- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
Campus location: Gainesville, Fla.
All-time record vs. Texas A&M: 1-1
Last season: Florida went 7-6, marking its lowest overall win total since 2004, when the Gators went 7-5. They did cap the season with a bowl win (24-17 over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl), but went 3-5 in the SEC. Though they finished third in the SEC East, they finished with the seventh-best conference record.
Last meeting with Texas A&M: It has been 35 years since the two teams last met on the gridiron. Texas A&M defeated Florida 37-14 in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 2, 1977.
Key player: Junior safety Matt Elam has appeared in all 26 of the Gators games since his arrival and was one of only five players to start all 13 games a year ago. He led Florida in tackles for loss (11), pass breakups (seven) and forced fumbles (two) and posted a team second-best 78 tackles.
Why they might win: Their defense. That's the Gators strength heading into 2012, as they return 10 (CQ) starters on that side of the ball. It's head coach Will Muschamp's specialty and Florida has size and speed across the board. Last season, the Gators ranked eighth nationally in total defense (299.5 yards per game) and tied for 20th in scoring D (20.3 points per game). An experienced defense combined with a first-time collegiate starter at quarterback for Texas A&M (Johnny Manziel) is a challenging recipe for the Aggies. It would have been beneficial for the Aggies to have had their original season opener (scheduled for Thursday vs. Louisiana Tech but postponed because of Hurricane Isaac) to work out any kinks in their new schemes (both offensively and defensively) under their new coaching staff.
Why they might lose: There's a few things working against the Gators. Offensively, they haven't decided on a quarterback (both Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett will play on Saturday against Bowling Green) and Muschamp has made it no secret that Florida will have to be better on that side of the ball this year (they averaged 25.5 points, which ranked 71st nationally and 328.7 yards per game, which put them at 105th). Also, they have to go on the road into what is one of the best home-field advantages at Kyle Field. To boot, Florida won't have as much of an idea of what to expect from Texas A&M as they would have had the Aggies played, since they won't have any footage of Aggies' players performing in the Aggies' new offensive and defensive schemes.
11hEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf