Arizona State schedules big, plays Texas A&M in 2015 opener
BURBANK, Calif. — Scheduling; it’s one of everybody’s favorite subjects in college football. Team X doesn’t play anybody. Team Y always takes on the toughest opponents. Conference X only plays eight league games. Conference Y plays nine. As TCU and Baylor found out the hard way, it can make or break a College Football Playoff résumé.
Arizona State is leaving nothing to chance when it comes to strength of schedule. Already playing in the Pac-12 South, arguably the toughest division in college football, the Sun Devils are opening up the 2015 season in Houston against Texas A&M, which hails from the other division that is considered the toughest in the land – the SEC West.
The A&M game is a one-shot deal. No home-and-home, just a single Saturday night on a neutral field that figures to be a little more "neutral" for the Aggies. Obviously, the parameters didn’t scare off ASU head coach Todd Graham from booking the 2015 date.
“Most people probably wouldn’t take that kind of game. I did it because that’s the kind of game my players want to play in, I want to coach in and our fans want to see,” Graham said at 2015 Pac-12 Football Media Days. “We just felt like we’re ready for that stage.”
While Texas A&M is picked to finish sixth in the seven-team SEC West, the Aggies also received four first-place votes (how competitive is the SEC West? Every team in the division received multiple first-place votes). Pair the Aggies with Arizona State, a team coming off a 10-win season that is picked to finish second in the Pac-12 South, and you have one of the headliners of the opening weekend of the college football season alongside Alabama-Wisconsin, Texas-Notre Dame and Louisville-Auburn (don’t forget Utah-Michigan and Stanford-Northwestern, either).
“I’m very excited,” Arizona State safety Jordan Simone said about playing A&M. “We’re getting ready for camp here, so I’m looking forward to that and when the time comes to start preparing for them we’ll obviously crank it up. I’m fired up.”
While the Texas A&M game is a one-off, high-profile opponents will be a reoccurring theme for upcoming Sun Devil slates. Graham noted that Michigan State (home and home for 2018 and 2019) and LSU (2022 and 2023) are on future schedules. This is nothing new, either – the Sun Devils have also played Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Missouri in recent years.
And then there’s that pesky nine-game conference schedule to navigate…