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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Matchups to Watch For

    Tom Knauersenior staff writer
    Tom Knauer
    senior staff writer

    Arizona running back Chris Henry vs. ASU run defense

    Skinny: Henry, a junior, has averaged 114 yards and two touchdowns on nearly 30 carries the past three games, all Arizona victories. He carried 10 times for 29 yards in a 23-20 loss to the Sun Devils in Tempe last season. Arizona State is sixth in the Pac-10 in run defense, allowing 124.2 yards per game.

    Advantage: Arizona. Henry’s sublime production of late – he had 201 yards and one score on the season prior to three weeks ago – has all come against run defenses that, like the Sun Devils, rank in the bottom half of the conference standings. A lot of carries for Henry has meant improved production for sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama, and ASU has allowed a conference-high 21 touchdown passes this season. Expect Arizona to continue going to a newfound strength against an established weakness, if only to help Tuitama.

    ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter vs. UA pass defense

    Skinny: Carpenter, a sophomore, has thrown for 2,118 yards, 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season. He went 18-of-37 for 246 yards in last year’s matchup. Arizona features the Pac-10’s sixth-ranked pass defense but is coming off a four-interception performance against Oregon in a 37-10 victory.

    Advantage: Arizona. Carpenter has been markedly inconsistent coming off a year in which he threw only two interceptions in nine games and led the nation in pass efficiency in relief of the since-transferred Sam Keller. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is even (9-to-9) in Pac-10 play, and he went 11-of-30 for 149 yards and a pick in the Sun Devils’ last game, a 24-12 loss at home to UCLA. During their three-game winning streak, the Wildcats have shown a propensity for exploiting opponents’ mistakes. Opposing quarterbacks have completed a combined 53 percent of their passes for seven interceptions against only two touchdowns.

    Arizona vs. ASU

    Skinny: At 6-5, Arizona is in position for a seven-win season for the first time since 1999 and its first postseason berth since 1998. It is plus-nine in turnover margin the last three games and has averaged nearly 30 points per game in that span. The Wildcats’ ground game, which earlier in the year finished with negative-yardage in three straight contests, has been reborn with Henry getting a boatload of carries.

    Advantage: To be determined. The above numbers amount to this: Arizona is playing far better right now than it has at any point during head coach Mike Stoops’ tenure. Although players and coaches have insisted their focus is on today’s game, it remains to be seen whether they can handle the pressure of so much sudden success. Arizona and ASU, with identical 6-5 records, enter this game closer in quality than in the past five years. The Wildcats won the last time they played the Sun Devils at home under Stoops, but it won’t happen again unless Arizona is able to stick to the game plan that’s worked for them so well over the past few weeks and, above all else, execute it.

    Prediction: Arizona 27, Arizona State 17

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