Time: 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT
Venue: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
TV: ESPN2 (Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht & Rocky Boiman)
Watch Online: WatchESPN
Spread: The Gators are favored by 3.
These two historic programs have only met three times on the field since both schools began fielding teams at the turn of the century. The Gators currently lead the series 2-1 and won the only meeting between the two as conference foes in 2012 with a 20-17 victory in College Station. The previous two meetings were a win for the Aggies in the 1977 Sun Bowl and a Gators’ victory in 1962 in Gainesville.
The Gators unveiled alternate uniforms Monday commemorating the 25th anniversary of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium being dubbed “The Swamp” by coach Steve Spurrier. Straying from the signature orange and blue, the Gators will wear Nike’s unique “Swamp Green” uniform that resembles an actual alligator.
Everyone seems to have their own opinion and it will be interesting to see how it turns out under the lights. Florida coach Jim McElwain on the uniforms:
He says players really excited about alternate uniforms. “Nike did a good job telling the story."— Scott Carter (@GatorsScott) October 11, 2017
Mac says the recruits and players loved the uniforms. "The demographic we're looking at." #Gators— Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) October 11, 2017
It appears the Aggies will wear their Adidas storm trooper uniforms.
News & Injuries
- The Gators injury report includes: S Nick Washington (shoulder - out), S Chauncey Gardner (ankle - questionable), LB Jeremiah Moon (ankle - questionable), G Brett Heggie (concussion - questionable), WR Tyrie Cleveland (ankle - doubtful), WR Kadarius Toney (shoulder - doubtful), RB Mark Thompson (heel - questionable).
- Gators “Knucklehead Nine” are still suspended with no new report for their return.
- Good Bull Hunting’s Fun With Numbers, an advanced statistics preview of the Aggies and Gators.
Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1 )
The Aggies are coming off a near upset against No. 1 Alabama in College Station. Texas A&M entered the matchup on a four-game win streak after its season-opening loss at UCLA. A 27-19 loss to Alabama instilled hope that the Aggies have a promising future with true freshman Kellen Mond at quarterback.
For head coach Kevin Sumlin, this might be the final straw to his career at Texas A&M. For the past three seasons Alabama has been responsible for derailing the Aggies season. A win for Texas A&M would be a step in the right direction for Sumlin to keep his job. The Aggies are favorites in three of its next five games to close out the regular-season. Texas A&M is a slight favorite against Mississippi State next week according to SB Nation’s Bill Connelly’s S&P+ rankings and holds the edge against New Mexico and at Mississippi. The Aggies need to win Saturday and the aforementioned games along with an upset against Auburn or at LSU to finish with a better record than the previous three seasons.
Texas A&M’s offense is slowly gaining steam after scored 19 points against Alabama’s defense that previously had only allowed three points in two conference games. The Aggies average 34.33 points per game, and have scored at least 44 in three of their six games.
A critical element to the Aggies’ offense is its 224 rushing yards a game behind running backs Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams. The success of Ford and Williams has eased the pressure on Mond, who has a 62.7 completion percentage in three SEC games.
Mond and the two-headed running tandem will look to take advantage of Florida’s struggling defense, which is giving up 24.2 points per game.
The Aggie defense is led by safety Armani Watts and tackle Zaycoven Henderson and currently average +1/game turnover margin. One area where the Aggies could pressure the struggling Gators is on third down where their opponents are only converting 29% on the season, good for top-15 in FBS.
Florida (3-2, 3-1)
The Gators are licking their wounds after dropping a game at home to LSU, who lost at home to Troy the previous week. The team is riddled with injuries and is still missing the nine suspended players. The struggling offense looked to be getting better and until LSU had produced more offensive yards than the previous week in each SEC outing.
The Gators only gained 302 yards against the Tigers and only completed 10 passes for 108 yards. The Tigers limped in after losing to Troy with a gameplan to run the ball and let the Gators make mistakes. While there were no turnovers, 302 total yards and 16 points will not get it done in the SEC.
The worst part for the Gators is that Texas A&M comes in to Gainesville with a competent offense and a mature defense that currently leads the SEC with 23 sacks. This is a scary proposition for a team that could not move the ball through the air against a banged up LSU front-seven and gave up 5 sacks (most of which were the fault of Feleipe Franks).
The Aggies front will be a much tougher test.
