With Kirk Herbstreit selecting Arizona State as one of his final four College Football Playoff teams and Pete Thamel selecting Mike Bercovici as his Heisman trophy winner, expectations in Tempe could not be any higher. While it's nice to get our hopes up once in a while, let's all remember that a sun devil is a mirage. We were in a similar place in 2008 when UNLV came to Tempe and shocked the Sun Devil faithful. We were a step away from the Rose Bowl at the PAC-12 Championship in 2013. We just had to finish the home stretch, until Corvallis in 2014. What I'm driving at folks is that before we get swept up in projections and predictions, let's focus on winning one game at a time, especially when that first game is against an SEC school, just outside the top 25. Coach Sumlin's team will help us gauge exactly where this team is at. Let's win that one and then get happy.
- The last time Arizona State opened a season playing an FBS team was 2007 when they welcomed big bad San Jose State to Tempe. The last time we started the season against a Power 5 team and/or on the road was 2002, when the Huskers wiped the floors with us in Lincoln. So, it's not hyperbole when I say this is the biggest season opener Arizona State has played in this millennium. Beating an SEC school could put us on the map or knock us clean off it. Don't worry Sun Devils; drinking will take that edge off.
- Love or hate A&M, you have at least like Kevin Sumlin right? From threatening teenage pranksters to throwing some accidental shade about #SarkAfterDark, the man is a pleasant departure from the stereotypical psychopath coaches of the SEC. I would say the same about CTG, but there was that whole Pitt thing...
- Aggies' Kyle Allen enters 2015 the way he ended 2014, as A&M's starting quarterback. After a good camp battle from dual threat, true freshman Kyler Murray, Allen looks to start the season on the right foot and keep the competition at bay. The Scottsdale native entered last season as the #1 pro-style quarterback recruit in the country and showed flashes of that greatness late in the year, highlighted with a four touchdown performance in the Aggies upset of then #3 Auburn. With the Kenny Trill debacle deep in the rear view mirror, a win against #15 Arizona State would go a long way in cementing himself as A&M's future at QB. And if we're being totally honest, it's hard not to root for a local guy with two first names.
- If Allen can't keep it together in 2015, a lack of talent at wide receiver won't be to blame. On the outside, they return last year's leading receiver Josh Reynolds and former 5 star recruit, 6'5" sophomore Ricky Seals-Jones. In the slot, A&M also returns speedy Speedy Noil, a former 5 star recruit, and adds Christian Kirk, another 5 star recruit and another man with two first names. Sensing a theme here? Also, if the name Christian Kirk rings a bell, it should. Kirk followed in DJ Foster's footsteps at Saguaro High in Scottsdale and was heavily recruited by ASU, until we lost him to a more well-known college football "powerhouse" as is tradition. Excuse me while I wipe the tears off my keyboard.
- Texas A&M finished 102nd in total defense last season and Arizona State didn't fair much better at 81st. Texas A&M finished 26th in scoring offense last season and Arizona State did fair slightly better at 16th. What I'm driving at is that the over/under is set at 70.5 and today, I'm in the business of giving away free money. Call the sheriff 'cause there's going to be a shootout on Saturday (I'll see myself out).
- When most college teams struggle in an area, most coaches recruit harder there next season. When A&M struggled defensively and rushing the ball last season, Coach Sumlin recruited two coaches. The Aggies ponied up $1.7 mil to pry DC John Chavis away from Les Miles and his grass eating this off-season. Chavis obviously has his work cut out for him, but does have one bright spot in building block sophomore Myles Garrett who's coming off a season where he set an SEC freshman record for sacks. On the other side of the ball, former Wyoming HC Dave Christensen will coach the offensive line and head the running game. A&M allowed over 2 sacks per game last season, while only averaging about 150 yards rushing. Just remember Dave; they're called "cadets", not "fly boys."
- Speaking of Myles Garrett, his play versus first year starting tackles Evan Goodman and William McGehee will be something to watch Saturday. Bercovici does not have the scrambling ability of the man before him
but at least can throw something other than a fadeand needs to stay upright to be successful. Garrett usually rotates throughout the line, meaning both tackles will eventually have to take a crack at him. If we have any hope of matching this Sumlin "Air Raid" (Aggie Raid?) offense, the new guys will have to at least slow him down, something way easier said than done. Ask Louisiana Monroe.
- PAC-12 buffs and Oregon fans alike should be familiar with A&M's feature back Tra Carson. The starting back for the 12th Man transferred back to his home state after spending his freshman campaign in Eugene. A big, bruising back listed at 230lbs, Carson does most of his work between the tackles, running through contact. Expect Coach Christensen to try and get his big back touches early, to catch a young Sun Devil d-line keying on the pass.
- Desert Ice ice baby; Arizona State will debut their new adidas duds in outrageous fashion, starting with more copper inspired uniforms. I've already said my piece on Arizona college teams and their apparent mandatory addition of copper to school colors, but the anthracite is gone, so it's a wash. I also find it hard to believe that A&M doesn't have anything special ready for the
adidasAdvoCare Texas Kickoff, but I see no evidence otherwise. A&M will most likely go with their regular home uniforms while adidas continues to prove they are number one in blowing great opportunities.
- Opponent Fun Fact: "George Bush Drive used to be named after a cow... It was Jersey Street." The amount of research needed to confirm this might be funnier than the fact itself. "So what is the history of the previous street name, Jersey Street? According to The Eagle, 'As a result of A&M's historic ties to agriculture, many streets in the area south of the campus bear the names of breeds of cattle, like Guernsey Street, Hereford Drive and Angus Street.'" The stop gate between the Teflon President and Slick Willy Clinton is honored with a beautiful library on campus... and a street named after a breed of cow. Glass half full; it's better than being the headliner after Angus Street. Woof.
- Bonus Point: Can we stop using the term "neutral site game" when the stadium is a two hour drive for one team and a plane ride for another? I mean Texas is in the school's name and the game's name, but I guess asking for transparency from the NCAA is too much to ask.