The nation’s oldest rivalry will have more meaning than usual when Arizona State hosts Arizona in a Pac-12 game on Saturday afternoon. Both teams enter their 91st meeting tied for second in the South Division behind USC, and second place would be the highest finish for either team since Arizona won the division in 2014.
The Wildcats have the most proficient offense in the Pac-12 and remain the only FBS team that averages at least seven yards per carry. Their run game is spearheaded by quarterback Khalil Tate, who has gained 1,325 yards on the ground, despite not becoming a full-time player until the fifth game. Both teams have struggled against the pass this season and sit at the bottom of the conference rankings, but Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins likely has good memories of his last game against Arizona, when he completed 43-of-58 passes for a career-high 372 yards and three touchdowns last season. The defense didn’t have as much success and the Sun Devils lost 56-35 to finish the season with six consecutive defeats, but they’ll have a lot more to play for Saturday.
TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: Arizona -2.
ABOUT ARIZONA (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12): The Wildcats are also third in the FBS at 331.6 rushing yards a game, and Tate isn’t the only player capable of picking up big chunks on the ground. J.J. Taylor is second on the team with 754 rushing yards and has surpassed 100 yards in two of the past four games. Nick Wilson, who has 534 rushing yards and six touchdowns this season, ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-35 win against Arizona three years ago, but was held to seven yards the following season and didn’t play against the Wildcats as a junior because of an injury.
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE (6-5, 5-3): The Sun Devils have one of the top receivers in the Pac-12 in N‘Keal Harry, who is third in the conference in average receptions per game (6.3) and No. 1 in yards per game (87). He’ll be looking to poke holes in an Arizona secondary that gives up an average of 287.3 passing yards, which is not only last in the Pac-12, but 124th out of 129 teams in the FBS. Wilkins completed 16 combined passes to running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage in last season’s loss to Arizona, and that gives Arizona State additional options in the passing game.
1. Arizona is second in the nation with 17 interceptions after intercepting eight last season.
2. The Wildcats have five players with at least one 100-yard rushing game this season.
3. Arizona State allows an average of 3.09 sacks a game. Only seven teams in the FBS give up more.
PREDICTION: Arizona 48, Arizona State 45