Gameday: No. 23 Florida Gators at Texas A&M

Location: Kyle Field – College Station, TX [Capacity: 82,589]
Weather Forecast: 89°F, partly cloudy, winds N at 21 mph
Time: 3:30 p.m. EDT / 2:30 p.m. CDT

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox)
SiriusXM: 94/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network (affiliates)
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(23) FLORIDA GATORS TEXAS A&M AGGIES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Kevin Sumlin
Record: 1-0 (0-0 SEC) Record: 0-0 (0-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -1; O/U 49.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on what happened with the Gators over the last week? No problem. OGGOA has been here the whole time posting a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam on Saturday.

Jeff Driskel named starting QB | LS Drew Ferris out | CB Jaylen Watkins steps up | CB Jeremy Brown returns | Sumlin gives edge to UF | Quinn talks defense

EXTRA CREDIT: Four things Florida must do to top Texas A&M on Saturday

HISTORY / STREAKS

» Saturday’s contest between Florida and Texas A&M is not only TAMU’s season opener but also the school’s first-ever SEC game. The Gators are 1-1 historically against the Aggies with their last meeting coming in the 1977 Sun Bowl.
» Florida, however, is 1-7-2 all-time playing in the state of Texas and 10-11-2 all-time against seven total teams from the state. TAMU is 25-2 in home openers.
» Saturday’s game will be featured as a host site for ESPN’s College GameDay. It is the 21st time (14-7) that the Gators will be on the road for College GameDay. The Aggies will be hosting College GameDay for the third time (0-2).
» Florida is 8-1 against unranked opponents and 0-5 against ranked opponents since Muschamp took over the program in 2011.
» Sumlin is coaching his first game at Texas A&M after the team had its season opener postponed due to Hurricane Issac. He coached Houston to a 13-1 record in 2011.
» The Gators had eight true freshmen play in their season opener including three on defense, four on offense and one on special teams.
» Florida is not scheduled to face Tennessee to open their conference slate for the first time since 1996. (UF-UT was slated for the third week of the 2011 season but was postponed because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.)
» The Gators were scheduled to face Louisiana-Lafayette in week two but are instead playing an SEC game in the second week of the season for the first time since 1995.
» The Aggies are playing a conference opponent in their season opener for the first time since 1967 and just the third time in program history.
» Florida sophomore Jeff Driskel and Texas A&M redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel will both start the first games of their respective college careers at quarterback on Saturday. Driskel played as a reserve in 2011 and saw plenty of action last week; for Manziel it will also be the first college football game in which he has ever played.
» The Gators rushed for 220 yards (5.2 yards per carry) last week in an effort to prove that the team has a power running game worth respecting. UF is now 8-2 under Muschamp when eclipsing the 100-yard rushing benchmark and 0-4 otherwise.
» Florida’s offense converted just 5-of-16 third-downs (31 percent) against Bowling Green last Saturday.
» The Gators held the Falcons to 4-of-17 on third down (23.5 percent), continuing a trend from 2011 in which UF was second nationally in third-down defense (27.3 percent).
» Florida has forced eight turnovers in its last five games dating back to last season.
» The Gators are 8-1 under Muschamp when leading at the half but 0-5 when tied or trailing at that point in the game.
» Florida has at least two kickoff returns for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons after never having more than one in a single season before 2010.
» Texas A&M set school records in 2011 in passing, scoring and total offense (seventh nationally). TAMU is returning eight starters from that offense but neither their starting quarterback nor primary running back.
» TAMU’s offensive line allowed just nine sacks in 13 games in 2011 and was only flagged for holding twice (the last time in the second game of that season).
» The Aggies led the country in 2011 with 51 total sacks and are returning their top two pass rushers from last season.
» Some college football rule changes for 2012: kickoffs moved up to the 35-yard line, touchbacks moved up to the 25-yard line, player losing his helmet in action results in halting participation immediately and sitting out one full play.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Texas A&M have only met on the gridiron twice before with their last showdown occurring in El Paso, TX in the 1977 Sun Bowl. The Aggies stomped the Gators 37-14 that day, forcing five turnovers and enveloping their opponents with a hard-hitting defense. Then-Florida head coach Doug Dickey lost starting quarterback Jimmy Fisher to a dislocated ring finger in the first quarter and was irked at the end of the game when Texas A&M went for a two-point conversion on their final touchdown. The teams’ only other meeting was in Gainesville, FL back in 1962 when the Gators routed the Aggies 42-6 by winning the battle on the ground 206-72.

