Florida-Texas A&M Preview


Florida coach Will Muschamp had the benefit of watching his two quarterbacks play in a game this season before announcing the starter.

New Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin opens 2012 with a redshirt freshman under center and plenty of questions about how his team will respond to having its season opener postponed.

Sophomore Jeff Driskel will start for the 24th-ranked Gators on Saturday in College Station, where Johnny Manziel leads the Aggies in their first SEC game.

Driskel and Jacoby Brissett shared reps in the spring and last Saturday's opener, but two days after that 27-14 victory over Bowling Green, Muschamp named Driskel the starting quarterback.

Driskel was 10 of 16 for 114 yards, including a 50-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Frankie Hammond, while adding 24 yards on the ground. Brissett completed 3 of 5 passes for 31 yards.

"Just feel like Jeff with his legs gives us some different variables in our offense that can help us as we move forward," Muschamp said. "So it'll be Jeff's game to play. I told Jeff, 'I don't want you looking over your shoulder, but you need to play well.'"

Senior running back Mike Gillislee also had a solid opener, running for 148 yards and two scores, but it's still too early to determine if new offensive coordinator Brent Pease will be able to turn around an offense that ranked 105th in the FBS last season with 328.7 yards per game.

"For me, they were extremely vanilla in their (offensive) approach," Sumlin said. "Coach Muschamp talked about wanting to be able to run the ball and throw play-action off that and get explosive, and they did that. I think it was a way for them to evaluate their program and their players and their running game. So for us, it was a chance to look at talent level."

Sumlin, who left Houston in December to replace the fired Mike Sherman, will have to rely on practice tape to get a gauge of where his team is at after the Aggies' season opener at Louisiana Tech on Aug. 30 was postponed until Oct. 13 due to Hurricane Isaac.

Texas A&M, which left the Big 12 for the SEC, opens a season with a conference game for the first time since 1967.

"We can't change what happened last week," said Sumlin, an Aggies assistant head coach and offensive coordinator from 2001-02. "(The coaching staff doesn't) know how guys are going to react in certain circumstances - we haven't been around this team. So that will be the interesting part of the game."

So will be watching Manziel - the first Aggie freshman to start a season opener in 68 years - who has yet to take a college snap and will replace first-round NFL draft pick Ryan Tannehill.

Manziel, though, will be protected by a line that returns four of five starters from a unit that surrendered nine sacks last season - fourth-best in the FBS.

If that group can keep the Aggies' new signal-caller upright, senior wide receivers Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu could be a tough test for defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's secondary.

The Gators, who gave up 4.1 yards per carry in their opener, could also have their hands full with senior running back Christine Michael, who returns after having his second consecutive season shortened due to injury.

Along with opening up holes for Gillislee, Florida's offensive line will need to protect Driskel from linebacker Sean Porter and defensive lineman Damontre Moore, who combined for 18 sacks last season when Texas A&M finished 7-6.

This is the third meeting between these teams and first in College Station. Texas A&M won the last matchup 37-14 on Jan. 2, 1977, in the Sun Bowl after Florida posted a 42-6 victory in Gainesville in 1962.