When trash talking begins and all stats go out the window, it can only mean on thing; Rivalry week between Arizona State University and the University of Arizona.
This is what college football fans in this state (sorry NAU) long for. UA versus ASU is usually the regular season finale and lately has not ceased to disappoint. The last three years have seen the game come down to the final play or drive. In 2009, UA won by three on a game winning FG, in 2010, ASU won by one because UA couldn’t make a FG/XP, and in 2011, UA won by four with a strong defensive stand with seconds left in the game.
Now we come to 2012.
Arizona (7-4 (4-4)) enters Friday’s game ranked 24th in the BCS, while ASU (6-5 (4-4)) is unranked and on a bit of a lull, losing five of their last six. This is only the third time in this century where one of the teams is ranked at the time of the Duel in the Desert.
With a win, Arizona will obviously get bragging rights for the next year, but more importantly they will reach the eight win mark, as well as pass USC in the conference standings. They would place fifth (if Washington loses) or six in the conference, meaning they would find themselves either in Vegas, Texas, or Nor-Cal. (So, yes, pretty much everything is still up in the air.)
If Arizona State pulls out a victory, they would pass Arizona and then everything goes to hell in terms of conference standings because there is no obvious tie breaker against Washington (again if they lose).
At the time of this post, Arizona is a three point favorite, which is basically a toss up. UA is far superior on the offensive side, while ASU has a better defense in terms of numbers (23rd compared to 114).
Shootout. Shootout. Shootout.
Only one team has stifled the Arizona offense (UCLA) and I would be shocked if Arizona State could do the same in Arizona Stadium. On the flip side, the UA defense is so crippled, RichRod might be forced to start pulling kids out of the ZonaZoo to play special teams. At home, Arizona has average just under 46 points per game and I doubt their final number is off by more than a touchdown. On the flip side, Arizona State gives up just over 25 points a game when playing on the road. This number is slightly skewed as they played Oregon and UCLA at home.
Even though this game will have plenty of fireworks, it will be determined by the team who can get a stop when needed (like in last years game). For comparison, ASU’s defense allows just 33% of third down conversions, while UA’s ‘D’ is just a little worse, allowing 43%. Arizona will however, have to deal with Arizona States pass rush which ranks number one in the country in sacks.
They average four sacks a game, but when they played Oregon, a similar offense to UA, ASU only registered two sacks (and one was against the back up quarterback). This also lines up with Arizona’s stats, as they have only given up 17 sacks on the season which comes out to just over 1.5 a game.
Whoever can apply pressure and get stops in the fourth quarter will win. Granted, I am not telling you anything new, but as an Arizona fan, if this were to happen, just a few times, it would put the Wildcats in great position to get a ‘W.’ (Aside to those non UA fans: Arizona’s porous defense does not find it prudent to get stops very often, so when it does happen, it is a big moment.)
If you are not excited for this game, you need to head to the doctors. It is the only game where both teams are on the same level and the outcome is up in the air. Have a great Thanksgiving and then come ready to rock Arizona Stadium on Friday!
Stay tuned to for more Rivalry Week articles as the week progresses.
When: Friday, November 24th
Where: Arizona Stadium- Tucson, Arizona