Submitted by Wayne Allyn Root on Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 4:48 PM
Wayne Root: All Eyes on the A&M Defense Versus Arizona State
I'll be writing a lot about the Pac 12 this season. The South Division in particular is loaded with FOUR teams ranked in the Top 25 to start off the 2015 campaign (and a fifth team in Utah just missed!). Here's a look at those rankings and who the Pac 12 South standouts play this week...
#8 USC (-27 vs. Arkansas State)
#13 UCLA (-19.5 vs. Virginia)
#15 Arizona State (+3 or +3.5 vs. Texas A&M in Houston)
#22 Arizona (played UTSA Thursday)
Up in the North Division, two more ranked teams reside with #7 Oregon and #21 Stanford. Oregon has a huge road game at #5 Michigan State a week from Saturday.
Now, without tipping my hand too much...I do think some of those rankings are off. My personal Power Ratings don't quite see it that way. I'm not going to be too specific here because I need to protect potential September releases involving Pac 12 teams. I will definitely be watching Arizona State's game with Texas A&M Saturday night because that's the most compelling matchup involving a Pac 12 team this weekend.
Though...I have to admit that the single most important storyline in that ASU/A&M game involves the SEC entry. Everyone wants to know if John Chavis can fix the Aggies defense!
You casual fans may not be aware, or may have forgotten, that A&M hired Chavis away from LSU after last season to be their defensive coordinator. He had some really GREAT defenses with the Tigers, and will likely have an immediate impact on the Aggies.
Texas A&M was absolutely horrible on defense last season...and it's just not hard to improve from "horrible" with more aggressiveness and a better schematic. It would be shocked if A&M didn't get better on that side of the ball. Will Chavis be able to make them a contender in the loaded SEC West right away? Probably not. He will need some time to recruit better athletes. But, that high octane offense mixed with just a "decent" defense will make the Aggies a handful for any opponent.
Testing the Aggies Saturday night will be ASU's potent offense led by talented but overlooked quarterback Mike Bercovici. He's had to stay in the shadows to wait his turn. He did step in well for awhile last season when an injury lifted him to starter. He finished 2014 with 12 TD passes and only four interceptions...on 7.77 yards per attempt. If he maintains THAT pace, ASU can definitely compete for the South title. The pollsters are assuming he will, which is why the Sun Devils start out in the Top 15. He was one of the best backup QBs in the country last season, and is ready for prime time.
Important to note here that LAS VEGAS doesn't see these teams the same way as the pollsters. Even though Texas A&M would be a respectable #27 if the poll went down that far based on the voting, the Aggies are solid 3 to 3.5-point favorites over #15. And, that game isn't in College Station. It's in Houston where the Texans play their NFL games! You can't call it a pure neutral field given the proximity to Aggieland. But...if you give the Aggies 1-2 points for home field, that means the market sees them as the superior team in a purely neutral locale. The market says A&M is stronger in the Power Ratings even if they're ranked a dozen spots lower in the poll. Professional wagerers are betting the Aggies at -3 in Houston!
WAYNE ALLYN ROOT made his name by going against the grain...and by outsmarting the market. That's why I'm the only man in the sports betting industry with a star on the "Walk of Fame" here in Las Vegas! I could well be on the Pac 12 entry plus the points Saturday night. I think I have the quarterback edge with Bercovici over Kyle Allen. If Chavis is going to take a month or so to shore up the Aggies, then the A&M defense could be in serious trouble Saturday night. You'll have to sign up for service to find out for sure what I'm thinking about the Saturday card.
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I'll be writing for you THREE times per week through the football season. My next report in a couple of days will talk about the NFL...as we gear up for the start of the season next week. Look for a mix of pro and college all the way through what's promising to be one of my biggest seasons ever.
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