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New Mexico State Preview: A Q&A with ASU’s House of Sparky

We asked Arizona State’s House of Sparky about the Aggies first opponent.

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Can LRIII lead the Aggies to an upset in Tempe?
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Start Time: Thursday, August 31 8:30 p.m. MT

TV: Pac-12 Network

Radio: Aggie Sports Network (Click for radio affiliations)

Location: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona

Series History: 21-7-1 in favor of Arizona State. This will be the two program’s 30th meeting.

Betting Line: Arizona State is favored by 23 points, according to Oddsshark.com


It’s time Aggies fans! NMSU opens the 2017 season tonight in the desert taking on the Sun Devils of Arizona State.

It will be a hot one as the weather is at 96 degrees as of 2:30. This will be the 30th meeting between the two teams, with the Aggies beating No. 20 Arizona State 35-7 back in 1999. Will the Aggies come out on top tonight? We shall see!

In order to get you familiar with the Aggies first opponent I asked the nice folks at Arizona State’s SBNation site, House of Sparky, answer some questions on this once familiar foe.

Question: Arizona State has been known as a team that blitzes a lot. Will this still be the case with new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett?

To be honest, I think it's head coach Todd Graham's style and even under a new defensive coordinator, the Sun Devils will still blitz a ton. In watching ASU throughout fall camp I did not see too many blitzes or high movement from the defense, but expect the Sun Devils to do so this season.

Question: Who are some players that Aggies fans should know about?

Senior running backs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard are arguably the best duo of running backs in the Pac-12. Ballage boasted a seven-touchdown performance against Texas Tech last season and Richard rushed for 1,141 yards in 2015. Both have proven they can be great and will cause trouble for the Aggies.

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Keep an eye out for Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage, he’ll be hard to miss. Can the Aggies D stop him?
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Question: What are some strengths and weaknesses of the Sun Devils?

The secondary. Arizona State has had back-to-back seasons as the worst passing defense in the nation. After losing one corner to transfer (Kareem Orr) and another to injury (Armard Perry), the Sun Devils will line up with two rookie junior college transfers at the cornerback position and new starters at safety. The Sun Devils do pose a huge threat though with their three veteran linebackers. Senior Koron Crump is the leading returner in sacks from last season in the Pac-12, DJ Calhoun boasts the most tackles from last season, 77. Christian Sam was hurt last season, but boasted 96 tackles.

Question: The Sun Devils and Aggies both had some trouble on defense in 2016, with that said, do you expect both offenses to put up big numbers?

Phil Bennett has changed the culture of the defense at ASU. I predict the Sun Devils to give up no more than two touchdowns.

Question: How confident are Sun Devils fans heading into Thursday's game? Will this team compete for a top spot in the P12-South?

Fans are not so confident about this season. Most expect 7-5 at the most, with about an average agreement in 6-6. Personally, I believe the Sun Devils will finish fifth in the Pac-12.

Prediction

I think both teams’ defenses will struggle and a lot of points will be scored. Look for the Aggies to push the Sun Devils and keep it close for most of the game.

Arizona State 52, New Mexico State 48