The Matchup: No. 24 Florida vs. Texas A&M
When: Saturday, September 8th
Where: College Station, Texas
Game Time: 3:30 PM ET
TV: ESPN (College Gameday will be live from College Station)
Matchup History: 3rd meeting (1-1, TAMU last won 37-14 in the 1977 Sun Bowl)
What you need to know about Texas A&M: With Hurricane Isaac postponing last week’s game against Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M and new head coach Kevin Sumlin’s SEC debut will now also be their season debut. Texas A&M finished their run in the Big12 with a disappointing 7-6 record. The Aggies were 1-4 against ranked teams last season, losing by an average of 6 points in those contests.
Kevin Sumlin, the former head coach at Houston, brings his Air-Raid offense to College Station with high expectations; Sumlin’s offenses averaged nearly 43 points during his tenure at Houston. Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel will be making his first ever start for the Aggies on Saturday. The last time Texas A&M started a freshman quarterback on opening day was 1944.
Senior running back Christine Michael will be returning from injury as the starter in the backfield. In just nine games he rushed for 899 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 6.0 yards per carry. The player who will most likely benefit the most from the new offense will be senior wide receiver Ryan Swope. Swope led the Aggies in 2011 with 89 catches for 1,207 yards and eleven touchdowns. The offensive line, led by junior left tackle Luke Joeckel, has plenty of experience with 96 combined starts but will be tested week in and week out in the SEC.
The Aggies return six starters from a defense that gave up 378 yards per game in 2011, ranking them 59th overall in total defense. Senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart, who led the Aggies with 98 tackles last season, leads a front seven who was ranked in the top 12 in rushing defense.
Gameday Fact: Texas A&M is 0-3, most recently losing to Oklahoma in 2006, when being featured on College Gameday.
What you need to know about Florida: The Gators take the show on the road after a lackluster 27-14 victory over Bowling Green. Florida has won seven straight road openers, with all seven victories coming against SEC opponents. Head coach Will Muschamp returns to the Lone Star State to take on his former employer’s biggest rival; Texas was 2-1 against the Aggies while Muschamp was on the staff.
For now, the starter at quarterback will be Jeff Driskel. The sophomore put up modest numbers last week going 10-16 with 114 yards and one touchdown; he also rushed for 24 yards on three carries. He will be tasked with leading a shaky offense into one of college football’s most intimidating venues, Kyle Field. Senior running back Mike Gillislee is coming off of a career day with 24 rushes, 148 yards and two touchdowns and will be counted on to take some of the pressure off of Driskel.
Five different receivers caught the ball last week. Frankie Hammond, Jr. led the way with three catches for 62 yards and the Gators’ lone passing touchdown.
Florida’s defense gave up 327 yards last week. Last year’s top tackler, Jon Bostic, picked up right where he left off, leading the Gators defense with eight total tackles against Bowling Green. Marcus Roberson netted the Gators only turnover of the game with a fourth quarter interception.
After being sidelined for nearly a year and a half, redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown will return to action Saturday.
Gameday Fact: Florida leads the nation with College Gameday appearances (32) and victories (21).
What you need to watch:
Offense: Florida finally has a starting quarterback; the best decision the coaches could have made was naming a starter at the beginning of the week and letting the offense have as much time as possible to get comfortable with their new leader.
But did they make the right decision? We’ll find out pretty quickly on Saturday.
Congratulations Mr. Driskel, you’ve been named the starter. Your reward? Kyle Field at capacity at 2:30 in the afternoon in the Texas heat and, oh by the way, it’s their first SEC game ever AND it’s on national TV. No pressure, right?
Defense: The Gator defense looked soft against Bowling Green. The consistent pressure that most were expecting to see was not there on Saturday. Florida may have been holding back a bit but that is no excuse for letting a team like Bowling Green push you around for nearly the entire game.
The Aggies will be slinging the ball all over the field; the Gators must capitalize and create turnovers when given the opportunity, something they failed to do last week. Texas A&M is going to be running their offense out for the first time on Saturday and the Florida defense will have a prime chance to show the nation why they should be feared.