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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: UA-ASU rivalry described as most intense


File photo (left) and Tyler Baker (right) / The Daily Wildcat

Arizona fans and ASU fans hold up signs during Arizona’s 58-21 loss against ASU in Tempe last season. According to academic research, the UA-ASU rivalry is the most intense rivalry in the nation.

The UA and ASU rivalry is one of the hottest rivalries in the nation from a national media perspective, and it’s definitely the most hateful in general. Folks in Tucson hate the Sun Devils, and folks in Tempe don’t like the Wildcats, either.

The UA-ASU rivalry was described as the most intense rivalry in the nation, according to the Arizona Republic. Fans voted that the Territorial Cup is more intense than classic rivalries such as Ohio State-Michigan and Utah-BYU.

According to a UA football press release, the Territorial Cup is regarded by the NCAA as the oldest rivalry trophy in the nation.
In essence, that research validated what many Arizona and ASU supporters already knew: This rivalry is one of — if not the — toughest rivalries in the nation.

Don’t believe me? Well, remember a UA kicker named Alex Zendejas? Of course you do. Just one year after hitting a game-winning field goal to defeat the Sun Devils, Zendejas was shunned after missing two extra points that cost the Wildcats a win. His name is now synonymous with “failure” in Tucson.

Sure, Zendejas was volatile, as most kickers are, but it was the simple fact that he missed against ASU that cemented his legacy in a negative light.

ASU has dominated the football portion of the matchup lately, winning nine of the 14 matchups in the past 14 years, including three of the last four. Overall, Arizona leads the all-time series 47-39-2 and has gone 29-19 in Tucson.

This year’s football matchup is the biggest in over 20 years, as it’s the first time since 1986 that both teams are ranked heading into the game. At No. 13 in the nation, the Sun Devils are 9-2 overall, and at No. 12 in the nation, the Wildcats are 9-2 overall.

Not to mention the potentially huge Pac-12 South division title implications. If Stanford upsets UCLA, the winner of the UA-ASU game will play Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. That’s the kind of importance that has been missing as of late and will be welcomed this Friday in Arizona Stadium.

The players know how important this game is, but it’s the fans that make this week intense.

As someone who grew up in Tucson, I’ve been in the middle of this rivalry for as long as I can remember. Both my parents went to the UA, so we always watched Arizona games. There was something different when ASU was on the schedule, though. It didn’t matter how it was achieved; all that mattered was getting a win against the Sun Devils.

For many UA fans who grew up the same way, getting a win over ASU made a season successful. Losing to ASU meant the year was a failure.

This week, UA football head coach Rich Rodriguez said at his weekly press conference that he didn’t agree with the notion that only a win over ASU makes the season a success; it’s more of an icing-on-the cake kind of deal.

Looking at this year’s matchup, it’s tough to pick a clear favorite. Both teams have been great at times and subpar at others. One thing is clear, though: When the smoke from pregame intros fades away and refs place the ball on the tee for the opening kickoff on Friday, these

two teams are going to battle as if it’s their last game.
Because for Wildcats and Sun Devils, this isn’t just a game for bragging rights — it’s a matter of life and death.


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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