Aggies and Gators both look to bounce back from close losses last week
Despite last week’s loss to LSU, the Florida Gators are still in the thick of the SEC East race. If they can beat Texas A&M on Saturday, the Gators would be 3-1 heading into their rivalry game showdown against Georgia on Oct. 28. But a loss would leave them two games behind Georgia in the loss column.
Texas A&M also is coming off its first SEC loss of the season, although the Aggies played well in a 27-19 loss to Alabama. The Aggies could use a road win against the Gators to build momentum, with three straight home dates afterward.
Saturday will be the fourth all-time meeting between the Gators and Aggies. Florida won the teams' last matchup back in 2012, 20-17.
Texas A&M at Florida
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Florida -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Gators' offense
Last weekend against LSU, Florida’s offensive line surrendered five sacks, as the offense just never seemed to get into a rhythm. Starting quarterback Feleipe Franks (above, right) finished the game 10-of-16 for 108 yards. The one bright spot for Florida last week was its ability to run the football; the Gators were able to rush for 194 yards against the Tigers.
The Gators rank 102nd nationally in total offense with 347.2 yards per game. Florida's struggling line will need to watch out for the Texas A&M front four after the Aggies came up with with nine tackles for a loss and three sacks against Bama last week. The Aggies also have the 28th-best rushing defense in the nation, allowing only 118.5 yards on the ground per game.
2. Kellen Mond
Against Alabama, Texas A&M tried to get its rushing attack going with Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford, but the Crimson Tide held the duo to just 57 rushing yards combined. That forced Mond to throw the ball more than the Aggies probably wanted to. Expect Florida to use the same blueprint.
Mond was 19-of-29 for 237 yards with one touchdown and one interception last weekend. Opposing defenses aren’t respecting Mond's arm and are loading the box trying to stop the run. Mond will need to show the Gators that he can hurt them down the field if the Texas A&M offense wants to be successful on Saturday.
3. Gators' defense
The 55th-ranked Gators defense will face a stiff test against the Aggies, who possess a dual-threat quarterback in Mond, running back threats in Williams and Ford and a big-play receiver in Christian Kirk, who is tied for third in the SEC with six touchdowns.
Against LSU, Florida gave up 216 rushing yards, 20 above its average. Now, the Gators will have to slow down a Texas A&M ground game that is averaging 224.8 rushing yards, 23rd best in the country.
The Gators will need to force Mond to try to beat them, which could create turnover opportunities. Since recording three pick-sixes in their first two games, the Gators have not forced a single turnover.
Although head coach Kevin Sumlin is squarely on the hot seat, Texas A&M is a better team than some might think. The Aggies' defense isn’t terrible, allowing 382 yards per game. If not for an unbelievable Week 1 performance from UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Texas A&M could be 5-1 heading into this game.
Florida and quarterback Feleipe Franks are limited on what they can do offensively. If the Gators cannot run the football, then it will be hard for them to score many points and keep up with the Aggies' offense. Florida's defense should keep the Gators in the game early, but expect Texas A&M to pull off the road upset in The Swamp.
Prediction: Texas A&M 27, Florida 17
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.