ESPN: KEYS TO THE GAME

Read the rest of the Florida-Texas A&M preview including injuries and absences and which players to look out for from both sides of the field.
Continue Reading » Gameday: No. 23 Florida Gators at Texas A&M

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Track the Florida Gators en route to Texas A&M

The No. 23/24 Florida Gators are on their way to College Station, TX, to face the Texas A&M Aggies in what will be the 2012 Southeastern Confernece opener for both teams. As a long-time special ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive feature, the following is the flight information for the Gators, who are flying over on an American Airlines Boeing 757-200 twin-jet. You can also track the flight live while it is in the air!

ORIGIN: Gainesville Regional Airport (KGNV)
DESTINATION: Easterwood Airport (KCLL)

DURATION: 1 hour 49 minutes

DEPARTURE: 2:45 p.m. EDT [scheduled 2:30 p.m. EDT]
ARRIVAL: 3:34 p.m. CDT [scheduled 3:23 p.m. CDT]

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FOUR BITS: Texas A&M, Haden, Schutte, Paco

1 » With the Florida Gators’ game against the Texas A&M Aggies under 48 hours away, now is as good of a time as ever to check on ESPN College GameDay’s promotional video for the contest set for Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

2 » Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren announced on Tuesday that cornerback Joe Haden has indeed been suspended by the NFL for failing the league’s banned substance policy (testing positive for Adderall); however, he is set to play in the team’s season opener on Sunday and every game from that point forward until his already-filed appeal is ruled on by the league. Haden’s suspension, should it be enacted after the NFL reviews his appeal, will be for four games. He would at that time become the second former Gators player in the last three years to receive a suspension for violating that policy as New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes missed the last four games of his rookie season in 2010 after testing positive for an ingredient that was contained in his ADHD medication.

3 » Florida catcher Brittany Schutte, who missed most of the 2012 season after suffering a broken jaw early in the campaign, has decided to skip her final season with the team in order to move on and coach softball at the Oak Hall School in Gainesville, FL. According to Oak Hill, Schutte recently informed Gators head coach Tim Walton that she will not return to the team and “is shifting interest in her academic career with hopes of becoming an educator.” Her departure is a major loss for a Florida team that saw a huge star graduate and suffered three other major defections last season. The Gators lost senior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie and saw sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle as well as sisters Kasey Fagan and Sami Fagan leave the program after Walton suspended all three during the opening portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. In her first two years with the team, Schutte hit .335 with 41 home runs, 128 RBIs, 118 runs, 83 walks and 82 stolen bases. She also slugged .751 and fielded her position at a .989 clip. Schutte’s departure, coupled with Moultrie’s graduation and the three transfers, leaves the Gators without five of their best players heading into the 2013 season.

4 » Former Florida left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez, selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the No. 82 overall pick in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft, became the first player from that draft to be called up to the majors when Los Angeles brought him into the fold on Wednesday. Rodriguez, who was always thought to be a player who might be in this situation, was dominant in the minors, posting a 0.92 ERA with 32 strikeouts and six walks in 19 2/3 innings over 21 games. “Everybody here’s been great to me,” he told MLB.com this week. “Now I’ve got to perform. I’ve got to get over it. But on the mound, looking up at all the decks, the biggest place I’ve ever played before was Omaha and they only have two decks.”

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Sumlin praises Pease, thinks Florida has edge

Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin appears to be a young guy in the industry but his history coaching across the nation is storied and filled with plenty of great success. So it is no surprise that Sumlin has a prior relationship with Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease, especially considering the two love spreading the field and making defenses work extra hard in games.

“We’ve known each other for a long time,” Sumlin reminisced during the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference on Wednesday.

Sumlin first met Pease at the One-Back Clinic, an exclusive event that has been held for 14-straight years amongst coaches from conferences across the country. Only one staff per conference is invited as the goal is for the coaches in attendance to be open about their philosophies and free to share their thoughts with each other.

“The first time I met Brent was at one that Mike Price hosted at Washington State and Brent was at Montana,” Sumlin said Wednesday. “And we’ve stayed in touch this whole time. He’s a guy that I’ve talked to quite a bit on-and-off in the offseason. He’s a guy that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and I know that there’s a reason why he was a highly sought after coordinator last year.”

