In many respects, the "worst case scenarios" for the Sun Devils have sadly come true in 2009; however ASU can regain some semblance of order and momentum into the offseason with a win against Arizona, a team it has beaten seven of the past 10 times they have clashed.
Projected Offensive Starting Lineup
QB 8 Nick Foles So. 6-5 235 Austin, Texas
RB 28 Greg Nwoko RS-Fr. 6-2 220 Pflugerville, Texas
WR 84 Terrell Turner Sr. 6-2 190 Garland, Texas
WR 18 Delashaun Dean Jr. 6-4 202 Fairfield, Calif.
WR 81 David Roberts So. 6-0 190 Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
TE 88 A.J. Simmons Jr. 6-3 255 Oakland, Calif.
LT 74 Mike Diaz Sr. 6-5 320 Montbello, Calif.
LG 54 Herman Hall Sr. 6-3 303 Houston, Texas
C 64 Colin Baxter Jr. 6-4 295 Rolling Hills, Calif.
RG 70 Vaughn Dotsy So. 6-5 335 Ventura, Calif.
RT 78 Adam Grant Sr. 6-6 325 Puyallup, Wash.
No player in the Pac-10 has been more of a surprise than Arizona's Nick Foles, as the former transfer from Michigan State wasn't starting until the fourth game of the season but has had performances as strong as any passer in the league this year.
A native Texan, Foles has completed 203-of-294 passes (69.0 pct.) for 2,033 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. A compelling storyline for the Wildcats' matchup with the Devils as Foles initially committed to play at ASU before attending Michigan State, Foles ranks second in the league in completion percentage and touchdown passes, third in passer rating (141.21) and fourth in passing yards-per-game (225.9).
The starter to begin the season, dual-threat quarterback Matt Scott has appeared in seven games with three starts, completing 40-of-71 passes (56.3 pct.) with one touchdown and three interception while also placing third on the team in rushing with 276 yards on 36 carries (7.7 avg.).
One of the finest backs in the conference, Arizona has been unable to fully utilize Nic Grigsby because of injuries, and the junior has totaled 559 yards and five touchdowns on 75 carries (7.5 avg.), a strong decrease from his 1,153-yard season from a year ago.
Top backup Keola Antolin (439 yards, three touchdowns) has appeared in every game but hasn't been at full health, creating a need for redshirt freshman Greg Nwoko (60 carries, 245 yards and three touchdowns) and senior Nick Booth (36 carries, 150 yards and two touchdowns) to take on greater roles.
Grigsby will be unavailable against ASU, so in all likelihood the Wildcats will rely on a committee approach in its running game.
In the absence of departed star Mike Thomas, the recipient of game MVP honors last year, and a season-ending injury to All-America caliber tight end Rob Gronkowski, receiver Terrell Turner has stepped in as Arizona's top target in the passing game, leading the team with 44 catches, while ranking second on the squad with 422 yards and four touchdowns.
While only starting three of 10 games, lengthy receiver Juron Criner has emerged into a solid threat, leading Arizona with 497 yards on 34 catches, while tying Oregon State's James Rodgers for the Pac-10 lead with eight touchdown catches.
Delashaun Dean has started seven games, second most among Wildcat receivers, and notching 30 catches for 284 yards, while Dave Roberts (34 catches, 353 yards) and David Douglas (30 catches, 284 yards) and William Wright (14 catches, 152 yards) have been consistent contributors as well.
As expected, productivity has dropped significantly at the tight end/h-back positions in Gronkowski's absence, as A.J. Simmons and Rob's older brother Chris Gronkowski have combined for 13 catches for 150 yards.
Undoubtedly the most integral cog helping Arizona remain offensively consistent among a quarterback change and offensive personnel losses and injuries has been the incredible play of its offensive line, not only assisting in Arizona's total offense which ranks second in the Pac-10 (429.7) but also having allowed only eight sacks in 10 games, second fewest in the Pac-10.
