Texas A&M hosts Florida this Saturday in one of the top college football games for Week 6 of the 2020 season. Even though it’s only the third weekend of action for the SEC, there’s a lot at stake for both teams. The Aggies are looking to rebound after suffering a 52-24 defeat at Alabama last week. The Gators are off to a 2-0 start, but the schedule gets tougher with this trip to College Station, followed by a home date versus LSU next week.
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher isn’t on the hot seat, but expectations are high for this program after luring the former Florida State coach to College Station prior to the 2018 season. The Aggies finished 9-4 in Fisher’s debut and had to navigate a difficult schedule en route to an 8-5 record last year. Texas A&M is recruiting well, and Fisher knows what it takes to get to the top after leading the Seminoles to a national championship in 2013. However, the SEC West is unforgiving and annual matchups against Alabama, LSU and Auburn make the path to an undefeated season very difficult. The Aggies escaped an upset-minded Vanderbilt team in Week 1 and had no answers for Alabama last week. Florida isn’t quite on the Crimson Tide’s level, so this should be a good barometer test for Fisher’s program in his third year at the helm.
Florida has finished second to Georgia in the SEC East in each of coach Dan Mullen’s two years at the helm in Gainesville. However, the Gators appear to have the necessary pieces to push the Bulldogs for the top spot in 2020. Quarterback Kyle Trask leads a prolific offense, and this unit is off to a fast start after huge performances against Ole Miss and South Carolina. Trask has plenty of weapons at his disposal, and the defense – even though it's off to a slow start – still has the potential to rank as one of the best in the SEC.
The all-time series between Texas A&M and Florida is tied at two victories apiece. The Gators and Aggies have played just two times as SEC foes, with each team winning once.
Florida at Texas A&M
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 10 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida -7.5
When Florida Has the Ball
Florida’s offense enters Saturday’s game firing on all cylinders through the first two games of the year. The Gators are averaging 7.8 yards per play and 44.5 points a game after beating Ole Miss and South Carolina to start the 2020 SEC schedule. Coach Dan Mullen’s group appears to be even better than the ’19 version that finished the year by averaging 33.2 points a game and scored at least 36 or more points in three out of the final four contests.
Quarterback Kyle Trask is the catalyst for Mullen’s offense. After taking over the full-time job after an injury to Feleipe Franks last year, Trask threw for 2,941 yards and 25 scores. But the senior is on pace for a prolific 2020. Through two games, he’s connected on 71.8 percent of his passes for 684 yards and 10 touchdowns to just one pick. Trask’s favorite receiver is tight end Kyle Pitts (12 receptions), but the Gators have plenty of other weapons on the outside, including Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes, Jacob Copeland, and Trent Whittemore.
Trask and Florida’s receiving corps will be a tough matchup for a Texas A&M secondary that was torched for 435 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s game at Alabama. The Aggies have only generated three sacks so far but getting pressure on Trask and disrupting the line of scrimmage has to be a priority. The Gators are clearly going to lean on Trask to win this game, and the ground game (just 26 carries a game so far) might not find a ton of running room against Texas A&M’s front. Dameon Pierce (105 yards) leads the way, with Malik Davis (58) also in the mix for carries. The Aggies are holding teams to just 3.2 yards per carry through two games. Stopping the run and winning on early downs is critical for Fisher’s defense. Can Texas A&M generate a pass rush on Trask and prevent the secondary from getting stuck in long coverage situations?
When Texas A&M Has the Ball
For Texas A&M to challenge for the SEC West title, quarterback Kellen Mond needed to take a step forward in his development. Mond didn’t play his best football in matchups against ranked teams last season but entered 2020 as the league’s most experienced quarterback. Through two games, Mond is completing 58.3 percent of his throws for 507 yards and four touchdowns to just one pick. While those numbers aren’t bad, Mond will have to be at his best for Texas A&M to win on Saturday.
A challenge to Mond’s 2020 development has been the turnover at receiver. Texas A&M lost three of its top receivers from last fall, including Jhamon Ausbon who opted out just before the start of this season. A group of youthful pass catchers surrounds Mond now, with tight end Jalen Wydermyer (10 catches) and receiver Chase Lane (nine) leading the way on the outside. Running back Ainias Smith started his career at receiver and his versatility has been a huge asset for Texas A&M’s offense. Smith leads the team with 150 receiving yards over eight receptions and has 80 rushing yards to rank just behind Isaiah Spiller (142).
Florida’s defense is off to an uneven start in 2020. The Gators are giving up 5.85 yards per play and 29.5 points a contest. Those totals easily exceed the ’19 version of coach Todd Grantham’s defense, as Florida held teams to 15.5 points a game and finished second in the SEC in total defense. This group is giving up too many conversions on third down and has already surrendered seven plays of 30 yards or more through two games. While Florida’s defense is off to a slow start, there were signs of progress against South Carolina. The Gamecocks averaged only four yards a snap and no play went beyond 22 yards. Can Florida’s defense build on that performance against Texas A&M?
This game wasn’t originally slated to be played in 2020 but was added when the SEC went to a 10-game slate. While some of the appeal faded when Texas A&M lost to Alabama, plenty is still at stake in this matchup. Florida hopes to make a run at Georgia atop the SEC East, and even if it falls short of a conference title, Mullen’s team could be in the mix with one defeat to make the CFB Playoff. The Gators’ high-powered offense has rarely been stopped this season, and the combination of Trask, Pitts and the other receivers figures to be a handful for Texas A&M’s defense. On the other sideline, if Fisher wants to elevate the Aggies’ standing in the West, this is a must-win matchup – especially after the defeat in Tuscaloosa. If Florida’s defense has a repeat of its opener against Ole Miss, the Gators will be in trouble. However, the guess here is Trask and Mond each have their share of highlights and big plays, but Florida’s defense gets more stops and takeaways to seal a big win in College Station.
Prediction: Florida 34, Texas A&M 27
Podcast: Week 6 Prediction and Preview