The New Duel - Arizona State at Arizona
Posted Nov 23, 2012

Week 13 Fearless Prediction – Arizona State at Arizona

Arizona State (6-5) at Arizona (7-4) Nov. 23, 10:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal: Just how close has the Duel in the Desert been in recent years? The last three meetings have been decided on the final play.

The 86th battle for the Territorial Cup will mark the first meeting between Arizona's Rich Rodriguez and Arizona State Todd Graham. And while both coaches have raised the bar in their respective debut, a final verdict will be withheld until after this Friday's game. Rodriguez has enjoyed the better first season up to this point, inheriting a questionable collection of talent and transforming it into a dangerous Pac-12 team. The Cats have won four of their last five, with victories over Oklahoma State, Washington and USC standing out on the 2012 resume.

Arizona State was fortunate to have started quickly, because it's been shaky ever since jumping out to a 5-1 mark on Oct. 11. The Sun Devils, who wound up being overrated in the first half of the year, needed last week's rout of lowly Washington State to finally achieve bowl-eligibility. The final grade that gets assigned to the 2012 season will depend heavily on what happens this week in Tucson.

Why Arizona State Might Win: It took a visit from Wazzu, but the Sun Devils offense is finally back on track. And Arizona is unlikely to provide a lot of resistance.

While Arizona State hit some rough patches in the middle of the year, it regained some confidence last week, getting five touchdown passes and 260 yards on the ground. QB Taylor Kelly was on the money, spreading the wealth around, and Cameron Marshall and D.J. Foster paced the running game. Concerns up front will be mitigated by the absence of a consistent Arizona pass rush. The Wildcats have been spotty with their tackling and coverage all year, ranking 114th nationally on defense.

Why Arizona Might Win: ASU will score, but not with the same regularity as Arizona.

One of the brightest developments in RichRod's first year has been the play of his spread offense, a high-octane system averaging 521 yards and 37 points a game. The attack has given birth to the coming-out party of RB Ka'Deem Carey, the nation's leading rusher. The sophomore has gone for a remarkable 570 yards and four scores over the last two games alone. And now that QB Matt Scott is back from a concussion to play catch with big-play receivers Austin Hill and Dan Buckner, all of Arizona's weapons are locked, loaded and aimed at the Sun Devils defense.

What To Watch Out For: Arizona's biggest concern when it has the ball will be walling off an Arizona State pass rush that leads the country in sacks, and ranks second in tackles for loss.

The Sun Devils are fast, physical and talented in the front, beginning with DT Will Sutton. When Sutton, who has 18 tackles for loss, gets motoring, he can manhandle an opposing offense. And when he requires more than one blocker, it frees up Spur Chris Young and ends Carl Bradford and Davon Coleman to get into the backfield with fewer obstructions.

What Will Happen: A shootout in the Wild, Wild West.

This year's Duel in the Desert is showing all of the signs of being dictated by the offenses. Arizona State boasts a lot of defensive talent, but it'll take a backseat to Scott, Carey and those underrated Arizona receivers. And once the Wildcats start getting up and down the field, the Sun Devils are simply going to follow suit. The rivals will trade haymakers and long balls throughout the night. However, the experience and dual-ability of Scott, a fifth-year senior, will help carry the Cats to an emotional and exciting victory that sizzles for all 60 minutes.

CFN Prediction: Arizona 40 … Arizona State 36
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Arizona -3 O/U: 68.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Beware of Mr. Baker, 1 – Life of Pi): 3.5