Center Colin Baxter and right tackle Adam Grant have started all 10 games, while left guard Herman Hall has started a combined eight games at both guard positions, while Mike Diaz has been with the first-team in the same amount of games at left tackle. Right guard Vaughn Dotsy has started seven contests, and collectively this group of five is positioned to start its fifth consecutive game together.
Without question, for ASU to regain ownership of the Territorial Cup, the Sun Devil defense will need to take command over the Arizona offense; if not, an advantageous Wildcat defense will greatly challenge ASU if the Sun Devil offense needs to be in control for the home team.
Projected Defensive Starting Lineup
DE 44 Ricky Elmore Jr. 6-5 250 Simi Valley, Calif.
DT 49 Earl Mitchell Sr. 6-2 295 Houston, Texas
DT 46 Donald Horton Sr. 6-2 275 DeSoto, Texas
DE 42 Brooks Reed Jr. 6-3 255 Tucson, Ariz.
SLB 52 Sterling Lewis Sr. 5-11 225 Copperas Cove, Texas
MLB 8 Vuna Tuihalamaka Sr. 6-2 230 Inglewood, Calif.
WLB 15 Xavier Kelley Sr. 5-11 215 Denton, Texas
SS 1 Robert Golden So. 5-11 190 Fresno, Calif.
FS 20 Cam Nelson Sr. 6-1 202 Dallas, Texas
CB 24 Trevin Wade So. 5-11 182 Round Rock, Texas
CB 6 Devin Ross Sr. 5-11 175 Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Through 10 games, Arizona has provided one of the more underrated defenses in the Pac-10, as the Wildcats ranks second behind ASU in total defense (320.7), third in rushing defense (112.1) and fourth in pass defense (208.6).
Formerly a fullback when the Wildcats utilized the offensive position, Earl Mitchell has become one of the most consistent defensive tackles in the Pac-10 since his relocation before last season, ranking second on the team in both sacks (4.5) and tackles-for-loss (8.5) among his 34 total stops on the year. Donald Horton joins Mitchell as a full-time starter at defensive tackle, collecting 19 tackles and 1.0 sack on the season.
Lolomana Mikaele is placed as the top reserve to both Mitchell and Horton at either tackle spot, but has managed only eight total tackles on the year.
Though not expected to be the Wildcat defensive end to be the team's most talented pass rusher, Ricky Elmore leads the team and ranks eighth in the league 8.5 sacks among his 35 total tackles. Brooks Reed, expected to be a double-digit sack candidate, has missed three games this year and has contributed only 14 tackles and 1.0 sack as a starter in five of seven games played.
D'Aundre Reed is noted as the top reserve at both end positions and has collected 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 10 games.
Linebacker Xavier Kelley leads Arizona and ranks 13th in the league with 60 total tackles, adding 3.5 tackles-for-loss and 2.0 sacks as a starter in all 10 games, while Sterling Lewis has started eight of 10 games opposite Kelley at outside linebacker, collecting 32 tackles including 4.0 tackles-for-loss and two sacks. Senior middle linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka has been one of Arizona's more consistent defenders, notching 58 tackles including 4.5 tackles-for-loss as a starter in all 10 games.
Corey Hall is the most accomplished reserve linebacker, with 32 tackles and 2.0 sacks to his name this year; however the remaining three backups listed on Arizona's depth chart have combined for only 13 total tackles.
The majority of Arizona's defensive talent lies in its secondary, led by safety Cam Nelson, who ranks third on the team with 58 tackles while also registering 5.0 tackles-for-loss, three sacks and a team-high three forced fumbles.
Former blue-chip cornerback prospect Robert Golden, who was moved to safety this offseason, has made a seamless transition and has totaled 33 tackles and two interceptions as a starter in all 10 games at strong safety.
Joe Perkins (14 tackles, one interception) backs up Golden at strong safety, while true freshman Adam Hall (nine tackles), who earned Arizona State Player of the Year honors in 2008, has earned time as the top reserve at free safety.
The Wildcats boast two of the most talented cornerbacks in the league in Devin Ross and Trevin Wade. Ross ranks second on the team in tackles (59) and pass breakups (eight), while the ball-hawking Wade ranks fourth in the conference with four interceptions and also leads Arizona with nine pass breakups while also notching 52 tackles.
