#15 Arizona State Sun Devils vs Texas A&M Aggies
Saturday – September 5 – 6:00 pm CT
NRG Stadium – Houston
In what may be the most intriguing matchup of the first weekend of the 2015 college football season, the Aggies and Sun Devils will butt heads at a neutral site game which will certainly have to feel more like a home game for the maroon and white given its close proximity to College Station and the abundance of A&M former students that reside in Houston. None of that should strike too much fear in Arizona St. however as they just got a huge publicity boost from ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit who picked them to make it all the way to this year’s College Football Playoff. The oddsmakers in Vegas appear to see things a little differently though favoring the Ags by a field goal with even some movement to -3.5 points leading up to Saturday; a sign that the betting public is leaning towards A&M getting the victory here as well.
What to look for when A&M has the ball
Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin made the tough decision to go with sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen over freshman phenom Kyler Murray. Allen knows he must be sharp from the get go and will no doubt be extra amped up for this contest considering he hails from Scottsdale, Arizona. He has added a lot of weight since finishing off last year with a nice bowl win and an MVP trophy against West Virgina. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital has said that he has matured greatly in the last eight months from where he was as a true freshman. Fortunately for Allen, he’ll have between seven to ten guys that are capable of making catches and big plays at any given moment.
Returning wideouts of particular note are senior Josh Reynolds, Sophomores Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil, and newcomer Christian Kirk who also left Scottsdale as the #1 ranked player in the state in 2014. The question marks that will need quick answering should be seen with the offensive line play and running game under new line coordinator Dave Christensen. He has preached more physicality in the off season and they must show a balanced attack throughout the game against a Sun Devils defense that returns an astonishing nine starters from a year ago. Tra Carson will be the returning senior who should get the majority of carries early and often.
What to look for when Arizona St has the ball
ASU also returns eight starters on the offensive side of the ball, surely the biggest factor contributing to many having them as a major sleeper team. However, they will have a new man under center in Mike Bercovici. The good news if you’re an Arizona St. fan is that Bercovici is a senior who was strongly recruited by the top programs in the nation coming out of high school. The bad news is that he’ll be thrust into the gauntlet that is the Aggie defensive line, a unit that many expect to be the best A&M has had in a very long time. Defensive end Myles Garrett will definitely be double teamed often which could open up some pass rushing holes for guys like Zaycoven Henderson, Julien Obioha, and the #1 high school DT in the nation last year that toyed with everybody’s emotions before finally putting on the Aggie cap-330 pound freshman DT Daylon Mack.
The ever dangerous DJ Foster has moved from running back to wide receiver and it will be up to the A&M linebackers and young, much maligned secondary from last year to contain a bevy of explosive options Bercovici will have to throw to. A&M fans are expecting big things from new defensive coordinator John Chavis but only four quarters of play will tell just how quickly the guys have adapted to his new schemes. Neither team actually has a ton to lose in this one as it’s the first game of the year and a non-conference game that should add some strength to schedule win or lose. But of course nobody wants to start out the season with an L and this looks like it will be quite the barn burner.
Prediction: Texas A&M 34 – Arizona St 28