Both Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin and ASU football‘s Herm Edwards are in their first Territorial Cups but the similarities between the two teams don’t stop there.
There aren’t many similarities between Herm Edwards and Kevin Sumlin.
When Edwards was hired there was skepticism, while Sumlin’s hiring came with praise.
Edwards entered Tempe with little to no experience in the college arena.
Sumlin walked into Tucson with 10 seasons as a Division 1 head coach including six seasons in the SEC, the toughest conference in college football.
But in year one, both coaches have seen their teams sport roughly average seasons. Arizona sits at 5-6, a win away from bowl eligibility while ASU sit at 6-5, with all five losses coming by seven points or less.
Both coaches may have had opposite coaching experiences but their teams are interconnected in ways that are beyond the state that they share.
Take both quarterbacks for example.
Granted for Wilkins, change has been the new normal with offensive coordinator Rob Likens being his fourth coordinator in four seasons. And although 2018 has not been totally smooth for Wilkins, the redshirt senior currently has the highest passer rating of his career with only two games left to spare.
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Tate’s year has been much more of a roller coaster ride.
After completing less than 60 percent of his pass attempts in four of his first six starts, the Wildcats quarterback has thrown nine touchdown passes in his last two contests while connecting on at least 60 percent of his throws.
Now groomed as more of a pocket passer under Kevin Sumlin, Tate’s transition to the pocket has seen its fair share of growing pains.
But despite the rockiness, Tate’s Wildcats has outscored the Sun Devils offense this season (336-328).
Although marginal, the up and down play of the Wildcats offense still out-duels ASU’s offense, a unit that has also been unable to find a consistent rhythm despite having one of the best one-two combo’s in the country in running back Eno Benjamin and wide receiver N’Keal Harry.
Where Arizona has the slightest of edges on offense, the Sun Devils have a much more comfortable advantage on defense.
Even with a new defensive coordinator in Danny Gonzales, ASU has already improved on defense surrendering 9.1 points per game less than they did a season ago.
With Marcel Yates back as the defensive coordinator and nine returning starters on defense, the Wildcats have gotten better but only marginally, going from allowing over 34 points per contest to giving up around 31 points per game.
Arizona’s defense has been their achilles heel for the entire season. But even if defense is not the Wildcats forte, having home field advantage might make up for it.
Sumlin’s crew is 4-1 this season at Arizona Stadium with the last four winners of the Territorial Cup having gone to the home team.
Where one team may seem to have the upper-hand, the pendulum swings the other way again. As aggravating as that may be for ASU and UA fans, isn’t that the way a rivalry should be?