By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: After escaping with a less-than-impressive win in their season
opener, the Florida Gators put their national ranking on the line as they take
on the Texas A&M Aggies in College Station on Saturday afternoon.
In its opener at home, Florida found itself tied with the Bowling Green
Falcons of the Mid-American Conference, 14-14, midway through the third
quarter. A sense of urgency kicked in for the Gators however, and they scored
the final 13 points of the game to pull out a 27-14 victory.
Texas A&M was one of the few teams in the country that did not play in week
one as its season opener at Louisiana Tech was postponed due to the impact of
Hurricane Isaac in the gulf region, and it's now set to play its first game as
a member of the SEC. In 2011, as a member of the Big 12 Conference, the Aggies
finished a modest 7-6, although they posted0 impressive wins on the road at
Texas Tech (45-40) and Iowa State (33-17), and at home against Baylor (55-28).
The early-season success resulted in a ranking as high as No. 16.
These two teams have faced each other twice before, but not since the 1977 Sun
Bowl when Texas A&M claimed a 37-13 victory.
Florida's offense was average at best against Bowling Green, gaining 365 yards
while converting just 5-of-16 third downs. The Gators also managed only one
touchdown in the red zone.
Jeff Driskel took the majority of the snaps at quarterback. He completed 10-
of-16 passes for 114 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown pass to Frankie
Hammond in the fourth quarter. Jacoby Brisset (3-of-5, 31 yards) also saw time
under center, although Driskel remains the starter.
Mike Gillislee ran wild on the afternoon, tallying career highs in carries
(24) and yards (148). He also ran in two first-half touchdowns. Hammond was
the Gators' leading receiver with 62 yards.
Head Coach Will Muschamp will be expecting more from his offense in the coming
"As our competition heats up a little bit, we have got to be able to open up
our offense more," Muschamp said. "You have to understand that it is not just
about what we did here in game one."
The Gators defense was a step ahead of the offense, allowing just 14 points
and 327 yards of total offense. The unit also allowed BGSU to convert less
than 25 percent of its third-down attempts.
Marcus Robinson made a timely interception in the fourth quarter to help seal
the deal for the Gators. Jon Bostic made eight tackles and Dominique Easley
recorded the team's lone sack.
The Aggies had a potent offensive attack last season, ranking 11th in the FBS
in scoring (39.6 ppg) and seventh in total offense (497 ypg). Both numbers
would have topped the SEC last season, but now the unit has to transition from
playing against the traditionally-soft Big 12 defenses to facing hard-nosed
units that reside in the SEC.
Filling the large shoes left by record-setting quarterback Ryan Tannehill
(3,744 yards, 29 TDs) won't be easy, but that's exactly what Johnny Manziel
expects to do. He'll become the first freshman QB to start a season opener for
the Aggies since 1944.
"My policy is simple really -- the best player plays," First-year head coach
Kevin Sumlin said, who anointed Manziel the starter over Jameill Showers and
Matt Joeckel. "Competition is a great thing and we need more competition at
all of our positions. All of our quarterbacks have competed well, and I expect
them to continue to push Johnny."
Fortunately for Manziel, he will have two high-impact playmakers to throw to,
as Ryan Swope had one of the greatest receiving seasons in school history with
89 catches, 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns -- earning Second Team All-Big 12
honors. Opposite Swope is fellow senior Uzoma Nwachukwu, who started all 13
games in 2011 and compiled 50 catches for 639 yards and two touchdowns. The
Aggies run plenty of three- and four-receiver sets, so Kenric McNeal (eight
catches, 101 yards) and freshman Mike Evans also figure to get plenty of
The loss of Cyrus Gray (1,105 yards, 12 TDs) means that Christine Michael
takes over as the team's No. 1 running back. Michael had a fantastic season in
2011 while splitting carries with Gray, gaining 920 yards (6.0 ypc) and
scoring eight touchdowns. With an increased workload behind a veteran
offensive line, Michael should eclipse those numbers this fall.
Texas A&M's potent offensive attack was coupled with a defensive unit that
performed below average last year. It's scoring yield (28.7 ppg) and total
defensive effort (386.5 ypg) would be considered poor by any conference's
standards, but in the SEC, those numbers rank well toward the bottom.
The pass rush was A&M's biggest strength last season, and defensive end
Damontre Moore is hoping to improve upon a fantastic sophomore season in which
he recorded 72 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and four forced
fumbles. Outside linebacker Sean Porter is also used to disrupting things in
the backfield, tallying 79 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and a team-high 9.5
Linebacker Jonathan Stewart returns to the fold after leading the team with 98
tackles in 2011. Safety Steven Terrell (24 tackles, two interceptions) is the
lone returning starter in the secondary, and he will be joined by three
sophomores in corners Floyd Raven and Deshazor Everett, and safety Howard
Florida's performance last week did little to instill confidence in its
naysayers, but at least it had the opportunity to play a game. The Aggies
still aren't quite sure what they are going to get out of their freshman
quarterback. The crowd at Kyle Field is sure to be raucous as it'll be ready
to welcome its team to its new conference, and it will be an incredible 12th
man for the Aggies, but the Gators are simply more talented and they will make
a big play late to pull out a narrow win.