Texas A&M Football: Preview of Game vs. Florida Gators
The Texas A&M football team finally gets to open its season on September 8 against the Florida Gators at Kyle Field. The game is one of the most anticipated in Aggieland in over a decade.
It marks the beginning of a new era at A&M as the Aggies are playing in a new conference, with a new coaching staff and new systems on offense and defense. Aggies fans are excited to see redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel on the field.
The No. 23-ranked Gators defeated Bowling Green 27-14 on Saturday in Gainesville. Any win on opening weekend is a good win, but Florida displayed some shortcomings on offense as it tried to adjust to offensive coordinator Brent Pease's new scheme.
The Aggies had their game scheduled on Thursday against Louisiana Tech postponed because of concerns over Hurricane Isaac. The Florida game will be the first game of the season for Texas A&M.
This is a look at what Aggie fans should see on the field when A&M takes on Florida at Kyle Field on Saturday.
What to Expect When Florida Is on Offense
The Florida offense should look very familiar to Aggies fans. It is the same offense they saw from the opposition the last time A&M played a game at Kyle Field.
Florida hired Pease away from Boise State in order to revamp its offense. In 2011 Mack Brown hired Boise State offensive coordinator Brian Harsin in order to toughen up the Texas offense.
The similarities between Harsin's offense at Texas in 2011 and Pease's offense at Florida are glaring, complete with indecision at who will start at quarterback.
Florida is going to try to pound the ball with Mike Gillislee on offense and play solid defense. Florida coach Will Muschamp is trying to transform the Gators from the finesse based spread-option offense they ran under Urban Meyer to more of a typical Southeastern Conference power running team.
They had some success in their running game against Bowling Green with 239 total yards rushing. Gillislee showed great balance and power while rushing for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
The Gators did struggle to convert on some third-and-short plays. The running game is improved, but they were not exactly dominating the line of scrimmage against Bowling Green.
Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett both played at quarterback. Driskel played the second half and completed 10-of-16 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Neither Gators quarterback was overly impressive. Both missed wide-open receivers. Right now Florida appears to be a running team. If you can stop the running game, the Gators are going to struggle to score points on offense.
Florida was very vanilla on offense against Bowling Green. Expect to see a lot more misdirection plays against A&M. Do not be surprised to see Pease run one or two trick plays at Kyle on Saturday.
When A&M Is on Defense
The Aggies are going to run a 4-3 "under" defense under new defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. Bowling Green was multiple on defense against the Gators running mainly a 3-4 defense, but switching to an even front at times with multiple nickel and dime looks.
At one point Bowling Green had two defensive linemen on the line of scrimmage to defend a 3rd-and-long play.
Expect Snyder to continually switch up the defense. The Aggies will open in a 4-3 but should throw multiple schemes at Florida in an attempt to confuse Driskel.
Aggies linebackers Steven Jenkins, Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart are going to need to have a big day against the Florida running game. They will need to wrap up against Gillislee and limit yards after contact.
The Aggies have a young but talented secondary. Florida has outstanding talent at wide receiver that is under-utilized because the quarterback cannot get them the ball. Damontre Moore and the Aggies' front seven have to get consistent pressure on the Florida quarterback to prevent the Gators from taking advantage of their veteran wide receiver unit.
When Florida Is on Defense
Florida runs the 4-3 base defense favored by head coach Will Muschamp when he was a defensive coordinator. The Aggies faced Muschamp's defense in 2010 in Austin when Cyrus Gray ran for over 200 yards against Texas.
Bowling Green had some success running the ball against Florida when the running backs were patient and waited for the play to develop. A&M does not have a running back with that patient style on the roster right now.
Christine Michael is more of a slasher who will try to run by and through defenders rather than patiently waiting for the hole to develop.
Florida was very basic against Bowling Green on defense. Expect the Gators to show a lot more exotic blitzes and stunts against A&M on Saturday.The Gators will likely spend much of the day in their nickel defense to combat the Ags' spread attack.