Reserves Mike Turner and Marcus Benjamin have combined for 10 tackles in action behind Ross and Wade.
While Arizona has provided a forceful, attacking defense, the main chink in the Wildcats' defensive armor has been its scoring defense, which ranks seventh in the league (24.4). To Arizona's advantage, ASU has had little offensive consistency for the majority of the season, especially among the Sun Devils' quarterback merry-go-round over the past month.
Special Teams Lineup and Preview
K 14 Alex Zendejas So. 5-11 190 Glendale, Ariz.
P 47 Keenyn Crier Jr. 6-1 202 Spring, Texas
KR 86 Travis Cobb Jr. 6-0 180 Rocky Mount, N.C.
26 Nick Booth Sr. 6-2 221 Naperville, Ill.
PR 19 William Wright So. 5-9 175 Tatum, Okla.
In his first year as Arizona's full-time kicker, Alex Zendejas, whose family has had a significant impact on Territorial Cup battles for both Arizona and ASU, has connected on 15-of-19 field goals while punter Keenyn Crier boasts a strong leg but ranks only ninth in the league with an average of 40.5 yards on 33 punts.
Arizona has two of the most dangerous return men in the Pac-10, as punt returner William Wright leads the league with a 20.0-yard average, although he is barely eligible with only eight returns in eight games. Travis Cobb ranks second in the conference with an average of 26.5-yards on 23 returns. Each player has one return touchdown.
For only the fifth time since the Frank Kush era at ASU the Sun Devils enter its annual meeting with Arizona with no chance at bowl eligibility; a tremendous factor toward the motivation and pride of those in maroon and gold.
Last year, the Wildcats provided the most lopsided win in the series since 2003, handling the Devils in a strong second half effort, 31-10 in Tucson.
Motivation admittedly is not on the side of the Sun Devils, as they face the possibility at consecutive seasons which include six-game losing streaks, while missing the postseason for consecutive seasons for the first time since an eight-season bowl drought from 1988-95, while regardless the outcome of Arizona's final two games the Wildcats will earn consecutive postseason bids for the first time since 1997-98.
As the Sun Devil senior class, including career contributors such as Dexter Davis, Travis Goethel, Shawn Lauvao, Chris McGaha, Dimitri Nance, Mike Nixon and Kyle Williams takes the field for the final time, it will be the pride of defending ASU's home turf and bringing the Sun Devils back to its previous in-state dominance over the Wildcats that will give ASU its hope on Saturday.
Inspiration and pride, if present, will be what guides the Sun Devils when they take the field to attempt to regain the Territorial Cup. Though postseason aspirations have escaped the Sun Devils, a rivalry is vital to the overall sentiments of the football program, recruiting and local public perception; all categories that have suffered this season.
Lineup Notes and Injury Updates
- Samson Szakacsy will start in his second consecutive game, backed up by Danny Sullivan. - There is a remote chance that center Thomas Altieri will play, as he tries to come back from knee injury. If he were to start, Garth Gerhart would move to right guard and replace Brent Good. - Cornerback Deveron Carr is out with a shoulder injury. Terell Carr will take his place in the starting lineup. Five Questions: ASU vs. Arizona
It's far too late in the season to toss around a variety of questions and hypothetical situations. At this point, it is a matter of whether the Sun Devils have the fortitude between their ears, in their chests and beneath their cups to set aside the impossibility of the postseason and gain a much-needed rivalry win.
- Running back Keola Antolin was a teammate of ASU cornerback Josh Jordan at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nev.
- Wide receiver Delashaun Dean was a teammate of ASU defensive end Jamarr Robinson at Fairfield (Calif.) High School.
- Offensive lineman Mike Diaz attended Cerritos (Calif.) College, the same as ASU cornerback LeQuan Lewis.
- Offensive lineman Vaughn Dotsy was a high school teammate of ASU starting quarterback Samson Szakacsy at St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura, Calif.
- Quarterback Nick Foles originally committed to ASU during his senior year of high school before signing with Michigan State and ultimately transferring to Arizona.