Florida Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Texas A&M
As the new kid on the block in the dangerous neighborhood known as the SEC, an unidentified Texas A&M supporter wasted no time letting Florida know that it's ready to do battle this Saturday.
Though the Aggies aren't used to doing battle in the trenches, the team doesn't lack talent along both lines of scrimmage.
Kevin Sumlin—the Aggies' first-year coach—has the benefit of running his offense with two future first-round offensive tackles in Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews.
If the Gators hope to escape College Station with a win, they'll have to be tough against the run and generate pressure off the edge against the Aggies' talented bookends.
Offensively, Florida will have to establish the ground game early and make sure to block talented outside linebacker Sean Porter.
Let's take a look at the five keys to victory for the Gators in their matchup against the Aggies.
Stop Christine Michael and the Ground Game
When healthy, senior Christine Michael displays tantalizing skills that could make him an early-round draft pick.
Unfortunately for the Aggies top tailback, health has been a big hurdle for the Texas native.
The 5'11", 220-pounder burst onto the scene as a freshman, earning Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors after rushing for 844 yards and 10 touchdowns.
As a sophomore, he was well on his way to becoming one of the nation's top backs before a broken leg ended his season.
In 2011, Michael racked up 899 yards and eight scores on the ground but tore his left ACL late in the season.
The Gators allowed just 101 yards on the ground against Bowling Green, although they did give up two scores.
Michael shows tremendous burst, quickness and a nasty stiff arm, so it's imperative that the Gators' front seven plays stout in the run game.
Generate Pressure Against the Aggies Offensive Line
Florida's defensive line might not face a tougher test this season than on Saturday when it lines up across from Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews.
Both stalwarts possess tremendous size, starting experience and growth potential.
Joeckel (6'6", 310 pounds) earned first-team all-Big 12 honors last season for his blocking prowess at left tackle.
Matthews—the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews—should be a first-round pick in 2013.
As I highlighted here, the Gators will have to rely on a number of players up front to provide a pass rush against the towering duo.
Dominique Easley must utilize his quickness off the edge to collapse the pocket, and Sharrif Floyd needs to wreak havoc on the interior in order to stop the Aggies' spread attack.
Establish the Running Game
Anyone who watched the season opener would concede that Florida didn't put forth a complete effort against Bowling Green.
However, if there's one area in which the Gators succeeded, it had to be the running game.
Senior Mike Gillislee exploded for a career-high 148 yards in his first start, and freshman Matt Jones offered a glimpse of his talent with an impressive 17-yard run.
Florida shouldn't lack motivation with Billboard Gate on full display, so I expect the Gators to come out trying to cram the ball down the Aggies' throats.
With a diverse array of backs, Brent Pease should have no trouble getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers in order to fire up the offense.
Neutralize Sean Porter
You don't associate the Big 12 with defense, but the Aggies actually feature a legitimate first-round talent in outside linebacker Sean Porter.
The speedy senior draws comparisons to Von Miller, and although he isn't on the same level as his heralded former teammate, he's still a matchup nightmare.
Like Miller, Porter lacks classic size for a pass-rusher (6'2", 230 pounds) but makes up for it with incredible first-step quickness and overall athleticism.
Florida offensive tackles Chaz Green and Xavier Nixon will certainly have their hands full in blocking the Aggies' top defender.
Win the Turnover Battle
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn preaches it time and time again: force turnovers.
The Gators managed to force two last Saturday, including a 31-yard interception by cornerback Marcus Roberson.
Now that they're facing a freshman quarterback in Johnny Manziel, it should be prime picking for the Gators secondary.
Florida's corners often struggle with snagging the ball in the air, but they can't afford to drop easy interceptions against the Aggies' wide-open attack.
Quinn's defense must play with tenacity and toughness if the Gators hope to escape College Station with a road victory.