QB Manziel offensively paces SEC
Notebook: Florida dominates South Carolina; LSU escapes
We have reached the midpoint in another exciting SEC season and it is time to hand out the awards, to date, in these four particular categories.
Offensive Player of the Year: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Manziel has been the most exciting player in the SEC by far this season. The red-shirt freshman has brought his team into a new conference and proved that it can compete, and beat, the best teams in the conference. Manziel has set school records in both passing yards in a game and total yards in a game already this season.
Manziel has completed 63 percent of his passes while throwing for more than 1900 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is second in the league in rushing with over 700 yards to go along with a league-leading 10 touchdowns on the ground. His 24 total touchdowns are by far the most in the SEC. Look for more of the same as the season unfolds and don’t be surprised if Johnny Football starts getting Heisman mentions as his career goes on.
Others in the Mix: Alabama QB AJ McCarron; South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
Coach of the Year: Mississippi State's Dan Mullen
Mullen has led the Bulldogs to an unbeaten mark thus far this season with a showdown against No. 1 Alabama coming up this weekend. A team that started the year unranked has climbed its way up to No. 13 in the nation. Mullen is by far exceeding expectations, giving him the leg up on Alabama’s Nick Saban and Florida’s Will Muschamp. Everyone expected those two teams to be good, but with a win in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Mullen will have his team in the SEC West title mix, and possible national title conversations.
Freshman of the Year: (Tie) Georgia RBs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall
This one is obviously going to Manziel, but we are excluding him from the conversation and giving the award to two people, both on the same team. Freshmen running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are tearing apart opposing defenses.
Gurley is averaging more than 6.5 yards per carry this season to go along with nine touchdowns. He has run for 600-plus yards all the while splitting time with his freshman counterpart Marshall. Marshall has lesser numbers but still equally as important to the Bulldogs. Marshall has run for over 400 yards and five touchdowns on the year in a pass-first offense.
Most Exciting Game: Sept. 29 -- Tennessee at No. 5 Georgia
In this wild affair, Georgia squeaked out a victory against visiting Tennessee 51-44 to remain unbeaten early in the season. The game combined for the fifth-most points in SEC history and the two teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of total offense. It was a back and forth game that had everyone on the edge of their seats.
No. 1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC)
• The Tide is at the top of the rankings for the eighth consecutive week after a 44-13 throttling of visiting Tennessee. Coming off what may be its most complete game of the season to date, Alabama picked the right time to put it all together. The next two weeks include two top-15 opponents with No. 13 Mississippi St. coming to town this weekend and a showdown with No. 6 LSU in two weeks.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron is getting hot at the right moment. He threw for more than 300 yards on 17-for-22 passing and four touchdowns on Saturday. Head coach Nick Saban agreed it was his team’s best game so far this season.
“I was really pleased with how our guys played for 60 minutes in the game, and we know that’s what it would take,” Saban said. “They kept grinding, and we finally got control of the game.”
Next Game: vs. No. 12 Mississippi St. Oct. 27
Arkansas (3-4, 2-2 SEC)
• Arkansas will look to get back to the 500 mark for the first time in more than a month this weekend when they welcome Mississippi to town. The Razorbacks have won two consecutive games after a horrible month of October.
The season isn’t a complete bust just yet, seeing as if they win this game they will be above 500 in the conference and only two wins shy of becoming bowl eligible.
The little victories are what matter most now. The season might not be what it could have been for Arkansas but it could be a lot better than what people were expecting after they fell to 1-4 early in the season.
Next Game: vs. Ole Miss Oct. 27
Auburn (1-6, 0-5 SEC)
• Auburn’s season continues to fall apart as the Tigers fell to 1-6 on the season and remain winless in the SEC. Auburn is off to its worst start in more than 60 years and it is not going to get any easier from here on out. The Tigers will host Texas A&M this weekend and then have games with No. 12 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama remaining on the schedule.
Auburn hasn’t surpassed two offensive touchdowns in any game in the past two seasons.
Next Game: vs. No. 22 Texas A&M Oct. 27
No. 3 Florida (7-0, 6-0 SEC)
• At one point in the season, it looked as if it was going to be a three-team race for the SEC East Title. If Florida beats Georgia on Saturday night, Florida will clinch the SEC East and a spot in the conference championship game in Atlanta. After this weekend, Florida will only have one remaining game in the conference before the presumed championship against No. 1 Alabama.
Florida dominated then-No. 7 South Carolina from start to finish as it asserted its dominance in the SEC East. It is doing it with defense and special teams leading the way.
“There’s no mad recipe for what we’re doing,” defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said. “It’s simple. We’re just playing physical and out-dominating the person in front of us.”
Next Game: vs. No. 12 Georgia at Jacksonville Oct. 27
No. 12 Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC)
• Georgia doesn’t seem like the same team as it did when it was dominating the opposition early in the season. After a loss to South Carolina and barely escaping a one-win Kentucky team, it is safe to worry about the Bulldogs’ next matchup against No. 3 Florida.
