Nov 22, 2023 - News

More than just the Territorial Cup could be at stake in ASU-UofA rivalry game

The Territorial Cup. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

ASU and UofA's final season of Pac-12 football hasn't had many highlights for the Sun Devils, but they have a chance to end their season on a high note by upsetting an unexpectedly strong Wildcats team.

Driving the news: ASU and UofA play their annual rivalry game at 1:30pm Saturday at Mountain America Stadium.

State of play: The Sun Devils have struggled through a 3-8 season, while the Wildcats have been the surprise of the conference this year, going 8-3 and climbing to No. 16 in the AP rankings.

Yes, but: The rivalry game is a different animal as far as ASU head coach Kenny Dillingham is concerned, and whatever happened before this week is irrelevant.

  • "There's two seasons when you play at ASU. There's the first 11 games and that's one season. And then there's the team-down-south week and that's entirely another season," he told the Arizona Republic.

The intrigue: There's more at stake this year than who takes home the Territorial Cup — UofA has a shot at making it to the final Pac-12 championship game, but the only way for that to happen is for the Wildcats to beat ASU.

  • Even then, the Wildcats still need No. 15 Oregon State to upset No. 6 Oregon on the Ducks' home field on Friday.
  • The No. 5-ranked Washington Huskies have already punched their tickets to the conference title game.

Who to watch: Backup quarterback Noah Fifita stepped in as UofA's starter on Sept. 30 after Jayden de Laura suffered an ankle injury. Since, the Wildcats have gone 5-2 and are on a five-game winning streak.

  • UofA wideout Tetairoa McMillan has 976 receiving yards, the third-most in the Pac-12, and nine touchdowns, which is tied for fifth.

Of note: The Pac-12 nixed its north and south divisions last year and refashioned the conference championship game so it features the top two teams.

  • If the Pac-12 South still existed, Arizona would be leading it.
  • UofA's only appearance in the conference title game was in 2014, when the Wildcats lost to Oregon.

Context: This is the first time since 2014 the Wildcats have been ranked going into the rivalry game.

  • ASU and UofA were both ranked that year.
  • The last time ASU defeated a ranked Wildcats team for the Territorial Cup was 1992.
  • UofA leads the rivalry 50–45–1, largely as a result of the Wildcats' 20-2 record to start the rivalry from 1899-1948.

The big picture: ASU and UofA will join the Big 12 next year, as will fellow Pac-12 teams Colorado and Utah.

  • Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington will join the Big 10 next year, while Cal and Stanford become ACC members.
  • It's unclear whether the Pac-12 will completely dissolve or reconstitute itself with new members. A superior court judge in eastern Washington last week awarded Oregon State and Washington State, the conference's last two teams, control of the Pac-12 and its assets.

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