- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
GatorNation takes a look at five issues facing Florida as it travels to College Station, Texas, for the SEC debut of Texas A&M:
1. Jeff Driskel’s the guy: Driskel beat out Jacoby Brissett to be the Gators’ starting quarterback and he’ll make his first career start against the Aggies. He played solidly last week against Bowling Green, completing 10 of 16 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown, but he did badly miss a couple throws. He also finished as UF’s second-leading rusher in the game, and his mobility and running ability is an added element to the offense. He’s going into a hostile environment -- it’s the first SEC game for Texas A&M -- so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles himself.
2. No more handcuffs: The offense is supposedly going to open up this week. UF coach Will Muschamp said he told offensive coordinator Brent Pease he wanted to run the ball a lot against Bowling Green so the Gators could establish their identity as a tough, physical team. He pledged to let Pease open the offense up more this week, and having one QB taking all the first-team snaps in practice should help with that. The Gators aren’t going to throw it around like Steve Spurrier used to, but the run-pass balance will be more equal than the 75 percent run, 25 percent pass the Gators were against the Falcons.
3. Move that pile: Florida’s offensive line struggled in short-yardage situations against Bowling Green, failing to convert a first down on 10 of its last 11 downs of 2 yards or less. That’s with a line that was supposedly tougher and stronger than last season. Can the Gators get it done against an Aggies front that’s much more talented than Bowling Green?
4. Save the QB: More pressure on the offensive line. Aggies LB Sean Porter and DE Damontre Moore combined for 17 sacks last season. The Gators struggled in pass protection last season and it’s essentially the same group (with the exception of LG James Wilson). The group didn’t exactly look better in short-yardage situations (see above) so there’s a question about whether it can do any better protecting the quarterback.
5. Pressure the QB: The Aggies will start redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel at quarterback, and the best way to rattle a young quarterback is to get pressure in his face. The Gators have to do a better job of blitzing, especially up the middle, to force Manziel into making quick decisions, which often lead to poor throws and turnovers. The Gators’ secondary is the strength of the defense so that should help give the rushers more time to get to Manziel. UF also needs a big day from DEs Dominique Easley, Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler.
4dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough
8dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf