Texas A&M poses toughest challenge Gators defense has faced this season
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This has not been a smooth season for Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who has faced mounting scrutiny, an outspoken regent calling for his job, and some true ugliness within the fan base.
But on the field, his Aggies have been very impressive while shaking off a season-opening collapse at UCLA to win their next four games and then play competitively in a 27-19 loss to Alabama last weekend.
As usual, Sumlin’s Aggies have an explosive offense that figures to pose all kinds of challenges to Florida’s young defense.
The latest Gators Mailbag Question of the Day takes a closer look at that matchup.
Brad T. asks … “What is A&M’s biggest threat?
Texas A&M’s rushing attack figures to be a real problem for the Gators, who have been very leaky against the run this fall.
Aside from Vanderbilt, which caught Florida off guard by attacking through the air for 264 yards and 3 touchdowns, the Gators have given up an average of 183.5 rushing yards in their other four games. Michigan used its deep stable of rushers to rumble for 215 yards on the ground, while LSU used its speed on the edge with jet sweeps to rush for 216.
Expect Texas A&M to combine those two approaches with impressive running backs Trayveon Williams (422 yards, 5 TDs, 5.2 yards per carry) and Keith Ford (321 yards, 7 TDs, 4.7 YPC) along with dual-threat quarterback Kellen Mond (266 rushing yards, 2 TDs).
Overall, the Aggies rank 23rd nationally with 224.8 rushing yards per game, thanks to that multi-faceted backfield.
Ford has a pair of 100-yard games (114 yards, 3 TDs vs. UCLA and 102 yards, 2 TDs vs. Arkansas); Williams has a 200-yard game (203 yards, 2 TDs vs. UCLA); and Mond went for 109 on the ground against Arkansas and 95 against South Carolina.
The point being that Texas A&M can beat teams on the ground in a multitude of ways.
Florida did a good job containing LSU running backs Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams last week, but it took until the second half for the Gators to shore up the edges and combat the Tigers’ jet sweeps.
So the concern here is Mond. He is a gifted athlete at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. Florida has to keep him contained in the pocket and, in particular, not let him scramble for back-breaking third-down pickups. The Gators’ young defense is even younger this week with senior safety Nick Washington out with an injury.
We haven’t even mentioned standout receiver Christian Kirk, but it’s the running game that looks especially problematic for the Gators. For a defense that has already had pronounced tackling issues, particularly from the safeties, this is not an ideal matchup.
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