The Arizona State Sun Devils open the 2017 season at home against the New Mexico State University Aggies on Thursday, as both teams look to start off the new year on the right foot. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Mountain Standard Time with coverage on Pac-12 Network.
Both programs are looking to bounce back from disappointing sub .500 seasons in 2016. NMSU hasn’t won more than three games since the 2011 season, a trend which they would like to break this year and a win over a power-five program such as ASU week one would certainly spark such a change.
Here’s what you need to know about the Aggies:
A Potentially Not so Sweet Homecoming
A team made predominantly of local players from either New Mexico or Texas, one of the Aggies’ most important playmakers hails from the Valley and more specifically Peoria, Arizona. Tyler Rogers has been the New Mexico State starting quarterback since 2014 with the exception of most of the 2015 season, which he missed due to injury.
The Peoria native attended Liberty High School where he led the program to three league championships and was named second-team all state as a senior. In his time at Liberty, Rogers threw for just shy of 6,000 yards while rushing for over 1,600 more all while wracking up 102 total touchdowns (76 passing and 26 rushing).
Upon arriving on campus in Las Cruces following a year at Arizona Western, Rogers immediately earned the starting job; however, as a starter his record is just 5-21 over his career. Although the last time the Aggies rolled through town in 1999 it yielded bad news for the Sun Devils, redshirt senior QB Tyler Rogers may be a valid dual threat but he will have his work cut out for him to make his homecoming back to the valley a good one.
Will ASU’s Secondary Hold?
One of the biggest issues last season and largest questions for ASU heading into this season was the secondary play. The Sun Devil defense allowed just under 4,300 yards through the air last season which was a mark that made them one of the worst teams against the pass in the NCAA.
While NMSU doesn’t have a superstar quarterback or any NFL-caliber wide receivers at the moment, the Aggies spread the ball around, 10 different players caught touchdown passes and six of those receivers had more than one. That type of disbursement would have caused problems for the 2016 ASU secondary, so it is worth keeping an eye on if they have made any significant improvements heading into this year.