After all the YouTube videos, city bashing and billboard making, college football has arrived in Aggieland. And regardless of the result, this weekend will go down in the history books for Texas A&M. You only enter the SEC once and boy have the Aggies made an impression. Before one snap has been taken, a commercial was made and College Gameday has come to town for the first time since 2006. When big game weekends occur, it's easy to throw out big phrases like “this will be the biggest game ever at Kyle Field!” But seriously, this may be the biggest game ever at Kyle Field. And the game may be equally as special.
On both sides of the ball, we'll see an interesting match-up of strength vs strength and weakness vs weakness. The weakness, for lack of a better term, of Florida's offense will go up against the weakness that is Texas A&M's defense. And the strength that is A&M's offense will face the strength of Florida's defense. In the thick of the madness, five A&M players stand out above the rest that can be the ultimate decider in Saturday's match-up.
The biggest concern for Aggie fans has been whether the defense will be able to handle the speed of the SEC. In 2011, the biggest plays in the passing games for opponents came in the middle of the field (ex. Arkansas)—the area where Jonathan Stewart will be in charge. Stewart's a senior and one of the four team captains so his role as a leader should not be a problem, but when forced drop back into coverage or take a man-to-man on one Florida's speedy running backs, how will the Shreveport native respond?
Florida's passing game struggled immensely against a lesser talented Bowling Green squad, but that's the advantage of having an opening game against a weaker opponent. With a game under his belt, and the starting job secured—so we're told, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel may have more opportunities to show why he was the #1 overall recruit out of high school. Remember, Florida sealed their game against Bowling Green with a 50-yard touchdown pass and 40 yards of it came after the catch. De'Vante Harris will make his first ever start and will have quite a task at hand. If he can prevent big plays from happening, A&M's chances at a victory will increase by a large margin.
All eyes will be on Johnny Manziel, but it will be Christine Michael's job to make sure the freshman doesn't carry all of the weight on his shoulders. Florida eased in their new quarterback through giving the ball to Mike Gillislee, who responded with a career high 148 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Michael must have a similar performance on Saturday. If he can come out and have the same success he's had in his career at A&M, pressure surely will ease off of Manziel and open more holes for the passing game.
This slot really should be for all of the offensive linemen but, since I'm limited to five names, I'll go with the sophomore from Navasota making his first career start. Arguably the biggest strength of Texas A&M is the offensive line. Fittingly, arguably the biggest strength of Florida is their defensive line. Saturday, we'll find who's better. As stated above, Christine Michael must be successful in the run game and that starts between the tackles with Jarvis Harrison, center Patrick Lewis and guard Cedric Ogbuehi. If the line gets pushed around and manhandled by Florida's front seven, it will be a long, hot afternoon for Michael and Johnny Manziel.
With the familiar faces of Christine Michael, Ryan Swope and Sean Porter, many on the team will be playing their first and biggest games of their careers. That includes Kevin Sumlin. While he has handled the preseason hype and SEC transition as well as one could ask for, come Saturday he'll experience big game pressure he has yet to encounter in his head coaching career. When the emotions settle down and the adversity of a dropped ball or an interception comes into play, how will Sumlin handle the swings?