Scouting report: Texas A&M

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida plays its first road game of the season Saturday at Texas A&M. Here’s a look at the Aggies:


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).

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. QB Johnny Manziel won the starting job as a freshman, so there are sure to be growing pains in Sumlin’s wide-open offense. 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 offensive line.

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, which do not 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 keys to victory:

  1. The Gators have to open up the offense. Regardless of which quarterback starts or plays a lot -- or even if there’s a rotation -- Florida cannot just pound the football and expect to score a lot of points. Everyone gets that UF coach Will Muschamp wants to establish the team’s identity as a power-running, physical group, but teams will pack it in against the Gators if they don’t get the passing game going.

  2. The atmosphere in College Station and Kyle Field will be tremendous. It’s the first SEC game for the Aggies, and College GameDay will be on site. Florida has a veteran team for the most part, but this will be as hostile an environment as the Gators will ever see. The fans want to prove they’re SEC-worthy, so it’ll be a nightmare for communication. UF has to manage the distractions well, especially if things start to go wrong.

  3. Nothing rattles a freshman quarterback like pass-rushers in his face. The Gators need to do that all night long. They don’t have to necessarily sack Manziel, but they do need to rush him, affect his throws and hit him whenever they can. The Gators got three sacks in 52 drop-backs against Bowling Green, but the rush wasn’t consistent.