Pease was actually a candidate to replace Sumlin at Houston though the door to that opportunity shut in mid-December. He then basically had his choice of coordinator jobs with both Florida and Alabama offering him the position. Pease chose the Gators in the end though he would have been in the position to give Sumlin and his defensive coordinator fits this season no matter which team he decided to join.

“He’s a guy that I think does an excellent job, makes you defend the whole field, makes you gap-conscious, hides a lot of things with shifts and motions, unbalanced, gives you all the looks but will also do all of that with window dressing and give you power football, and then do a play action and double moves and things like that,” Sumlin said when summarizing what Pease brings to the table.

“He makes you defend the whole field. I think he’s had a good career; his career is only going to get better. And he’s also going to be an excellent head coach one day.”

Sumlin was also asked Wednesday if his team has an advantage heading into Saturday’s showdown considering the fact that Florida will not have any film to go on and will have to prepare for the game relatively blind. He dismissed that fact, noting that it is the Gators that are in the favored position heading into the contest.

“I think it’s an advantage for Florida to be able to play [last week]. There’s the old adage that you make your most improvement between the first and second game. Obviously that comes from experience. I think it’s an advantage to play and get to know your team,” he said.

“The real difference is we’re a new staff and haven’t been around these guys in a real game situation, pressure situation. We try to create that type of environment at practice with loud music, the tempo and all that stuff but there’s no way to really duplicate game speed, which we’ve got to get adjusted to, the game pressure, just the intensity level that goes on during a game. And the consequences of real mistakes during a game.

“Us being a new staff and not being around our guys in those pressure situations, that’s something that we’re going to have to get a feel for as we get going. I think Coach [Will] Muschamp being around his team a year before but also a game…we would have liked to have played last week, I’ll put it that way.”

The back-and-forth about which team may have an advantage will probably continue through ESPN’s College GameDay program on Saturday morning. In the end the only thing that matters is which team prevails that afternoon.

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Florida CB Jeremy Brown returns from injury

Updated at 11 p.m.

Making an appearance Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference’s weekly media teleconference, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced that redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown has resumed practicing with the team after missing the season opener against Bowling Green.

Brown, who sat out the entire 2011 season with a knee injury after starting at cornerback for Florida in 2010, returned to working out extensively with the team this summer but fractured his wrist and had surgery on July 18.

He was reevaluated on Aug. 28 to see if he could begin practicing before the first game of the season but was not cleared and did not play last Saturday. Muschamp said he rejoined the team this week and impressed with what he was able to do on the field.

“Obviously Jeremy Brown coming back is going to be a difference for us as well,” he said Wednesday. “Jeremy Brown is ready to go. He actually looked really good [Tuesday], moving around and some things. He will play in the game.”

Speaking later in the day, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said that Brown’s ability to come back once again from a major injury is a testament to his work ethic and spirit. It also sets a great example for the team as a whole.

“Jeremy Brown coming back really is a great story of, ‘hang in there and keep persevering.’ I was really excited to see him come back,” Quinn said. “You know he’s had some set-backs over the last year and a half.

“For him to get out and be back I thought was really a big lift for our team and a good message, too, to say you don’t always get a chance to control what happens but you do have a chance to control how you react to it. I thought that was a good message for him and for the younger players on the team. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way but if you keep hanging in there usually you can come out the other end.”

The Gators very much need Brown against the Texas A&M Aggies. Muschamp expects Florida to be rotating defensive backs all game long, something he feels is quite necessary considering the speed of the Aggies’ offense and how many snaps they will be taking over the course of the game.

“We’re going to be in some situations where we’ll have six DBs on the field, especially with a high-tempo offense like [Texas A&M runs],” he said. “They’re going to be on-the-ball snapping. So they’re going to be taking a lot of snaps. It’s going to be hot, so we’re going to have to roll and play a bunch of guys.”

The wrist injury was Brown’s fourth major ailment since joining the Gators as a true freshman in 2008. He began experiencing back problems that summer and missed his freshman year as well as the entire 2009 campaign.

When Brown did play in 2010 he started 10 of the 11 games in which he played, missing the final two regular season contests with a strained hamstring before returning to compete in the Outback Bowl. He was eighth in the SEC with five passes defended and also registered three interceptions that season.

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ESPN College GameDay at Texas A&M on Sept. 8

ESPN College GameDay will eminate from College Station, TX next Saturday as the Texas A&M Aggies (0-0) host the No. 23 Florida Gators (1-0) in a game that is not only the season opener for the home team but also their first-ever league game as a newly-established member of the Southeastern Conference.

