This is a big one on Saturday in College Station. Florida can’t win the SEC East if it doesn’t first manage to survive games against Texas A&M and LSU outside the division. Being tied with Georgia, or one game behind the Bulldogs, entering the Cocktail Party will require other high-end wins in the conference. This is one of them.
By Matt Zemek
What do the Gators need to do to beat the Aggies? Let’s zero in on some of the bigger priorities for Dan Mullen and his team:
1 – Forget about balance, or at least, redefine balance
Alabama threw for 435 yards against Texas A&M this past weekend. The Crimson Tide didn’t think they had to run and pass an equal number of times. The Tide have great pass catchers and an offensive line capable of pass blocking. They put two and two together and realized that throwing the ball was their path to victory on offense. They resisted the urge to be balanced and focused a lot more on emphasizing their strengths in a particular matchup. Texas A&M could not keep up with Alabama’s receivers. Alabama realized that and did not stop throwing the ball.
There’s your game plan, Dan Mullen. Throw early, often and late. If there is a need for “balance” within Florida’s offense, it is a matter of getting the ball to various pass catchers, not just Kyle Pitts. Make A&M defend the whole field. Make the Aggies account for everyone. Make the opponent react to your tactics instead of dictating. The Gators need to be smart and fearless in shaping and maintaining their line of attack in this game.
2 – Contain Kellen Mond as a runner
Kellen Mond hasn’t made significant strides as a downfield thrower; Texas A&M created only one play of more than 22 yards against Alabama, an indication of how limited the Aggies’ offense still is. Mond needed to evolve as a deep-ball passer, but that hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, Florida would like to see Mond attempt to beat the Gators with the pass. Florida does not want Mond to win this game with his legs, because open-field speed is arguably Mond’s biggest weapon. Containing Mond in the pocket and closing off large running lanes needs to be a priority for Florida. This leads to the third and final game key:
3 – Red zone defense
If Mond doesn’t create home-run plays of 30 or more yards with his legs, and the Aggies need to patiently move the ball down the field in small distances, Texas A&M will get into the red zone. Florida will need to be airtight in those situations. The Aggies are going to move the ball. They moved the ball against Alabama. They didn’t finish drives nearly enough to make a difference, however, and that is Florida’s goal: not to prevent A&M from driving down the field, but to make sure the Aggies kick a bunch of field goals and get stopped on fourth downs deep in Florida territory. Kicking field goals is a sure way to lose against the Gators’ revved-up offense. Florida’s defense doesn’t have to dominate; it merely has to excel on the 10 to 15 plays (third and fourth downs) which really matter.