Wisconsin/Alabama is getting a lot of hype, but the best college football game of the day on Saturday might just be No. 15 Arizona State taking on Texas A&M in Houston at 7 p.m. ET.
“We agree,” CBS 5 Phoenix analyst Mark McClune said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “We have not seen this much preseason hype surrounding a game for a long time. A lot of it had to do with Kirk Herbstreit putting the Sun Devils in the Final Four, and a couple kids from the Valley of the Sun, Christian Kirk, a big-play wide receiver who’s a freshman – he looks like he’s going to play a a lot for A&M. Their quarterback, Kyle Allen, he’s from here, so Kirk and Allen both get to play against the school that they spurned. So a lot of local interest and I think just the national interest with the hype and Mike Bercovici throwing the Hail Mary last year against USC – there’s a lot to watch.”
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Arizona State’s Todd Graham are quite familiar with each other. They had some epic matchups when Sumlin was the head coach at Houston and Graham was the head coach at Tulsa.
“They’ve talked about it – just the battles they had, the amount of yards they put up,” McClune said. “I think they kind of have fun with this. Sumlin was throwing some jabs earlier this summer at SEC Media Day about going into Arizona and getting Kirk and getting Allen, and the Sun Devils actually pulled a quarterback out of Houston this year because the Aggies are pretty set. So I think they respect each other’s competition. You’re talking about guys who really ascended in the last 10 years in college football. They’ve gone from Houston and Tulsa, and this might be the biggest stage in the country – the biggest stage for a Saturday showdown.”
Arizona State, which has an explosive offense, will be tested right out of the gate this season.
“(The Aggies have) got a really athletic defense,” McClune said. “I think Myles Garrett coming off the edge, that scares a lot of people. ASU is breaking in some new offensive tackles. So with the athleticism with A&M, the home game, and Kyle Allen – he played pretty well in relief of Kenny Hill. so he’s the No. 1 quarterback in the country according to a couple different websites. I think there’s some confidence there. They have a lot of speed, they’ve recruited well. But I’ll tell you what: Mike Bercovici, straight up rock star. I imagine you stay up pretty late, but I don’t know if you were up late enough last year when they beat USC at the horn. They called it the ‘Jail Mary’ – the Hail Mary to Jaelen Strong, who is now with the Houston Texans. Bercovici in the last seven minutes led the comeback.”
Bercovici, who was playing in place of the injured Taylor Kelly, is ready to become the face of the program.
In some ways, he already is.
“Mike Bercovici – they call him Berko – he’d been sitting on the bench for three years, and he came in here with a lot of fanfare and didn’t win the job,” McClune said. “He was No. 3 on the depth chart at one point, but he didn’t transfer. He stayed the course. Tempe, Arizona, not a bad place to go to school. I think he’s got about nine degrees. He’s got a cannon for an arm, and go ahead and put him in your darkhorse Heisman candidates right now. He starts kind of slow but I’ll tell you what: If he gets it going, he might put 50, 60 points on the scoreboard (Saturday).”