Texas A&M is preparing to take on its fourth top-10 opponent of the season as it travels to Athens on Saturday to face No. 4 Georgia. The Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) have sewn up the SEC East Division title, but the Aggies can play spoiler to any College Football Playoff hopes Georgia may have with an upset victory.
Riding a four-game winning streak after a three-game homestand, A&M (7-3, 4-2) heads east trying for a first under head coach Jimbo Fisher — securing a road win over a ranked team. The Aggies have momentum after taking down three SEC opponents during their midseason run and get an extra boost of confidence knowing they took down the team that beat the Bulldogs, South Carolina, in Week 12 (30-6).
Georgia welcomes A&M to Sanford Stadium riding its own four-game winning streak that includes wins over two top-15 teams — then-No. 6 Florida and No. 12 Auburn. While the Aggies were laying it on the Gamecocks, UGA found itself in a dogfight in the fourth quarter against the Tigers before pulling out a 21-14 win.
Texas A&M at Georgia
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Georgia -13
When Texas A&M Has the Ball
The Aggies have been surging up the FBS rankings in total offense thanks to a newfound running game. During the winning streak, A&M has averaged 245 yards per game on the ground with a season-high 340 against the Gamecocks. The jump has coincided with the emergence of freshman tailback Isaiah Spiller. Spiller leads the team in yards (796) and touchdowns (8) after a three-touchdown, 217-yard performance against UTSA in Week 10. He showed he could be a workhorse back for the team against South Carolina, carrying the rock 24 times for 129 yards.
After a season in which Kellen Mond threw for 3,107 yards with 24 touchdowns, most thought Mond’s junior season would be a passing showcase. In reality, Mond has been steady but not prolific. Still, he is third in the SEC in passing yards (2,435) and is completing 64 percent of his attempts.
Mond will not fear Georgia’s 20th-ranked pass defense. Against Auburn, another high-profile SEC defense, Mond threw for 335 yards with two scores. The Bulldogs’ rush defense is one of the best in the nation, ranked third nationally, holding teams to just 76 yards a game. But is that all smoke and mirrors? The highest-rated offensive team UGA has faced this season is Arkansas State (45th). Statistically, A&M is better than the Red Wolves and has far more talent to go toe-to-toe with Georgia. For the curious, Florida is the top-rated SEC offense Georgia has faced so far, ranking No. 62 producing 417 yards per game.
When Georgia Has the Ball
There is a misconception out there about Georgia being a running team after cycling through one fantastic running back after another over the years, but this is quarterback Jake Fromm’s team. With that established, this has not been a stellar season for Fromm in the pocket. The junior is eighth in the SEC in passing yards (1,968) and fifth in touchdowns (16) and QBR (146). One thing Fromm does well — he protects the football, with just three picks in 261 attempts.
While the passing attack is picking up 220 yards per game, the ground game is close behind with 208 on average. The leader out of the backfield is D’Andre Swift. The junior tailback is challenging for All-SEC honors with 1,027 yards and seven scores. Balancing out the offensive attack are three key targets — Lawrence Cager (33 rec., 476 yards, 4 TDs), George Pickens (30/400/4), and Dominick Blaylock (14/259/4). Cager has the size (6-5, 220) to be a threat to move the chains and offers an inviting red-zone target as well.
The Bulldogs' lofty CFB Playoff ranking may mask some inefficiencies that A&M will attempt to exploit. In losses to top teams like Clemson and Alabama, the Aggies were facing top-10 offenses; the Bulldogs are ranked 47th.
While many may predict a blowout win for Georgia, this contest could be a tight affair coming down to the small details. Both teams tend to hurt themselves with penalties. Of the two, Georgia has done a better job of holding on to the ball with eight total turnovers to A&M’s 14. The punters for both teams can boot it, and both have kickers who are dangerous from 50 yards and in. Over the last four weeks, A&M has had an easier go than Georgia. Could the Bulldogs be worn out by Auburn?
Prediction: Georgia 24, Texas A&M 21
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.