NCAA Friday Night Football: Arizona/Arizona State Preview

by Big Al Staff

The Friday night game on ESPN features a battle for the oldest rivalry trophy in college football. Arizona State and Arizona have played for the Territorial Cup since 1899. The winner of this year’s incarnation of this game will also earn their first victory of this abbreviated season.

Arizona State has only played two games this year, which is the fewest for any team that did not forego the season given COVID concerns. They had not played for three weeks given COVID cancellations before taking the field last week in a 25-18 upset loss to UCLA. Head coach Herm Edwards conceded his team started slowly given the layoff. The scoreboard validated that assessment as the Sun Devils trailed the Bruins by a 17-0 margin before scoring 18 of the final 25 points.

Arizona State opened their season with a 28-27 loss at USC in a game where the Sun Devils surrendered two touchdowns in the final three minutes to lose that contest. This team returned twelve starters from the group that won their final three games last season for an 8-5 season that culminated with a 20-14 win against Florida State in the Sun Bowl.

Jayden Daniels completed 21 of 35 passes for 225 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the loss to UCLA. The sophomore quarterback has completed 32 of 58 passes for just a 55.8% completion percentage for 359 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Daniels is adjusting to a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Zak Hill. While Arizona State did have seven spring practices, the disruption of the fall practice routine has not been ideal.

The Sun Devils have struggled to stop the pass as they rank 118th in the nation by allowing 286.5 passing yards-per-game. Starting defensive backs, Jack Jones and Aashari Crosswell, were suspended to begin the season, and Crosswell has since opted-out for the rest of the season to prepare for the NFL draft.

Arizona has lost eleven games in a row with their 0-4 start to this season. Ten of those losses have been by double-digits to firmly place head coach Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat in the third year with the program. The Wildcats lost at home to Colorado last week by a 24-13 score.

Losing quarterback Grant Gunnell to an injury on the first snap in their game with UCLA two weeks ago has not helped matters. The sophomore completed 62.5% of his passes last season in his freshman season with 1239 yards on 155 attempts with nine touchdown passes and only one interception to raise expectations for this year. He is questionable with his shoulder injury for this game.

Freshman Will Plummer has completed 36 of 67 passes in his absence of 305 yards. He has thrown three interceptions without a touchdown pass. He has not been helped by an offensive line that has allowed 4.25 sacks-per-game, which is the fourth-worst in the nation. Arizona is struggling to complete drives as well, as they rank 109th in the nation red zone offense.

Arizona surrendered 407 yards on the ground to the Buffaloes last week. They are second-to-last in the nation by allowing 273.5 rushing yards-per-game.

Arizona State has won the last three games in this rivalry after they defeated the Wildcats on November 30th of last season by a 24-14 score. BetAnySports lists the Sun Devils as an 11.5-point favorite with the total set at 56. The ESPN broadcast starts at 7 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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