dave’s Take (50 – 18):

In most cases, coming off of a second-overtime loss which knocks a team out of the running for the conference title would set up a prime let-down type of game the following week.

A game against a hated rival isn’t “most cases”.

While there is nothing on the line this Saturday other than pride and in-state bragging rights, both teams should be at their best for that motivation alone.

I’d like to take the Sun Devils, I really would. I feel the same way I do about this one as I do about most Sun Devils games; they have the elite defense to keep it close, and they always seem to be just a play or two away from springing the upset, and this just might be the week.

Unfortunately, it never is. Every time I pick the Devils, the offense continues to putter and the defense’s effort goes to waste.

This game should be a lot of fun, and it could easily go either way. But while ASU may have the slight edge on defense, Arizona has the more noticeable one on offense; and I expect it to be the difference.

Prediction: Arizona 24 – Arizona State 17

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