The No. 4 Gators face their toughest test yet on the road against the No. 21 Aggies
Looking back at the six SEC football programs that named new coaches before the 2018 season, you’ll notice that three of them have already been fired. Two of the three that remain will meet for the first time Saturday when No. 21 Texas A&M plays host to No. 4 Florida in a huge game for both teams, though particularly the Gators, which are seeking College Football Playoff contention for the first time since the new postseason format debuted.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 10 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Kyle Field — College Station, Texas
TV: ESPN | Live stream: Click Here To Watch Live in HD
For Florida coach Dan Mullen, the game represents an opportunity to solidify his team’s status as an SEC and national title contender after impressive offensive showings in season-opening victories over Ole Miss and South Carolina. For Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, it will be a chance for redemption after it appeared in a 52-24 loss to Alabama last week that the Aggies are still not ready ready to compete with the SEC’s top tier.
Both teams have veteran quarterbacks, excellent tight ends and defenses still trying to find their way. That means there should be plenty of points scored after these teams combined to score just 36 in a 2017 game that Texas A&M won 19-17 at Florida. Back then, the Aggies were coached by Kevin Sumlin and the Gators by Jim McElwain. Now both programs are in the third season of new regimes, and this game will be a critical measuring stick of the progress that’s been made.
Florida: Mullen wants the Gators to get better at finishing games after South Carolina scored 10 unanswered to inject a bit of drama into Saturday’s victory. This after Ole Miss also outscored the Gators in the fourth quarter two weeks ago. But it’s hard to blame Florida for getting a bit lax after it led by three possessions entering the fourth quarter of both games. Quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts have connected for six touchdowns through two games, catapulting both into the early conversation for the Heisman Trophy race. But this week should be a tougher test for the Gators as Texas A&M’s defensive front will pose a stiffer challenge than what Florida experienced against the Rebels and Gamecocks.
Texas A&M: “We feel the progress is there,” Fisher said Monday after the loss to the Crimson Tide. Aggies fans might like to see more of it this week after Texas A&M was no more competitive against Alabama in Fisher’s third season than they were in his first two. But all is not lost. If the Aggies can pull an upset against Florida, the middle of their schedule is manageable enough that this team could still earn its highest finish in the SEC West since Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy season in 2012. Getting there will require better play from a secondary that was gashed against Alabama, though. The Gators will be another huge test for a defense that allowed touchdown passes of 78, 87 and 63 yards against the Crimson Tide.
Game prediction, picks
Don’t overcomplicate this matchup. Both defenses still have a lot to prove, and so does Texas A&M’s offense. The Florida offense looks like a juggernaut, though, and for that reason the Gators are the pick to win this one by a touchdown or more. Pick: Florida (-6.5)