There is no such thing as a moral victory, but if one were possible, Texas A&M would have qualified after a strong showing against No. 1 Alabama last week.
After an 8-point loss to the Crimson Tide, the Aggies (4-2, 2-1 SEC) will hit the road to face Florida this week (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET).
Here are five things you should know about this matchup:
1. The quarterbacks
Texas A&M freshman quarterback Kellen Mond has spent the season learning on the job, and that work showed up in the loss to Alabama. He played well, going 19-for-29 for 237 yards through the air with a touchdown and an interception. He didn’t find as much room on the ground as he had in recent weeks, but he did have a rushing touchdown.
More importantly, he showed poise and kept his team in the game.
On the season, he’s 88-for-155 passing for 1,045 yards, 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He’s also the team’s third-leading rusher with 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The quarterback carousel at Florida has landed on redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, who has responded with mixed results. Last week, he was 10-for-16 passing for 108 yards while executing what has to be described as a conservative game plan.
On the season, he’s 50-for-79 passing for 665 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception. Expect the Gators to try to throw a bit more often this week in an effort to take advantage of the Aggies’ pass defense, which ranks 12th in the SEC.
2. Series history
Florida holds a 2-1 lead in all-time meetings. The last time these schools met, Florida claimed a 20-17 win in College Station on Sept. 8, 2012.
3. The opening line
Texas A&M is a 3-point underdog on the road. The over/under is 52.5.
4. Player to watch
Sophomore linebacker Tyrel Dodson was rather busy against the Tide, piling up 16 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He leads the Aggies in tackles with 46, and is second on the team in both sacks (4) and tackles for loss (7.5).
He may have a heavy workload again this week, as the Gators likely will try to rely on their ground game.
5. What’s at stake
Texas A&M is playing good football at the moment, despite the loss to Alabama. Florida, on the other hand, stumbled last week against LSU — which lost to Troy at home the week before.
Mond’s development is encouraging, and the Aggies will need a good game from him to win on the road. Florida’s defense has plenty of talent and a reputation for being very good, but the stats place it squarely in the middle of the pack in the league in total, passing and rushing defense. The unit is allowing 24.2 points per game.
LSU rushed for 216 yards last week against Florida, and Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford will look to emulate that success on Saturday night.
In the big picture, the Aggies only have one league loss. If they can find a way through The Swamp, they’ll have a bye week before home dates with Mississippi State and Auburn. That sets up the possibility of an interesting race at the top of the SEC West.