New Mexico State Aggies (0-0 SU, 0-0-0 PS, 0-0-0 O/U) vs Arizona State Sun Devils (0-0 SU, 0-0-0 PS, 0-0-0 O/U)
When: 10:00 PM EDT, Thursday, August 31, 2017
Where: Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona
Lines: Arizona State -23.5
The Sun Belt Conference meets the Pac-12 Conference this evening as the New Mexico State Aggies duke it out with the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. Both teams will be looking to bounce back from rough seasons a year ago. These teams last met in 1999 and New Mexico State won that game by a score of 35-7.
The Aggies Will Flirt With Bowl Eligibility
The New Mexico State Aggies won just three games in each of the last two years and just two games in each of the two years before that, but this team has a shot at breaking through and making it to their first bowl game since 1960. The Aggies are the most experienced team in the league and the 15th most in the nation as they 44 lettermen back, including 16 starters, plus they went heavy into the Juco ranks and brought in 13 players from there. The majority of their Juco transfers was brought in to help a defense that was horrible last year as they ranked 118th against the run, 97th against the pass, 121st in total defense and 121st in points allowed, giving up 38.8 ppg. They did improve last year by 6.2 ppg over the 45 ppg they allowed in 2015 and with the experience they have on this side of the ball, plus the 3rd rated LB corps in the league, they should improve greatly on last year’s numbers.
The offense has been improving in each year under Doug Martin and this year’s offense will be his best year. In fact, this could be one of the best offenses in the Sun Belt this year. Tyler Rogers is back at QB after throwing for 2603 yards with 16 TDs and 12 INTs last year and he has seven of his top eight receivers back from last year. The RB corps rates as the best in the Sun Belt this year and is led by senior Larry Rose, who is ready for a huge year after rushing for 865 yards and four TDs in nine games last year. He had run for 1102 yards in 2014 and 1651 yards in 2015, so he has star power and if healthy will put up some big numbers. It helps that he will be running behind the 4th best OL in the league. Last year, the Aggies ranked 70th in rushing, 54th in passing, 64th on total offense and 97th in scoring, putting up just 24.8. They will top those numbers. This experienced team will be in play to break their long bowl drought this year.
Can The Sun Devils Get Back To A Bowl Game?
The Arizona State Sun Devils could surprise this year as they are coming off a 5-7 season and have 13 starters back from that team. It was their first time since 2010 that they missed out on a bowl party and that makes them a mission team. The offense was solid as they averaged 33.3 ppg and it could be a bit stronger this year as they have seven starters back on that side of the ball, including Manny Wilkins, who has a solid season a year ago as a sophomore and he is ready for big things this year. Wilkins threw for 2329 yards with 12 TDs and nine INTs a year ago and he looks to improve on those numbers but the WR corps is a bit average. The running game has their top two backs returning in Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage, who combined for 1129 yards and 17 TDs last year and they have some good depth at RB, but the OL is one of the worst in the league. The Sun Devils were 112th in the nation in rushing last year, 39th in passing and 81st in total offense, while scoring 33.3 ppg, which was 40th in the land. They could come close to those numbers this year.
The defense is where the problems are as they allowed 39.8 ppg last year, including 42.4 ppg in league play. They have six starters back on that side of the ball, but still just 20 of 36 lettermen return on defense overall. The Sun Devils do have one of the best defensive lines in the league, while the LB corps rates as 5th best in the Pac-12, but the secondary rates as 11th in the league and that could be a big problem against the many pass happy teams that the Pac-12 has. ASU ranked 56th in the nation against the run, but 128th against the pass and 127th in total defense, while allowing 39.8 ppg, which was 124th in the land. The Sun Devils have a tough schedule, but a solid offense and an improved defense should allow them to flirt with bowl eligibility this year.
- 6-1 ATS in their last seven games on grass
- 5-2 ATS in their last seven vs. Pac-12
Arizona State is:
- 1-4 ATS in their last five games in August
- 0-4 ATS in their last four Thursday games
Arizona State is from the Pac-12, while the Aggies are from the Sun Belt. This is a mismatch, right? Possibly. The Aggies are one of the most experienced teams in the nation, while the Sun Devils rate at 54th in experience. The problem for the Sun Devils last year was their defense, which was one of the worst in the league and while they are improved on that side of the ball, they will be taking on what will be a potent New Mexico State offense. That offense is loaded and should be able to score enough on this weak ASU defense to keep the game close. The Sun Devils will get their fair share of points but they will not put up enough to cover this big number. Take the Aggies to keep this one under three TDs.