Gators game preview: Texas A&M

ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. Today is Texas A&M (Sept. 8 in Gainesville).


2011 record: 7-6 (4-5 Big 12), beat Northwestern 33-22 in Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Coach: Kevin Sumlin, first season; fifth season overall (35-17).

Series record: Tied 1-1.

Top returners: WR Ryan Swope (89 catches for 1,207 yards and 11 TDs); OL Luke Joeckel; LB Sean Porter (9.5 sacks); DE Damontre Moore (17.5 tackles for loss).

Did you know? The Aggies’ schedule includes the last six national champions (Florida twice, Alabama twice, LSU and Auburn).

Scouting the offense: Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury don’t have an experienced QB to run the offense, but they do have an offensive line that some are saying is the best in school history. The Aggies will throw the ball a lot, and Swope is one of the country’s top receivers. But the unit will be balanced because the running game is pretty good behind RB Christine Michael and the OL.

Scouting the defense: Sumlin is switching from the 3-4 he used at Houston to a 4-3. It’ll take a while for the Aggies to catch up to the rest of the SEC. The DL is where the SEC has a decided advantage over other conferences -- they just don’t have the size-speed mix the SEC does. Porter and Moore are standouts, but there’s little depth and the Aggies will have to rely on some unproven youngsters.

Three things to watch

  1. Texas A&M allowed only nine sacks last year, and Joeckel was a big reason. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound junior has started every game the past two seasons and is headed for the first round of the NFL draft. The guy on the other side -- Jake Matthews, son of former NFL lineman Bruce Matthews -- isn’t bad, either. With Florida buck Ronald Powell likely out, the Gators are going to have to get some kind of pass rush from somebody.

  2. The first SEC defense Aggies QB Jameill Showers will face is one that was among the best in the nation against the pass in 2011. And it’s a unit that’s hungry for turnovers, something it had trouble creating last season. What’s better than getting a first-year sophomore starter still trying to get used to a new offense? How will Showers handle himself if the Gators can get pressure?

  3. UF coach Will Muschamp said Texas A&M’s Kyle Field has an SEC-like atmosphere. It’ll be interesting to see how the Gators' young quarterbacks handle that because neither did much on the road last season. Last year's experience, though, should take a bit of the shock off the hostile atmosphere.