GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators (3-2, 3-1 SEC) host the Texas A&M Aggies (4-2, 2-1 SEC) at 7 p.m. ET Saturday for the final game of a three-game homestand. The game will be televised on ESPN.
This is just the third meeting between the two teams, the first since 2012 and the first in Gainesville since 1962.
The Gators are hoping to bounce back from a 17-16 homecoming loss to LSU, while the Aggies are coming off a 27-19 loss to the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Florida beat writers Zach Abolverdi, Jordan McPherson and Ryan Young make their predictions for how the game will unfold.
Abolverdi: Quarterback play will decide the game
As the heat turns up on Florida coaches and players this week, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has a chance to cool off his seat even more. Sumlin was under fire heading into this season and fanned those flames in the opener. But after a crushing 45-44 loss at UCLA, the Aggies bounced back with four straight wins and defeated Arkansas in overtime, 50-43. These guys can score.
And if there’s ever a time to look on the bright side of losing, it’s when Alabama only beats you by one score. Nick Saban’s rat-poison phobia aside, I just think the Aggies have a solid squad and their start to the season has been impressive. The Gators, meanwhile, are not so hot and their youth is starting to show with injuries piling up on top of the suspensions.
Florida and Texas A&M both lost their season openers and fell again last week. Each team starts a freshman quarterback. The difference? Dual-threat QB Kellen Mond is averaging 284 total yards per game as a starter and has a 3-1 record. Florida’s Feleipe Franks averaged 114.5 total yards in his four starts and has been benched twice. Those two will decide the game Saturday , and I’m giving the edge to Mond.
Texas A&M, 30-24.
McPherson: ‘Texas A&M is just the better team’
I don’t see Florida winning this game. Simple as that.
The Gators could easily be a one-win team at this point if not for a last-second heave against Tennessee and a Kentucky field goal landing short as time expired.
And now the defense is facing its biggest challenge of the season in a Texas A&M offense led by dual-threat quarterback Kellen Mond, wide receiver/all-around threat Christian Kirk, and running backs Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford.
While I don’t expect the Aggies to hit their season average in points — 34.3 — I do think Texas A&M will take advantage of Florida’s young defense early, much like Vanderbilt and LSU did the last two weeks.
And with that, I don’t think Florida’s offense will have enough firepower to bounce back after falling into yet another hole, especially if both Tyrie Cleveland and Kadarius Toney are out. Quarterback Feleipe Franks will be on a tight leash and the one-two punch of Malik Davis and Lamical Perine in the run game can only carry the Gators so far.
Texas A&M is just the better team. It’ll be evident on Saturday.
Young: ‘I’m simply not sure the Gators can keep pace’
I just don’t like this matchup for the Gators. Not at all.
Texas A&M managed 19 points against Alabama’s vaunted defense last week. The Aggies average 34.33 points per game. They’ve scored at least 44 in three of their six games. The bottom line is they are going to move the ball and find the end zone Saturda y , and I’m not sure the Gators can keep pace.
Feleipe Franks hasn’t shown the game-to-game progress you want to see from a young quarterback, and the offensive play calling has reflected the coaches’ lack of trust in him. I fully expect running backs Malik Davis and Lamical Perine to be effective and give the offense some life, and maybe Franks delivers with his best game yet.
But A&M’s combination of two very effective ball carriers in Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford, a successful dual-threat quarterback in Kellen Mond, and one of the best receivers in the SEC in Christian Kirk is going to be hard to slow down.
I think this one goes to Texas A&M, 28-20.
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