It’s been a rough two weeks for the Aggies. After squeaking past Vanderbilt (who might actually be better than most were giving them credit for) and getting rolled by a dominant Alabama squad, morale is low. Yet, three weeks ago, if you said the Aggies would be 1-1 going into the Florida game, most people would not be surprised. As far as their record goes, Coach Jimbo Fisher and his squad are exactly where they were expected to be. This weekend, the Florida Gators come to College Station for the first time since 2012. If Texas A&M wants to show they have finally taken the next step in regards to becoming an elite program, a win against Florida is a must. There are the Texas A&M keys to victory over Florida
Too long have the Aggies gone as a mediocre team with a high-ceiling that never manages to seize its potential. The pieces have always been there, but ever since the years of Johnny Manziel, it seems as though they always find a way to fall short of the perceived possibilities. This game against the high-flying Gators will set the record straight for the Ags: will this be another year of missed opportunities, or is this young team truly on the brink of greatness.
In order for #21 ranked Texas A&M squad to come out victorious, they will need to do these three things.
Texas A&M Keys To Victory Over Florida
1st Key To Victory: Better Performance from cornerbacks
This Kyle Trask led Florida team isn’t afraid to throw the ball. Against the Aggies, whose corners have been weak throughout the first two weeks, they will likely be itching to spin the football downfield. In just two games, the Gators have thrown for over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns. Their maroon counterparts are averaging almost 300 yards, 2.5 touchdowns, and a completion percentage over 71.0.
This trend is not a recipe the Ags need to follow if they want to win. To whip up a victory, the secondary has to play better for Texas A&M, specifically the cornerbacks. Alabama’s first touchdown was a deep bomb for a touchdown. The receiver ran a go-route, hardly making any effort to make the true-freshman, Jaylon Jones, miss. Still, he blew past him for a 78-yard touchdown. Jones also gave up a touchdown at the end of the half, again without being physical at the line of scrimmage. Senior cornerback, Myles Jones gave big plays in his own right, including a 63-yard touchdown in which he did not make contact with the scoring receiver before or after the catch.
No more big plays!
Eliminating big plays is a must for this defense. It is going to take some serious growth before this Florida game if they want to stay in it. Trask is on a hot streak, looking to extend his run and boost his Heisman odds which grow by the week. If I am the Florida play-caller, I throw and throw often. If the Alabama game was an indicator of how physical the Aggie corners are going to play, Florida tight-end, Kyle Pitts should be in for a big game. He is a nightmare matchup, and it is going to take physical coverage to stop him.
In regards to the run game, the Aggie defense is quite strong. They’re allowing just over three yards a carry and are ranked in the top 25 in rushing defense. The Ags will likely force the Florida offense to work through the air. If they can make the necessary adjustments, step up their coverage skills, and maybe even come up with an interception, perhaps Texas A&M can come away with a win.
2nd Key to Victory: #RTDM
On the offensive side of the ball, the Aggies need to channel their inter Sandra Bullock and “run the dang ball.” When they call run plays, they have been successful. Isiah Spiller is gaining a whopping 7.5 yards per carry. The explosive Ainias Smith is average almost 5.3 yards a carry with his change-of-pace presence.
However, of their five touchdowns this year, only one has been on the ground. Establishing the run is a must for Texas A&M moving forward. A dangerous run game will weigh heavily on a defense’s mind, opening up passing lanes. If there is little to no run game to worry about, teams will force the Aggies’ inexperienced receivers to win the game for them, something they have not shown the capability of doing.
When The Ags Don’t Establish The Run, They Lose.
The only times the Aggies have won without having a runningback obtain at least 100 yards was 2018 against Auburn and 2019 against Arkansas. In each of their other losses, dating back to 2018, the most any runningback gained was the 66 yards gained by Isiah Spiller against LSU last season.
This Florida run defense is less than elite at stopping the run. They are giving up, on average, 143.5 rushing yards per game; that’s 38th worst figure across the nation. If the Gator defensive line plays as they did in the first half of their last match-up, it could be a long day for them. The South Carolina offensive line had their way last Saturday, doing a fine job protecting their quarterback and creating lanes for runners. The Gamecocks managed to rack up 132 rushing yards and average 4.4 yards per carry. More than a third of their yards came before contact was made.
The Aggie offensive line has exceeded expectations this year and shown to be a fairly solid unit. While there is still work to do, some would argue that the Florida defensive line they face Saturday is weaker than the Vanderbilt unit from week one. If that proves to be the case, expect Smith, Spiller, and maybe even Kellen Mond to go for big yards.
3rd Key to Victory: Push The Football Down The Field
Fisher’s Aggies are young at the skill-player positions. He understands that and appears is trying to coach them up on the finer parts of being a receiver rather than just sending them on go’s and posts. That is an admirable goal, but the dinking and dunking game does not seem to be worth its R.O.I. Kellen Mond is averaging just seven yards per passing attempting. In contrast, Trask averages 9.6, Mac Jones of Alabama leads the nation at 13.4 yards, with Ole Miss’s Matt Coral ranked third at 11.9 yards per attempt.
While throwing the ball further than the other is certainly not a guarantee for a victory, the threat still needs to be there. If you subtract the big plays that Alabama had against the Aggies, it is a much closer game. The deep ball is how Ole Miss is the medium that keeps them competitive.
Kellen Mond might have the strongest arm in the conference. We have seen him make accurate throws from strange angles that require a lot of arm strength. But without the threat of him ever throwing it downfield, it makes the defense’s job that much easier.
It is not like the Aggies do not have a deep threat. Demond Demas has patiently waited his turn through the first two weeks of play. Ainias Smith only has eight catches but is averaging 18.8 yards per reception. If the Aggies can find a way to stretch the field, complementing their already established run game, they could quickly become a dangerous team.