When Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin delivered the news to his team that the Aggies’ opener against Louisiana Tech was postponed because of Hurricane Isaac, he could sense how devastated his players were. But imagine how he felt.
Everything is new for the Aggies, but it's also all new for Sumlin, who left Houston to coach the Aggies. Instead of seeing what his team is made of after a long offseason that consisted of installing a new offense and defense, he has to wait ... for A&M's first SEC game.
“There are pluses and minuses to both sides of this equation, it’s just how you handle it with your team,” Sumlin said last week about the postponement. “It all gets down to preparing and getting your guys ready to play on Saturday.”
Instead of having a game under their belts, the Aggies will host No. 24 Florida this Saturday a game behind. Sure, Texas A&M had the benefit of having a couple of more days to prepare for the Gators, but practicing and playing are two different things. Going through the motions against players you’re familiar with just doesn’t match up with playing and seeing someone different.
That’s where Florida has the advantage this weekend. While the Gators’ offense seemed to mirror its struggles from the past two years in its sluggish 27-14 win over Bowling Green, the Gators did have the chance to actually play someone inside of a stadium with fans around them. They were full go, while A&M rested.
"It's an advantage to go in there having played with some new players and a new QB for us, but there will be some new wrinkles in what they do,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said.
“We are at a little bit of a guessing game from the standpoint of them not playing. But that's always with the first game and you go through that as a coach and you go through that going into a bowl game after you've had some time off, we just need to adjust to what we're doing, we need to play fast, we need to have a great tempo because I know they will offensively. We need to get lined up and get our cleats in the dirt and play."
The Gators will be going into the A&M game a little blind, but it’s not like they gave the Aggies a ton of tape to pore over, either. Florida was incredibly vanilla Saturday. You didn’t see much creativity on offense or defense. First-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease barely opened his playbook, especially in the passing game.
Obviously, having two quarterbacks audition for the starting spot contributed to that. But Saturday gave Pease and his quarterback -- Jeff Driskel -- something to build off of. Driskel wasn’t great, but he's the guy now and the offense can officially mold around him. Expect to see Florida’s playbook open up a little bit to play to Driskel’s strengths.
And look for defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to bring a little more heat to A&M’s backfield, especially with first-year starting quarterback Johnny Manziel lining up for his first collegiate game. Unlike Driskel, Manziel doesn't have the luxury of any game experience, so expect some jitters and wide eyes.
It also helps Florida that Bowling Green's offense is similar to Sumlin's when it comes to all of those quick throws and screens. The Gators got a little preview of what to expect Saturday.
Anxiety should be flowing on both sidelines this weekend. The Aggies are playing their first game, and it’s the SEC opener. The Gators are taking an unproven offense into a very hostile environment.
But having a game out of the way is a big advantage for Florida. Not everything went right, and some of Saturday looked mediocre, but a game was played. The Gators have film to critique and build off of. Changes can be made.
A&M has practice film and nerves to work with. The Aggies aren’t sure yet what works and what doesn’t.
Sumlin will have his team prepared as best he can, but he’ll have to deal with watching all of the kinks being worked out in Week 2. He’ll have to suffer through the early mistakes that you expect in Week 1.
Unlike Muschamp, he doesn’t quite know what he’s dealing with in College Station.