The first true Monday of the college football season is a busy one for starting quarterback announcements. The news continues to flood in with decisions made by a pair of new SEC coaches. At Florida, Dan Mullen has tabbed Feleipe Franks as his starting quarterback this weekend, while Jimbo Fisher has named Kellen Mond as Texas A&M’s starter for this weekend.
Franks was a likely favorite to win the starting nod in Gainesville after playing 11 games for the Gators last season and passing for 1,438 yards and nine touchdowns. Some inconsistency issues and eight interceptions by Franks as a freshman held Florida back at times, but Franks seemed like the best fit for the beginning of the Mullen era of Gators football in 2018. Franks also started eight games for Florida last season, giving him a bit of a leg up on the competition.
Franks won a close competition against redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask and freshman Emory Jones, according to a release from Florida on Monday. It might not be a shock if all three find some playing time this weekend as Florida opens up the 2018 season at home against FCS opponent Charleston Southern.
At Texas A&M, Mond ended up winning a battle with Nick Starkel for the starting job in Week 1, reversing the outcome of the close quarterback competition a year ago under former head coach Kevin Sumlin. Both players are now sophomores and had fairly even stats in 2017, although Starkel was a little more efficient and productive in the stat sheet with nearly 400 more passing yards and six more touchdowns in 22 fewer pass attempts (and the same number of interceptions thrown, but in three fewer games) than Mond.
Both Mond and Starkel are expected to play in the season opener for Texas A&M against FCS opponent Northwestern State. The big test will come the following week, when Texas A&M hosts ACC favorite Clemson. In fact, the quarterbacks who end that game for both teams may be more interesting to see than who starts that Week 2 matchup. Clemson named Kelly Bryant as its starting quarterback on Monday as well.
The odds are pretty good that No. 14 Auburn (7-2, 4-1 SEC) is not going to find a way into the College Football Playoff, but after a dominating performance on the road against Texas A&M (5-4, 3-3 SEC), one should not sleep on the Tigers potentially giving Georgia and Alabama a fight in the regular season later this month. Kerryon Johnson stepped up in the running game and Jarrett Stidham passed for three touchdowns in a 42-27 victory over the Aggies in Kyle Field on Saturday afternoon.
Texas A&M pulled a quarterback switch along the way. With Kellen Mond struggling (5/11, 16 yards), Nick Starkel got a chance to relieve him and try to rejuvenate the offense, and he did to a degree. Starkel completed 11 of 22 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. But it was too little too late as the Aggies were already down too much and unable to slow down Auburn on offense.
After a sluggish start, Auburn came alive in the second quarter with three touchdowns to take a 21-13 lead into the halftime break. The Tigers continued to push forward with an overpowering offense with two more touchdowns in the third quarter to create some separation with the Aggies. The win by Auburn keeps a bizarre trend alive in this series. Since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012, the road team has won six straight games in this series.
November has not been kind to Texas A&M in recent years, and it would appear things are once again in danger of trending in the wrong direction in November with this loss. And because of that, the discussion about the job security for Kevin Sumlin will once again come into question. The Aggies have now lost back-to-back games by double-digit margins to Mississippi State and Auburn. And the way things are going in Gainesville, you will not win many points for a 19-17 victory over Florida. It was not so long ago that Texas A&M was 4-1, marred by an ugly collapse on the road against UCLA in the season opener. Sumlin needs a strong finish with the Aggies to put some of the hot seat talk to rest.
Next up for Auburn is a big one. The Tigers will host No. 1 Georgia next Saturday, November 11. For Auburn to play in the SEC Championship Game, beating Alabama will be essential as the Tigers trail their in-state rivals by one game in the loss column already with two games to play. But before any scenarios with Alabama can be explored, Auburn must find a way to take down the Bulldogs next week. It is certainly no easy task for any team needing wins against Georgia and Alabama this season, but the Tigers playing at home in each makes for an interesting final three weeks in the SEC.
Texas A&M will play their final home game of the season next week against UNLV. After that, the schedule wraps up with back-to-back SEC road games against Ole Miss and LSU. The way things have been going, next week’s game against the Rebels may be a must-win game for Texas A&M to get to the postseason.