There are two especially attractive SEC matchups this week. One is Tennessee-Georgia and the other is Florida-Texas A&M. It’s Florida against former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.
By Matt Zemek
It’s former national championship SEC offensive coordinator Dan Mullen versus former SEC national championship offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. It’s a clash of teams which desperately want to win a division title but have to go through established favorites – Georgia for the Gators, Alabama and LSU for the Aggies. Getting the chance to win the division won’t happen, however, if this game is lost, especially for an A&M team which already has a loss on the ledger. The Aggies have to avoid a 1-2 start at all costs. Let’s see what they need to do to make it happen:
1 – Vertical passes and home-run plays
It’s easy to say and hard to do: Texas A&M has to get lots of chunk plays. It can’t dink and dunk its way to big-league victories against elite SEC competition. Kellen Mond needs to hit the deep ball and bust out a 45-yard scramble. It can’t be a case of throwing several five-yard passes for this offense – at least not always. Sure, ball control might be important in this game, since Florida’s offense is so lethal, but A&M needs to be able to walk on a field and expect to score in the 30s. That’s what Jimbo Fisher was hired for, NOT to play keep-away from the opposition’s better and more loaded offense. A&M has to develop a big-play offense, and that needs to emerge against Florida.
2 – Third and fourth downs
Texas A&M might create an ideal scenario early in the game, getting ahead of Florida and being able to dictate the way the game is played. Everyone would obviously love that in AggieLand, but part of game preparation involves being ready for difficult scenarios. The quality of the Florida offense will likely require A&M to make some high-leverage plays on third and also fourth down. If the game is close in the second half, and A&M has fourth and four near midfield, it will need to go for it instead of conceding a possession. The Aggies have to take chances and show an ability to perform under pressure if they want to be worthy of heightened respect in the SEC West. That comes only through achievement, and A&M probably won’t win this game if it plays it safe.
3 – Kadarius Toney and the Florida receivers
Everyone will focus on tight end Kyle Pitts, and rightly so… but part of what makes Florida’s offense dynamic is the fact that other pass catchers have established themselves. One is Kadarius Toney. Quarterback Kyle Trask can spread the ball around really well, and if defenses give Pitts too much attention, Toney and others will step in and produce. It’s not just about stopping Pitts; it’s about containing all the receivers and dealing with Florida’s speed across the entire field.