By Knox Bardeen
Preseason rankings … ha.
A couple of thoughts came to mind while watching Texas A&M rough up Arizona State 38-17. Neither team looked as if it was ranked properly (the Sun Devils can't be the 15th-ranked team in the country, and the Aggies deserve a once-over from voters). Also, neutral-site kickoff games should attempt to avoid hostile crowds. (This one was played in Houston.)
It's loud. And that ain't ASU.- TexAgs (@TexAgs) September 5, 2015
Unless you balked at the "home" Aggies crowd or were angered that the expected offensive fisticuffs didn't happen, there was no way to walk away disappointed. This battle had intrigue, was tight to the end and kept us on the edge of our seats. Even if it was a bit sloppy.
Sluggish start for offense
Call it a track meet or a workout for the scoreboard operator, Texas A&M and Arizona State were supposed to pile on points like a 7-on-7 tournament. Instead, we got six first-quarter punts.
There have been two total 1st downs in this game with 5:31 left in 1Q. There have also been six punts. #ASUvsTAMU- House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) September 5, 2015
Playing on a big, nationally televised stage obviously caused some jitters, especially at a neutral site. Aggies' receivers dropped some passes early on to kill drives, and neither offense could find any rhythm whatsoever. But when the Aggies ran the ball well, quarterback Kyle Allen was able to shred the defense. Their first scoring drive was a nine-play, 94-yard beauty that negated the Sun Devils' pressure with quick passing and a balanced attack that looked rather easy.
Add in a Christian Kirk 79-yard punt return for a touchdown -- Arizona State's special teams unit doesn't look terribly improved, and boy does it need to be -- and the Aggies started showing signs of scoring life by the end of the second half before pulling away late in the game.
Texas A&M's defensive line is for real
The SEC -- and all of college football for that matter -- has been put on notice. The Aggies' Myles Garrett-led defensive line will wreck opposing quarterbacks this season.
Garrett looked so fast Saturday night it was as if he were calling for the snap. There are very few offensive tackles in the country that can swallow up his speed, and there definitely wasn't one on the field for Arizona State. Two sacks, a forced fumble and a hurry in the first half prove that point.
The pass-rush the Aggies brought wasn't solely supplied by Garrett, though. Daylon Mack had an early tackle for a loss, and Daeshon Hall provided four sacks and a forced fumble.
How secure is Kyle Allen's job?
The in thing to do this year was to wait as long as possible to name a starter, but Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin wasn't chic with his quarterback controversy: Kyle Allen was given the keys to the Aggies' car 13 days prior to their first game.
How long will he be allowed to drive?
Sumlin is creating an in-game QB controversy. How long can you get away w rotating them in and out?- Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) September 6, 2015
When Allen started slow, true freshman Kyler Murray took snaps early in the game. Murray was likely slated to play some as a change of pace, but after Allen threw a miserable pick to start the second half, Murray played more and more.
Boy is Murray quick
Kyler Murray is basically the chicken that Micky wanted Rocky to catch with one hand tied behind his back. #12thMan- Shannon Permenter (@Red__Franklin) September 6, 2015
Murray might be the fastest, most elusive quarterback around. But there were times when his accuracy left a lot to be desired. Allen showed signs of experience -- especially when Murray was injured and couldn't get back into the game -- but mistakes may have cost him his stranglehold on the starting job.
The most entertaining quarterback on the field Saturday was the true freshman Murray. But Allen absolutely made the most of his time late in the game to make this conversation interesting moving forward.
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Knox Bardeen is a Sports on Earth contributor based in Atlanta and has covered both college and pro football since 2008. He was on location and witnessed the "Kick Six," and he once wrote a book 100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. Follow him on Twitter at @knoxbardeen