The Sun Devils will have to contend with, among other things, Arizona's speed this Thursday night on ESPN when Arizona State and Arizona face each other in the annual Territorial Cup. ASU Coach Dennis Erickson noted similarities in the passing game on offense between the Devils and WIldcats. He's concerned with the quickness and size of UA receiver Juron Criner and the versatility of running back Nic Grigsby.
"They throw the receiver screen game and throw the ball up the field and get the backs out," Erickson said. Arizona uses two tight-end formations more often.
It will be a short planning week for Erickson and Arizona counterpart Mike Stoops. ASU (5-6 overall, 3-5 in Pac-10) has nothing but pride to play for with its shot at a bowl game gone, while the Wildcats (7-4, 4-4) are taking aim at the Alamo Bowl and to a lesser extent the Holiday Bowl.
"When you have two universities in the state and in the same league like we are...I've been in a lot of rivalry games and this is as big as any," Erickson said. He's a veteran of in-state rivalries such as the Civil War (Oregon-Oregon State) and the Apple Cup (Washington-Washington State).
"It's bragging rights for a year, so it's huge," Erickson said.
Arizona has won the past two Cups, with Erickson's only win as head coach in 2007 when the 9-2 Sun Devils, 13th-ranked at the time, edged 5-6 Arizona 20-17 at Sun Devil Stadium. The Sun Devils have won 7 of the past 11 meetings between the teams.
"Funny things happen," Erickson said.
His team is coming off a big win over UCLA at home last week in which quarterback Brock Osweiler's performance earned him the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honor. Kick returner Jamal Miles won the special teams award for his 99-yard runback of a kickoff against the Bruins in a game in which ASU trailed 17-0 and lost starting QB Steven Threet to a head injury.
Nick Foles torched Oregon for 448 passing yards in Arizona's loss last week to the Ducks, a season high. But Erickson likes what he's seen from Osweiler, who lost the battle for the starting job at the start of the season and has played sparingly since.
"One of the best relief pitchers I've had, for a right-hander," Erickson said. "You never know until you see, I guess, is maybe the best way to put it. He came in and made throws and was probably more accurate than you would think."
Osweiler will get the start against Arizona.
"He enjoys that kind of pressure," Erickson said. "He stayed on top of things when he was a backup."
Threet didn't practice Monday and his status for Thursday seems doubtful. "Right now I'm planning on him not playing," Erickson said.
At the end of his comments to media on Monday, Erickson was asked about the 6-year-old boy who fell from the stands onto the field during the UCLA game. The boy was apparently unhurt and is a big Sun Devils fan.
"We've been checking on him obviously," Erickson, who planned to call the child later in the day, said. "He seemed like he bounced right up, so he's probably got a chance to play for whoever he wants if he can bounce off of that."