When the Aggies Are on Offense
No one has seen the Aggies offense yet in 2012 because their opening game was postponed. It remains somewhat of a mystery what the Aggies will do on offense against a strong SEC defense like Florida.
Florida did struggle to defend slant routes against Bowling Green, so expect the Aggies to go to Ryan Swope and Kenric McNeal early and often on Saturday.
The biggest question for the Aggies is how their offensive line will block against a strong Florida defensive line. If the Ags can control the line of scrimmage, then fans should expect them to take some of the pressure of Manziel by feeding the ball to a deep stable of running backs.
If the Ags cannot consistently win at the point of attack, then expect them to rely on the pass in order to move the ball.
This game is hard to judge because no one has seen the Aggies play yet. However, if Florida is like Texas as much as it appeared against Bowling Green, then the Ags may simply be able to win the game by running the ball and playing defense.
Florida Players to Watch
Gillislee is the most important player on the Florida offense. Muschamp is relying on him to carry the Gators offense in 2012. If the Ags can stop Gillislee, then they will likely win this game.
Gillislee has averaged over six yards per carry for his career. A&M will need to hold him to around three yards per carry on Saturday.
Trey Burton is a 6'3" 230 lb athlete who will line up at tight end, fullback and quarterback in the Wildcat formation for the Gators.
Andre Dubose and Quinton Dunbar are very talented wide receivers for the Gators. Both have outstanding speed and are dynamic with the ball in their hands. The Aggies must wrap up when trying to tackle Dubose. He is especially effective on punt and kick returns.
Sharrif Floyd leads the Gators defensive line. The 6'3" 303 lb Floyd will be the best defensive lineman on the field in College Station. He had four tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss against Bowling Green.
Middle linebacker Jon Bostic quarterbacks the defense for the Gators. He led Florida with 94 tackles in 2011. Bostic led the Gators in tackles against Bowling Green with eight to go along with a tackle for loss.
A&M Players to Watch
All eyes at Kyle Field will be glued to Manziel to see how the freshman performs during his first every college football game. More than any other player on the field, he will decide whether the Aggies win or lose against Florida.
Christine Michael appears to be recovered from an ACL injury. It normally takes two years to completely recover from an ACL tear. Expect Michael to be good against Florida but to not have the burst that Aggies have come accustomed to seeing.
Swope and the other Aggies slot receivers were probably licking their lips after watching the Gator DBs struggle against all the slants from Bowling Green. Swope will need to have a big day for the Aggies to be successful on Saturday.
Porter is the Aggies best defensive player. He and Moore need to get into the Florida backfield and put the Gators offense behind the chains.
Spencer Nealy will get the start at defensive tackle for the Ags. It will be interesting to see how he holds up against an SEC offensive line.
The Florida team that will step onto Kyle Field on Saturday will be better than the one that played against Bowling Green in Gainesville. Because they have already played a game, expect the Gators to clean up some of their miscues.
Do not expect as many missed and broken tackles allowed by the Florida defense. Also, the Gators should lower the number of penalties they have in the game against the Aggies.
On the other hand, A&M should be expected to have some silly penalties and poor tackling fundamentals. The Ags are going to have to fight through some miscues in order to find a way to win.
This is the biggest game in Aggieland in at least a decade. It is much more hyped than a typical regular-season conference game. The A&M football team is going to have to make sure it keeps its emotions in check and do not get too high for this game.
There is a lot of pressure to prove all the naysayers wrong. The team just needs to play within themselves and execute the offense.
"College Gameday" coming to Aggieland for this game will only increase the spotlight on the team. How the Aggies deal with the pressure will help define how the 2012 season goes.
While Florida has an obvious advantage of having played a game, the Aggies have the advantage of the unknown. Florida does not know what to expect from the A&M offense or defense. The Aggies have some video on Florida while the Gators have nothing to scout on A&M.
The Aggies already played this team once before last November. There is no Mike Sherman on the sideline to insist the Aggies pass the ball this time when they have a double-digit lead.
Expect the Aggies to make numerous frustrating mistakes, but to find a way to grind out a win at home in their first-ever SEC game.
Pick: Aggies beat Florida 24-19.