Although the Territorial Cup has plenty of significance every year, there’s no doubt that it has some added importance this season.
For the first time since 1986, both sides are nationally ranked and for only the second time each enters the game with at least nine wins. In addition, a Stanford victory over UCLA at the same time Friday afternoon will put the UA-ASU winner into the Pac-12 Championship Game.
There’s plenty of history in this one and a recent three-year stretch of success for the road teams ended last season when the Sun Devils blew out the Wildcats and won for the second consecutive time.
“Is it the most important game on our schedule?” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez asked. “Sure, because it is the rivalry game and the rivalry games are always going to be the most important games when you see it with no records.
"Now the fact that we both have had pretty good years and have even more at stake makes it have an added importance.”
Besides the overall significance of the game, the biggest storyline is likely the status of Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon.
Solomon did not play in the second half of Arizona’s win over Utah and Rodriguez and the signal caller have not given any hints as to what his status for Friday may be.
"Who knows?" Solomon said when asked if he’s playing. "I don’t even know. When it is game time and the lights turn on I should be ready.”
Should Solomon play, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham believes that he presents a major challenge.
“He’s done a tremendous job and is a great operator of the offense,” Graham said. “He has an ability to extend plays and is very elusive in the pocket and you can tell he has a mastery of what they’re trying to do.
“They have a great running attack, and they are very physical in their run game. They have a great receiving core and great running backs and he does a great job of dispersing the ball and managing their offense. I think he is as good as any quarterback they have had.”
The battle for the Territorial Cup is one of the most intense in the country and Graham will try to make sure that his players don’t get too caught up in it.
“I love rivalries, I don’t love getting all of the stuff that I get, but the pageantry and the rivalry between the two teams is unmatched in college football,” he said. “I think the key in this game is not getting too emotional, and that’s something I’ve talked about every year.
“Somebody asked me the other day if the hostility had bothered me, and obviously it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself and it is not something that I would recommend anybody do.
“However, sometimes I get a little chuckle because some of them are pretty good and creative. The key for us is going to be not getting emotional about everything and focus on the game and the fundamentals and do what we have to do to execute and win.”
It may be hard for Arizona to avoid getting emotional a bit, as Friday will be the last home game for 19 seniors.
"It’s a special group because it is 19 seniors playing in their last home game, but it is also a group that has been through a coaching transition from position coaches to head coaches to strength coaches," Rodriguez said.
"There has been a lot of change in their careers here and they have handled it really well. I thought from day one when we first got here that one of the reasons we have been able to transition our program the way we have been able to the last couple of years has been because of the senior classes.”
It remains to be seen how those seniors will see their season come to end, but it is safe to say it will happen in yet another highly competitive and intense Territorial Cup.