First down issues put Gators in hole

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
11:52
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The SEC’s two newest members play their first conference games on Saturday, with Texas A&M hosting No. 24 Florida (3:30 ET, ESPN) and Missouri hosting No. 7 Georgia (7:45 ET, ESPN2).

Quarterback questions for A&M, Florida

After the Aggies' opening game against Louisiana Tech was postponed by Hurricane Isaac, this week will be the first game at Texas A&M for Kevin Sumlin.

Last year with Houston, Sumlin’s offense led FBS in points per game (49), yards per game (599) and pass yards per game (450). But that was with Case Keenum at quarterback.

The Aggies' starting quarterback will be redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. The last time Texas A&M used a freshman quarterback in a season opener was 1944.

The quarterback situation is far from settled for Florida. Jeff Driskel will make his first career start for the Gators after leading the offense to 20 points in relief of Jacoby Brissett in the team’s opener.

Both Driskel and Brisset have struggled to push the ball downfield during their careers at Florida. When throwing the ball 20-or-more yards downfield, Driskel is 0-for-7 with an interception, while Brissett is 1-for-9 with a touchdown and three picks.

Both quarterbacks have put the Gators' offense in a hole when throwing on first down. They have completed just 41 percent of their passes on first down, far below the 62 percent managed by the FBS as a whole over the last two seasons.

The Gators are playing in the state of Texas for the first time since losing to Arkansas in the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl. Florida has struggled in the Lone Star State, posting a 1-7-2 record in 10 games played in Texas.

Cats and dogs battle in Columbia

Missouri was one of seven FBS teams to score more than 60 points in its opener, but the Tigers' offense will be tested by Georgia.

Since the start of last season, the Bulldogs have forced their opponents to punt after three plays 68 times. That is the most three-and-out drives in FBS over that span, just edging out defending champion Alabama.

The Tigers were sparked by Marcus Murphy, who returned two punts for touchdowns against Southeastern Louisiana. He is the first player in school history with two punt return touchdowns in a single game.

Georgia’s offense is led by quarterback Aaron Murray, who is the SEC’s active leader in passing yards (6,456), touchdown passes (62) and completions (462).

Against Buffalo, Murray was especially successful when using play action. He went 8-for-14 with three touchdowns and no interceptions when passing after a run fake. Last season, Murray was inconsistent on play action, throwing the same number of interceptions as touchdowns.

Murray’s primary target was Tavarres King, who has 322 receiving yards over his last two games. Most of his recent production has come after the catch. After totaling only 97 YAC in his first 13 games last season, King has 178 YAC yards in the last two games.

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