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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, November 23, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Arizona State and Arizona play each other every year…and it’s often one of the most entertaining games of rivalry weekend for college football fans and sports bettors. But, this year…we have head coaches who are new to the rivalry on BOTH sides of the field. Todd Graham will be trying to spring an upset for Arizona State (in a series known for upsets) as the road underdog. Rich Rodriguez hopes to defend home turf for Arizona.

Let’s run through a quick report card.

WON-LOSS RECORDS: Host Arizona has the better mark coming in, posting a 7-4 record heading into their season finale. Arizona State is a game back at 6-5. Both games will be playing in bowls this season. In a season where there have been countless disappointments across the college landscape, you can be fairly sure that both of these teams will be playing in entertaining bowl games with a chance to win.

CONFERENCE RACE: Both teams are currently 4-4 in Pac 12 play. The winner will tie Southern Cal for second place in the South behind UCLA. The loser will finish fourth in the division with a record that’s below .500. Clearly, both coaches will make an issue of that. There’s a big difference between “tied for second” with a winning league record, and “sitting in fourth” with a losing league record.

IMPROVEMENT FROM LAST YEAR: Arizona has made the greater stride forward. The Wildcats were 4-8 last year overall, and a very poor 2-7 in Pac 12 play. Even if they lose here, that’s a three-game improvement from last season heading into a bowl. Arizona State was 6-7 last year after losing their bowl game. The Sun Devils were 4-5 in conference action. So, if ASU loses as underdogs late Friday, they will have exactly matched last year’s record. Obviously the program doesn’t want to be seen as treading water after a coaching change. If they can win as small dogs, then they will have made a stride forward too.

WHAT THE FUTURE MIGHT HOLD: These coaches are largely known quantities at this point in their careers. They were seen as representing steps up from their predecessors…but it was far from a consensus that either man could lead their schools to Pac 12 greatness. This is a vulnerable division though if USC is going to be an annual disappointment. You can’t think about catching Oregon until you catch USC and UCLA. That could be within reasonable reach next season.

Arizona State/Arizona may be a part of Jim Hurley’s big Friday of college football action. How about some holiday dessert in the desert?! You can purchase today’s slate right here at this website. We’re looking at LSU-Arkansas on CBS as a possibility, Syracuse-Temple from our Big East sources, and a potential sleeper in the MAC is on the radar too. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

NETWORK’S holiday feast is just beginning, with major releases planned for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday Night. Bring your appetite for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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