Another year, and another Territorial Cup is in the books.
Much like a nightclub that SNL’s Stefon would attend, it had just about everything: marquee senior moments, six lead changes, plenty of chippy-ness, MASCOT FIGHTs, fans storming the field and a ton of whiteboard material for next year.
This year’s game was not unique in displaying what makes it such a great matchup.
— Matt Venezia (@Matt_Venezia) November 25, 2022
It’s a rivalry rich with history and no love lost between the two. The cup itself is the oldest rivalry trophy in the country.
Future NFL talent plays in this game consistently. These programs are often times fighting over the same recruits. You have coaches like Antonio Pierce, Bobby Wade and Scottie Graham “switching sides” where they’ve repped the block A and pitchfork at different times in their lives.
Houses are divided. 24 hours after sharing a meal based on thankfulness, family members won’t speak to each other for an afternoon.
hAte week and “just wait till basketball season” are terms commonly thrown around. There’s ASU’s 19-point comeback in 2018. Chuck Cecil’s interception in 1986. There’s 70-7 and the time Arizona didn’t need to throw a pass in the second half to impose their will on the Sun Devils.
It delivers memories each and every year between these two teams. This year had everything. Well, almost everything.
And it can be better.
You’ll hear time and again that a season may not have gone the way they wanted but “at least we beat that team down south/up north.”
It’s a game that means a lot to the players and fans, but it’s often the final chapter of a season for at least one of these teams in a given season.
Since 1996, the Sun Devils and Wildcats both went to bowl games in the same season four teams. (2012-14, 2017). The Sun Devils have appeared in 16 bowls game over those 26 seasons and the Wildcats appeared in 10. The 2020 season was not included because of the COVID-shortened season.
This year will be the fourth time in that span where neither team is heading to a bowl game. It was incredible to see these young men lay it all on the line to end their season on a high note. It would have been that much sweeter to them use that game to propel themselves into bowl prep and regroup knowing they had one more to play in about a month.
Only once in that span has the rivalry featured both teams in the national rankings (2014).
Reaching bowl eligibility is great, but to take this rivalry to the next level, both teams need to know they are heading to the postseason no matter the outcome of the Territorial Cup.
You need every advantage you can get in the new age of college football. Playing in big games, especially against your rival, can help display the program’s strength and fan base reach.
Having Pac-12 championship implications on the line is to get this game to the next level. Even fighting for the Holiday/Alamo/maybe Rose Bowl would add that much more juice to an already intense rivalry.
The Wildcats seem to be on the right trajectory to being a consistent player in the conference. They’ve recruited well and saw their win total jump from one to five, including a win over top-10 UCLA. Jedd Fisch and co. generated a ton of excitement heading into the season despite their struggles in year 1. We’ll get to see how the Cats manage success with higher expectations and build this into more than a one-year flash.
The Sun Devils will face change heading into the offseason with a new head coach, whether interim head coach Shaun Aguano takes on the role moving forward or ASU opts for an outside candidate. While potential NCAA sanctions loom for recruiting violations, at least knowing who is in the driver’s seat moving forward will help the recruiting efforts in Tempe and hopefully a quick turnaround, much like the Wildcats are in the process of.
This game means so much to so many, regardless of the year and record. The passion will seemingly be there no matter the record. But getting these programs where top-25 or conference championship berth implications are on the line consistently will get this meaningful rivalry, and State 48, the national radar each Thanksgiving weekend.