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ASU Football: Sun Devils with chance to elevate self, conference with Texas A&M showdown

ASU will also be playing for its own conference in the never-settled Pac-12 vs. SEC discussion.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Isn't this so much better than Weber State?

Instead of sticking to the script that most major college football programs abide by and opening its season against an FCS team, trading millions of dollars in exchange for a cupcake matchup to start the campaign out, the Arizona State Sun Devils are starting their 2015 season with a monumental matchup against a premier college football power. The matchup against Texas A&M will either serve as a launching pad for ASU that projects the Sun Devils  right into the early playoff picture, or serve as a reminder that the program hasn't risen as far as Todd Graham had hoped they would in his fourth season.

But just as the stakes for ASU entering today's matchup are as high as ever, the Sun Devils aren't only playing for their own reputation.

The matchup between the Aggies and Sun Devils, as crazy as it seems, represents the only scheduled game between the Pac-12 and the SEC for the duration of the 2015 college football season. That means that unless we get a Pac-12/SEC matchup in the national title game or one of the semi-final playoff games, Saturday's tilt between ASU and Texas A&M will serve as the only fodder from this season for fans to use in the continued debate between the supremacy of the SEC over the Pac-12.

There's no argument to be made that over the course of the 21st century, the SEC has been the dominant college football conference and deserves its designation as the country's top conference. Winning seven straight titles earns you that respect, and the consistent flow of top recruits that the conference has enjoyed during that time goes far towards maintaining their place atop the college football heap.

But as the Pac-12 has grown deeper over time, expanding from a conference with four or five above-average teams every year to one that, if not for Colorado and Washington State, would send all twelve of its schools to a bowl game just about every season. The Pac-12 hasn't broken through for a national championship since before the SEC's run, but there have never been more legitimately-contending programs on the West Coast than there are now. And with the playoff allowing more room for a one or two-loss team to still prove their way to the top, there is a going to be ample opportunity for a game between the Pac-12 and SEC with meaningful playoff stakes.

There weren't any Pac-12/SEC games in 2014, and the ASU-A&M matchup will be the only one we get to see before the bowl season. Thanks to the playoff and its emphasis on strength of schedule, however, the battle between the two conferences for supremacy is only getting started.

Alabama and USC, the top dogs in each conference in regards to tradition and recruiting prominence, are scheduled to play next season at Cowboys Stadium. Texas A&M is also taking on the UCLA Bruins next season to add to the Aggies' West Coast state of mind. As the conferences continue to schedule games against each other and the inevitability of a Pac-12/SEC playoff matchup eventually occurs, the debate that's been raging for the past few years will finally have the correct sample size it deserves.

ASU gets the first crack.