Georgia still has a shot at the SEC title game if it can upset Florida on a neutral field. A win on Saturday would put the Bulldogs in a first-place tie in the loss column with the Gators, with Georgia holding the tiebreaker.
Georgia still has meetings with Auburn and Ole Miss to try to stake their claim in the SEC championship game in Miami.
Next Game: vs. No. 3 Florida at Jacksonville Oct. 27
Kentucky (1-7, 0-5 SEC)
• Kentucky continues to struggle and it remains winless in the SEC after a close loss to Georgia on Saturday. Kentucky hung with the Bulldogs from start to finish, but in the end, Georgia was just too much for it to handle.
Kentucky will look for its first conference win of the season when it travels to Missouri this weekend. Missouri is also winless in the SEC, so something has to give in Colombia.
Next Game: at Missouri Oct. 27
No. 6 Louisiana State (7-1, 3-1 SEC)
• LSU took Texas A&M’s best shot and survived on Saturday. After falling behind 12-0 early, the Tigers scored 24 unanswered points to keep their SEC title—and maybe national title—hopes alive. The Tigers go into a well-timed bye week where they will have an extra week to prepare for what should be another great game against No. 1 Alabama.
Next Game: vs. No. 1 Alabama Nov. 3
No. 13 Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0 SEC)
• Mississippi St. finally made it to the Alabama game with an unblemished mark and will try to take down the Tide and work its way into the SEC title conversation. No one has really considered the Bulldogs to be a true threat to Alabama but this is where they can prove that they not only belong in the conference title conversation but also the national title conversation.
Going unbeaten in SEC play, including a win against Alabama, will definitely get them in the conversation. The Bulldogs still have Texas A&M and LSU on the schedule so lets not get too ahead of ourselves just yet.
Next Game: at No. 1 Alabama Oct. 27
Missouri (3-4, 0-4 SEC)
• Missouri is still searching for its first win since joining the SEC this season and it might have its best shot this upcoming weekend. A home game with winless Kentucky is just what the Tigers need to get their confidence back and attempt to salvage something in their inaugural season in the SEC.
The Tigers are going to need consistent play from QB James Franklin this weekend as he returns from injury. The Tigers hope their bye week is exactly what they needed to regroup and get the ball rolling going into the later part of this season.
Next Game: vs. Kentucky Oct. 27
Ole Miss (4-3, 1-2 SEC)
• Ole Miss will have had two weeks to prepare for a streaking Arkansas team when they take the field on Saturday. Like Arkansas, this is a huge game for Ole Miss’ goal of becoming bowl eligible.
Ole Miss needs two wins in its remaining five games, all against SEC opponents. That includes games against No. 12 Georgia, No. 13 Miss. St. and No. 6 LSU. It’s safe to say Ole Miss needs this game against Arkansas for that to work out in its favor.
Next Game: at Arkansas Oct. 27
No. 17 South Carolina (6-2, 4-2 SEC)
• After a 6-0 start that had it sitting at number three in the polls, South Carolina has dropped two consecutive games and has fallen out of the top 15. The Gamecocks lost a crucial SEC East game to Florida on Saturday, which does everything but eliminate them from conference title contention.
South Carolina needs a lot of help from Florida’s opponents if it is going to have any shot at reaching Miami at the end of the year.
Head coach Steve Spurrier pulled starting quarterback Connor Shaw in favor of backup Dylan Thompson and said he doesn’t know what direction the Gamecocks will go behind center when they take the field against Tennessee this weekend.
Next Game: vs. Tennessee Oct. 27
Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC)
• Tennessee continues to tumble as it has now lost its first four conference games of the season. It doesn’t get any easier for the Volunteers as they now have travel to play No. 17 South Carolina this weekend.
Tennessee still has to play Vanderbilt, Missouri and Kentucky this season. They have a combined total of two conference wins. Tennessee is going to need a much better performance out of quarterback Tyler Bray, who was held in check against Alabama. Bray finished with 187 yards passing with two interceptions and zero touchdowns.
Next Game: at No. 17 South Carolina Oct. 27
No. 22 Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC)
• Despite the loss on Saturday, A&M proved it could hang with the big boys of the SEC. The Aggies jumped in front of LSU early, taking a commanding 12-0 lead before squandering 24 unanswered points in an eventual 24-19 loss. A&M would have won this game if it weren’t for two missed field goals in the second half.
"We left some points out there, obviously, with a couple missed field goals," head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Against a team like that, you want to score touchdowns in the red zone."
Next Game: at Auburn Oct. 27
Vanderbilt (3-4, 2-3 SEC)
• Vanderbilt proved that it is no longer the bottom feeder of the SEC. With its victory on Saturday, Vandy will have a shot to get to a 500 for the first time all season when they host UMass.
Running back Zac Stacy ran for 169 yards and set the school record as the all-time leading rusher.
Vanderbilt still has Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tennessee remaining on the schedule. The three team have a combined two conference wins on the season.
Next Game: vs. Massachusetts Oct. 27