Arizona Football

Five off-the-beaten-path storylines of ASU Sun Devils vs. Arizona Wildcats




[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

Five off-the-beaten-path storylines of Arizona vs. ASU while wondering if Rich Rodriguez (don’t laugh) can make the Final Four in only his third year of a rebuilding project in Tucson. …

1. What happens if Arizona and UCLA win tomorrow?

The Wildcats would still be in position for a great bowl at 10-2 but their hopes of a Pac-12 title and potential berth in the College Football Playoff Final Four would be denied.

If Arizona beats ASU and UCLA falls to Stanford, the Wildcats could make the Final Four with a win over Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. How could the committee not put Arizona in the Final Four in such a circumstance beating No. 2 Oregon twice in one year while going 11-2 with a conference championship?

Nobody in the nation is talking about that, but Arizona is only two games away from making that scenario possible.

Think of the Arizona-ASU matchup on the same plateau of a Sweet 16 in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Reeling it back a bit, an Arizona win over ASU would likely put the Wildcats in the top 10 of the College Football Rankings. That would put the Wildcats in position to play in one of the four Selection Committee Bowl Games — Fiesta, Cotton, Orange or Peach.

Given Arizona’s proximity to the Fiesta Bowl, the Wildcats would likely play there against potentially Ohio State or another at-large team.’s Jerry Palm forecasts Boise State. The Buckeyes travel well, so they would be a natural selection to come to Tempe.

2. Worst-case scenario for Arizona?

Other than losing to their arch-rivals for three consecutive years under Rich Rodriguez, the Wildcats would not be in a bad spot at 9-3.


[ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]

[table “” not found /]

Arizona needs to beat ASU and UCLA to lose to Stanford to win the Pac-12 South title.


[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

Potential bowls include the Alamo Bowl, Foster Farms Bowl or Holiday Bowl. Arizona is one of the Pac-12’s top five teams in a group with Oregon, UCLA, ASU and USC. The Wildcats should go to one of the top five bowls mentioned. Second-tier bowls — the Sun Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl –are unlikely options this season.

No trips to a place like Shreveport, La., this time no matter what.

3. Arizona has a good history of denying ASU spoils of the conference.

Twenty-eight years ago, the greatest game between Arizona and ASU at Arizona Stadium took place when the Wildcats routed Rose Bowl-bound ASU 34-17 behind Chuck Cecil’s classic 100-yard interception return. The Sun Devils were thankful they were already in the Rose Bowl, albeit they smelled the roses with a broken nose.


[ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]


But when the ASU-Arizona outcome has a Sun Devil Rose Bowl appearance in the balance, the Wildcats are 2-0. They beat ASU 28-18 at Arizona Stadium in 1982, the start of The Streak. Three years later, in Tempe, Max Zendejas made two field goals in the fourth quarter, including a school-record 57-yarder, to thwart ASU’s Rose Bowl plans again with Arizona winning 16-13.

Arizona is in position tomorrow to eliminate ASU from a Pac-12 title while keeping alive its own hope for a conference championship for the first time in the rivalry since 1975 when the teams were in the WAC. That was the last time Arizona and ASU entered the game with at least nine wins each. ASU won 24-21 in a classic game that included “The Catch” by Sun Devil receiver John Jefferson in the back of the end zone.

Arizona quarterback Bruce Hill, who led the Wildcats to a 9-3 season, was quoted as saying after the upsetting loss: “I’ll look back on this game, not on the others. This was the season. We shouldn’t have won the others if we weren’t going to win this one.”

If Hill could stand before Arizona in the locker room before tomorrow’s game, he would likely mentioned the exact same words.

4. In the history of the rivalry has a second-string quarterback been a factor?

Arizona starting quarterback Anu Solomon is listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game with his sore ankle that has limited his practice time. That means backup Jesse Scroggins is the potential starter against the Sun Devils, a situation that has not happened for Arizona in the rivalry since 1976.

Arizona’s starting quarterback has lasted until the end from 1977 to this season. The list includes: Jim Krohn, Tom Tunnicliffe, Alfred Jenkins, Ron Veal, George Malauulu, Dan White, Keith Smith, Ortege Jenkins, Jason Johnson, Kris Heavner, Richard Kovalcheck, Willie Tuitama, Nick Foles, Matt Scott and B.J. Denker.

Some of them, including Tunnicliffe, Veal and Heavner, were in-season replacements of other quarterbacks, but not leading into the ASU game.

The last time a replacement had to start at quarterback heading into the ASU game was in 1976 when Krohn, a freshman, replaced senior Marc Lunsford after Lunsford injured his throwing arm in the previous game against New Mexico.

Arizona lost to ASU 27-10 at Arizona Stadium after Krohn was shaken up with a mild concussion in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Arizona coach Jim Young was forced to play Lunsford, who was suffering from arm soreness and a gimpy knee that required surgery after that season.

Lunsford and Krohn alternated in the third quarter but Lunsford was forced to finish the game.

If the same scenario holds true tomorrow Rodriguez and Arizona are in for a long afternoon. Rodriguez is hoping either Solomon can go for the entire game or Scroggins can be impressive enough to keep Solomon on the sideline.

5. Expect big plays.

Arizona State’s defense, not what it was last year with nine seniors, is ranked No. 119 nationally in allowing plays of 50 yards or more. The Sun Devils have allowed 12 such plays.

Arizona is ranked No. 87, allowing seven plays of 50 yards or more.

The Wildcats are hoping the running game figures into big-play potential against ASU. Arizona is 8-0 when it has a running back who gained more than 100 yards.

Freshman running back Nick Wilson, who appears healthy from ankle problems that affected him earlier this season, is coming off a dominating 218-yard performance at Utah. Senior running back Terris Jones-Grigsby is also at full strength and determined playing his last game at Arizona Stadium.

Wilson and Terris Jones-Grigsby combine for 1,598 rushing yards. ASU’s rush defense is not bad, but not great, allowing 159.6 yards a game.

Expect the Sun Devils to crowd the line and put pressure on Scroggins if he plays instead of Solomon. ASU will probably do the same if Solomon plays to test his mobility with his ankle. The game will be won or lost in the trenches on both sides.

It’s now or never for Arizona senior offensive linemen Mickey Baucus, Steven Gurrola and Fabbians Ebbele. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also has written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

To Top