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Arizona State: Four Story Lines to Watch in Territorial Cup

The Sun Devils, needing a victory against the Arizona Wildcats to improve to 8-4 on the season, will need a strong effort in what is expected to be an intense rivalry game. Here are four story lines to monitor throughout the game.
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There's been a lot of talk about expectations recently in Tempe.

The Arizona State Sun Devils were a popular pick to run the table and potentially fight for a Pac-12 championship when the dust settled. 

In the preseason, it wasn't a foreign thought, given factors such as schedule, talent, veteran leadership and the strengths of the coaching staff. 

However, we sit here today with the Sun Devils owning a 7-4 record entering their final regular-season game. 

Although grand hopes of appearing in a Rose Bowl are long gone, Arizona State looks to recoup and end the season on a high note with rivals Arizona visiting. 

Last year's Territorial Cup finished with a 70-7 beatdown of the Wildcats in Tucson, as the Sun Devils will be looking to capture some of that mojo when Arizona visits Sun Devil Stadium.

Arizona State, losing three of the last five games, have some issues to fix heading into the final home game of the season despite being overwhelming favorites.

So, what should you be watching for when the Sun Devils take the field in their attempt to keep the Territorial Cup for a fifth straight season? 

Four Story Lines to Watch in Territorial Cup

Pedal to the Metal: The Sun Devils had no problem continually scoring over and over again last season especially when the game was well out of reach. When the Sun Devils take the field on Saturday, especially after such a roller-coaster season, will the team feel motivated to once again light up the scoreboard in egregious fashion? 

Of course, that would require Arizona State to not overlook its opponent and play a complete game from start to finish; something Sun Devils fans haven't seen this season. 

Arizona State is highly favored by no mistake, and it will be interesting (especially in a rivalry game such as this) to see if the Sun Devils will be looking to keep their foot on the gas much like they did last year. 

One Last Hail Mary: To say Arizona State's passing attack has been dead in recent games would be an understatement, as the offense has been the true definition of a one-dimensional attack led by the legs of running back Rachaad White. 

Against a team that has only one win, is this the game where quarterback Jayden Daniels and Co. bounce back through the air? If there was ever a matchup for offensive coordinator Zak Hill to find some success in the passing game, it would be at home against the Wildcats. 

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ASU hasn't been a team to dominate by primarily throwing the ball, yet the benefits of restoring balance to the offense may be more helpful than some believe. 

Defensive Dominance: One trademark of a Sun Devils win would normally come to the tune of a strong defensive outing. 

That hasn't been the case as of late, as Arizona State's defense has given up 28 points per game over the last five outings. 

Perhaps some of the blame can be placed on the offense turning the ball over, piled up injuries or continuously putting ASU in short-field scenarios defensively. 

However, at some point the players across from opposing offenses have to take ownership of recent results both on the field and on the scoreboard. 

The Wildcats, averaging 17.4 points per game on the season, arrive in Tempe with a stagnant unit themselves, giving the Sun Devils a perfect opportunity to end conference play on a high note. 

It's time for defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce and the leaders on Arizona State's defense to put an exclamation point on their work. 

Senior Discount: With 23 seniors being celebrated in a pregame ceremony, emotions will be at an all-time high, as this will be the last game for many players who have spent the best years of their lives at Sun Devil Stadium. 

Playing for the Territorial Cup adds another layer of motivation for many of those seniors to elevate their play to new heights as they look to finish the season on a strong note. 

How can these seniors propel Arizona State for one last ride at Sun Devil Stadium?

Players such as White, linebacker Darien Butler and cornerback Chase Lucas will look to dominate their final game at home. We'll see if the rest of the departing crew can do the same and leave their stomping grounds with a memorable win. 

BONUS: What the fox?: Our furry friend (and now good luck charm) has been absent for Arizona State in times where they need him the most. 

Once a crowd favorite that shifted momentum of a Sun Devil game with an electric display on the field to cause a stop in play, ASU's unofficial mascot (who we believe is nameless) would be wise to show up for a grand finale on Saturday. 

Posters, chants, NIL deals, do whatever it takes to get the fox back in action for one last ride.