Game Of The Week: #24 Florida Gators At Texas A&M Aggies
Not only will Texas A&M be playing their first SEC conference game, they’ll be playing their first game of the 2012 season on Saturday. Their scheduled season opener against Louisiana Tech was postponed to October 13 because of last week’s hurricane.
The Aggie Offense: This is probably one of the hardest previews I’ll have to write all year, seeing that A&M has a new quarterback and he hasn’t played a game yet. (Normally I’d choose another game to preview, but… well, look at the lineup of games for the week.) Fortunately for redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel, he has some experienced teammates on offense, most notably WRs Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu and RB Christine Michael. Swope caught for 1,207 yards and 11 TDs a year ago, while Michael rushed for 899 yards and 8 TDs before suffering an ACL injury. Manziel is the first freshman to start at QB for the Aggies since 1944. The offensive line is talented and experienced, so the blocking should be there for the running game to take some pressure off of the quarterback.
The Aggie Defense: Under a new coaching staff, the defense is changing from a 4-3 to a 3-4. The team’s top two pass rushers a year ago, LB Sean Porter and DE Damontre Moore, combined for 18 sacks and both return to College Station. The Aggies led the nation in sacks with 51. MLB Jonathan Stewart also returns; he led the team with 98 tackles last season. A&M allowed an average of 276.3 passing yards per game last year, and there are no returning starters in the secondary. I expect the Aggies defensive front to pressure Florida’s inexperienced quarterback, but the defensive backfield could still be vulnerable to the big play.
*Note: LB Steven Jenkins and S Howard Matthews were to be suspended for the game against Louisiana Tech. Coach Kevin Sumlin has said their suspension will take place when that game is played, not against Florida.
The Gator Offense: After rotating last week against Bowling Green, coach Will Muschamp named Jeff Driskel his starting quarterback. The Gators are still getting accustomed to the new offense brought in by Brent Pease, formerly of Boise State, to revitalize what was an anemic offense last season. Against Bowling Green last weekend, Florida managed 24 points- not what SEC fans expect against a MAC team. I don’t expect them to be able to pound the ball with Mike Gillislee the same way against the A&M front. Getting receivers in space against the Aggies’ secondary may be their best bet, provided that the offensive coaching staff is confident in Driskel’s accuracy. One interesting note on the Florida offense, CB Loucheiz Purefoy played some WR last weekend. Coach Muschamp says that’s something he’ll continue doing.
The Gator Defense: With 10 returning starters, Florida has a definite edge on defense, despite not having played all that well against Bowling Green (one forced turnover, no sacks, two dropped INTs). A&M’s offensive line versus Florida’s defensive front is a battle to watch. A&M is going to have to hope they can run the ball effectively, because having a redshirt freshman quarterback throwing the ball against the Gators’ secondary is not likely to end well for the Aggies.
Prediction: If the game were being played in the Swamp, I’d have Florida by a touchdown or more. Probably more. Even in College Station, I expect Florida to take it. Florida 21, Texas A&M 16