Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Just like last year, we’ll use Friday’s here in the NOTEBOOK to preview a big game on the early Saturday TV schedule. Then, Saturday’s will be reserved for the prime time affair that’s getting the most buzz. This week, both of the big TV windows are showcasing SEC debuts for teams that just moved over from the Big 12.
Texas A&M hosts Florida Saturday afternoon
Missouri hosts Georgia Saturday night
Both of those have been time changed from their original spots on the schedule. That’s okay with us. We were always going to preview those two games anyway. Now we’re just doing the Aggies and Gators first!
Texas A&M has made a bit of a splash already by putting up billboards in a variety of cities announcing their arrival in the toughest college football conference in the land. That’s either bold or foolhardy. And, given the history of “Aggie jokes” in the Southwest, it’s probably 80% to 20% in the direction of foolhardy. You don’t sneak up on somebody by slapping them in the face!
But, they might have a chance to slap Florida in the face this week. The Gators have struggled to a surprising degree under head coach Will Muschamp (formerly the heir apparent with the Aggies archrival Texas). Last week Florida didn’t even score the pointspread, posting only 27 points as a 28-point favorite over Bowling Green. Now, a team with little offensive confidence must play on the road in front of a raucous crowd that will represent the classic “12th man” in College Station, and possibly a 13th and 14th man as well.
Let’s crunch some numbers to see how the game might play out…
FLORIDA AT TEXAS A&M (3:30 p.m. on ESPN)
Las Vegas Spread: Texas A&M by 2, total of 51
2012 AP POLL RANKINGS
Texas A&M: 37th (counting additional teams receiving votes)
The media doesn’t know what to do with Texas A&M yet. They don’t want to be embarrassed by overrating them if the Aggies are about to get drilled in the brutal SEC West. They don’t want to keep them all the way off the radar if the Aggies turn out to be a pleasant surprise. Having last week’s game vs. Louisiana Tech postponed by hurricane sure didn’t help anybody get a read on A&M. Florida is currently 24th, but sure didn’t play like a ranked team vs. Bowling Green. That continued their recent trend of playing way below media expectations in the post-Tim Tebow era. Maybe the poll is right. Or, maybe Texas A&M is about to show they’re the better of these two teams.
2012 ATHLON MAGAZINE RANKINGS
Texas A&M: 32nd
Not much difference here from the current poll rankings. There was an expectation that Florida would become relevant again after their recent disappointments…and it was hoped the Aggies wouldn’t be in too far over their heads in the SEC. There’s a chance both of those summer estimates are 10-15 spots too high, or 20 spots too low. Athlon had Bowling Green at 94th, and Florida had trouble shaking them until late in the game.
Florida: Will Muschamp
Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin
Interesting matchup here. We have two relatively young coaches who could be prominent forces in the sport for the next 20-25 years. Or, they could turn out to be overrated as head coaches in terms of the true elite of the sport. Sumlin certainly wasn’t in over his head at Houston (and he looked even smarter when Houston collapsed without him last week vs. Texas State). Muschamp was supposed to be the next big thing at Texas. Maybe he’s best suited for a major conference coordinator, or a smaller conference head coach. This is a BIG year for BOTH of these men. It would be easier to give Muschamp the nod because of his head start in the SEC if he hadn’t disappointed so much last year and last week.
Florida: Jeff Driskel
Texas A&M: Johnny Manziel
Goodness. Driskel is a youngster that nobody is excited about. He’s won the starting job by default because he was less bad than the other options. Manziel a freshman who everybody’s excited about. But, you know what they say about freshmen! They can frustrate handicappers and bettors like you just as much as they do head coaches. We would say right now that Manziel has the more dynamic upside. He could also implode with dumb mistakes. Driskel’s going to try and manage the game. Manziel’s highs or lows will probably determine who covers.
Florida: Returns 7 starters from the 105th ranked offense
Texas A&M: Returns 6 starters from the 7th ranked offense
Last Week: Florida still looks like that have a bad offense based on what we saw vs. Bowling Green. They should be better than 105th, but not to a degree that’s going to make them a force in the SEC. Not yet anyway. They’ll need to show a lot more over the next month. The Aggies are likely to have moments of rust and indecision Saturday afternoon because they haven’t played a game yet.
Florida: Returns 10 starters from the 8th ranked defense
Texas A&M: Returns 4 starters from the 59th ranked defense
Last Week: The Gators defense did impress vs. Bowling Green, allowing just 4.1 yards-per-play to a team that kept getting the ball because Florida had to keep punting! This gives the Gators hope in terms of disrupting Manziel.
LAST WEEK’S BOXSCORE
FLORIDA 27, BOWLING GREEN 14
Total Yardage: B. Green 337, Florida 361
Rushing Yardage: B. Green 101, Florida 216
Passing Stats: B. Green 25-52-1-226, Florida 13-21-0-145
Turnovers: B. Green 2, Florida 1
Third Downs: B. Green 24%, Florida 31%
Vegas Line: Florida by 28
The defense can be proud because those are decent numbers considering how long they were on the field. Bowling Green was just 4 of 17 on third downs, and 226 is a very low passing total for 52 throws. On the whole, it’s a depressing boxscore for Gators fans though. They were favored by four touchdowns, yet never looked like a dominant team. Yes, that 216-101 in rushing yardage is decent. But, when you’re 28-point favorites the numbers are supposed to be better than that. 361-337 in yardage when laying 28 is lame!
There are so many unknown factors here that it’s hard to lay out what could be considered a firm best expectation. The hosts are starting a freshman quarterback, which is as volatile as it gets. The visitors are used to loud SEC crowds, but they won’t have seen anything like what’s going to happen at College Station. The visitors may not have enough offense to get the job done. The hosts may alternate big plays with big mistakes in a way that costs them the game. A treat to watch but a headache to handicap!
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his sources in the Big 12 and SEC to get a read on these early season transition games. He may or may not have something for his clients Saturday morning in this one once the final slate has been determined. We can assure you he’s looked very closely at this one for big play potential. Also on the early radar are: Penn State/Virginia, Air Force/Michigan, USC/Syracuse, and Purdue/Notre Dame. You’ll have to sign up to find out the final word!
You can do that online with your credit card. Or, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. You get the most bang for your buck by signing up for the full college and pro seasons up front. Don’t forget that there is a Friday Night game on the board with Utah visiting Utah State in a game that will be televised by ESPN2. Purchase that game online to build your bankroll for the weekend.
This is going to be a great weekend for marquee football on TV. Be sure you WATCH AND WIN along with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!