Here's a look at how all the SEC QBs fare under pressure pic.twitter.com/sLutVdpcqw— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) October 13, 2017
The Gators will have to lean on running backs Malik Davis, Lamical Perine and the emerging offensive line. The group that McElwain called the “strength of the offense” over the summer is finally blowing teams off the ball in the run game and communicating in pass protection. For the Gators to win, they will need production out of the passing game.
Against LSU, the offense went 2/9 on third downs and 0/1 on fourth downs and dug themselves into a hole early. The Aggies have the capability to score on the Gators young defense and will put the pressure on the play calling much more than LSU did. The Tigers allowed the Gators back into the game with some poor execution and stalled drives of their own, but the young Gator defense may not be so lucky this week.
Kellen Mond is a real threat on offense in ways Danny Etling could never be and the scoreboard may reflect the difference on Saturday. We know that the Florida defense can be porous, especially when left on the field for entire quarters, and the balanced attack Texas A&M has produced this year could be enough to tire the defense early.
Without Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland on the edge for the Gators, the offense really has a hard time being explosive in the passing game and it showed against LSU. If Cleveland is able to go this weekend, Nussmeier and Franks may have an easier time finding some creative wrinkles, because without him we know Chavis will load the box and blitz on third down.
After getting torched on a speed sweep in the first quarter the Gator defense settled down and played pretty well (well enough to win the game) in the fourth quarter. The tackling improved from the secondary and the linebackers may have their starting three of Johnson, Reese, and Joseph, healthy and together for the first time since Michigan.
The Florida defense is exactly what we thought it would be through five games and will have their toughest test yet this weekend. The defense will need to get off the field on third down and have sure coverage against Christian Kirk and company so that the ends and blitzing linebackers can disrupt the talented but raw Kellen Mond.
Texas A&M's Kellen Mond is 5-19 (26.3%) on throws 15+ yards downfield in SEC play this season.— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) October 11, 2017
Keys to the Game
- Aggies: Run the dang ball!
The Aggies two-headed monster of Williams and Ford in the backfield are helping the Aggies average 224 yards/game on the ground and the Gators gave up 216 to a struggling LSU team last week. Florida gives up 156 yards per game to opponents on the ground and has been known to tire out in the second half if the offense sputters. Will A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone stick to the run long enough to gut the Gators?
- Gators: Pressure Mond while containing Mond
Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond showed the world last week against Alabama what he can do when a play breaks down. The Florida defensive ends are extremely aggressive and will get up field in a hurry. This could spell doom for the Gator defensive lineman and blitzers as they will be charged with pressuring Mond to make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket.
If they do not play disciplined football or get to the quarterback on the first swipe, Mond can take a scramble to the house. Can the Gators defense keep the young gunslinger in check?
This is really impressive from Kellen Mond. He hangs in the pocket as long as possible, keeps eyes upfield, almost completes it. pic.twitter.com/V1aTFIc6TA— David Wunderlich (@Year2) October 10, 2017
- Gator Offense... Where ya at?
After racking up 467 yards and 38 points in a balanced effort against Vanderbilt, the Gator offense laid an egg against LSU. The running game showed up again, but stalled drives, 2 of 9 on third downs, 54 total plays and 108 yards passing were all to blame for the measly 16 points and 302 yards against the Tigers. Can the Gators get more out of Feleipe Franks and the passing game to keep up with the Aggies offense?
After the miserable offense the Gators put on the field last week, I have little faith that this will be the week the lights turn on especially if Cleveland and Toney are not able to go. The running game will be there as it has all year (sans Michigan) and the defense will play with heart as long as they can. This Aggie team is much more talented than the LSU team that beat Florida last week and the weapons on offense may be too much for the young Gators.
I see Texas A&M taking what Florida gives them and as LSU showed, it isn’t tough to beat the Gators when they are beating themselves. Expect Chavis to blitz Franks on obvious passing downs and expect Franks to struggle to find open receivers. Williams and Ford will be the best backfield tandem the Gators have seen this year and Kellen Mond is one of the best breakout freshman in the SEC.
It will be an uphill battle for the Gators and there are just too many play makers to account for without having an offense to match.
Texas A&M has a more balanced offensive attack than what Florida saw last week against LSU, and a defense with a devastating pass rush that leads the SEC in sacks. The Aggies will bring the pressure on Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks, force at least two turnovers and give Mond great field position to score.