Florida will take on Texas A&M at Kyle Field on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The game will be aired live on ESPN at 3:30 p.m.

The Gators will be making their first appearance on the program in two seasons after last being featured three times in 2009 – at home against Florida State, on the road at LSU and in a neutral site game against Alabama in Atlanta, GA for the SEC Championship.

ESPN will take the program to College Station for the third time since it began in 1993; the Aggies last hosted GameDay on Nov. 4, 2006.

College GameDay begins with a one-hour show at 9 a.m. on ESPNU before shifting over to ESPN for the primary two-hour broadcast beginning at 10 a.m. It features host Chris Fowler, analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack and contributor Samantha Steele.

The network will put Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Herbstreit (color commentary) and Heather Cox (sideline reporter) on the call for the featured contest.

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TWO BITS: Texas A&M schedule, Mann moved

1 » The Texas A&M Aggies, with their week two game against the Florida Gators set to be their first-ever league contest as a member of the Southeastern Conference, will now open their entire 2012 campaign against Florida after their season opener set for Aug. 30 was postponed due to the threat of Hurricane Issac. The storm, which is currently heading through Louisiana, forced Louisiana Tech (Texas A&M’s week one opponent) to call off the game and reschedule it for Oct. 13, which luckily was a bye week for both programs. The adjustment gives the Aggies at least four additional days to prepare for the Gators, which will host Bowling Green on Sept. 1 before travelling the following week to College Station, TX for the showdown on Sept. 8.

2 » According to The Gainesville Sun, Florida freshman Jafar Mann has been moved from defensive tackle to offensive guard effective immediately. Mann, a three-star prospect who was likely set to redshirt anyway this season (but now almost certainly will), is being moved from a position of depth to one of relative weakness. The move may or may not have been pushed forward by the Gators coaching staff after the team lost a commitment from 2013 three-star Joshua Outlaw earlier this month. Florida only has two offensive linemen committed for next season and may not have more than one more player on their board for the next six months.

UPDATE: Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn explained Wednesday that moving Mann was done to work him out at both positions and see where he performs better. He could wind up back at defensive tackle when all is said and done.

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FOUR BITS: Muschamp, Allen, Pitchford, Hill

1 » Despite the lack of actual conflict between Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies top man Kevin Sumlin, the city of College Station, TX took the barbs as an opportunity to create the following video promoting their city while simultaneously making some light-hearted jokes at Muschamp.

2 » Former Gators forward Adam Allen, who never truly played for Florida again after injuring his knee as a true freshman, left the team for good after seeing 25 seconds on Senior Night in his redshirt junior season. Allen was graduating from the University of Florida and saw no further reason to remain on the team considering he would be unable to play for head coach Billy Donovan. Now over a year removed from the game, Allen has decided to attend Rollins College in Winter Park, FL for graduate school and announced this week that he will also have the opportunity to play basketball while enrolled. Allen, whose knee injury still limits him, told OGGOA (he served as a columnist here during the 2011-12 basketball season) that will not be able to play full-time at Rollins but will do whatever he can to help the team.

3 » Speaking of former Gators basketball players, Florida freshman transfer Walter Pitchford has officially committed to Nebraska after visiting the school over the weekend. “I just thought it was the right decision,” Pitchford told Rivals.com. “I’m comfortable with everyone on the staff and the players. I just felt like I really got along with everyone and this was the right fit for more.” A former three-star recruit, Pitchford was a late UF commitment during the 2011 cycle but played very limited minutes last season. He decided following the season to leave the program and move closer to home and chose a school that is a two-hour flight from Michigan. Pitchford will apply for a hardship waiver (citing family reasons for his transfer) that would allow him to be eligible immediately at Nebraska but chances are he will have to sit out the 2012-13 season.

4 » A future Gators basketball star also got some good news on Saturday when ESPN released its latest top-100 players list for the 2013 season. Florida five-star point guard commitment Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) has been turning heads this entire offseason and jumped 12 spots on the list up to No. 6 overall. Already ranked No. 8 by Rivals, Hill is now a consensus top-10 player and has the opportunity to vault even higher with a stellar senior campaign. The Gators’ primary remaining target for 2013, five-star forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL), is listed as the seventh-best player by ESPN and sixth-best by Rivals. He has plenty of offers but will likely choose between UF and Kansas. Working in Florida’s favor is the fact that Walker and Hill are close and have discussed playing together at the next level.

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