Week 6 roundtable: Breakout player

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
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Derrick HenryKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesDerrick Henry has 320 yards and two scores on 53 carries this season.

Saturday should be fun -- a full-scale clash of the SEC West titans. We're focused on three games from the nation's toughest division featuring six top-15 teams -- Alabama-Ole Miss, Auburn-LSU and Mississippi State-Texas A&M. So far, our roundtables have discussed the game we'd pay to see, the team with the most to prove and the best clutch quarterback.

The West crown, a trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, a berth in the College Football Playoff … it all hangs in the balance on Saturday. With that in mind, here are our SEC writers' picks for the breakout players whose performances will carry the day.

Alex Scarborough: Call him Megaquon. Laquon Treadwell is the star no one is talking about, and against Alabama, that's going to change. Ole Miss' sophomore receiver is the complete package: big, physical and explosive. Just look at his stat line last week: Five receptions, 123 yards, two touchdowns. Alabama's cornerbacks can't handle that. Cyrus Jones gives up four inches and 30 pounds to Treadwell. Eddie Jackson is a better matchup physically, but we don’t know how his body will hold up. Tony Brown is on a level playing field as far as talent goes, but the true freshman lacks experience. All that adds up to a matchup nightmare for Alabama.

Greg Ostendorf: If Alabama wants to beat Ole Miss on Saturday, it has to run the football. There, I said it. I don't care how good Blake Sims looked against Florida, this Ole Miss secondary is no joke. AJ McCarron struggled against the Rebels last year, and I can see Sims having a rough day on the road. That means it's up to T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry to carry the load. Take your pick for breakout player -- they're all good -- but I'm going with Henry. He's averaging 6.0 yards per carry, had a big game against Florida and has a knack for ripping off long runs. The only question is do the coaches trust him? I say yes.

David Ching: Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne, Mississippi State's Josh Robinson and Treadwell all came to mind as I considered this question, but I'm going with LSU quarterback Brandon Harris. He'll get his first career start on Saturday at Auburn, which is a tall order for anybody. But this kid possesses special talent. Even if he makes some mistakes or if LSU fails to pull the upset, he's going to become a star eventually. My bet is he will validate Les Miles' decision to allow him to guide the Tigers offense by keeping Saturday's game competitive.

Jeff Barlis: I knew I wouldn't be alone in choosing Harris. He just oozes athleticism, has an efficient delivery and poise beyond his years. Despite being a true freshman, Harris has looked worlds better than LSU's previous starter, sophomore Anthony Jennings. When Harris has been in the game, the LSU offense has come alive, as evidenced by his touchdown on all seven of his possessions after relieving Jennings last week. The Tigers have plenty of skilled athletes in Cam Cameron's offense. With Harris at the reins, LSU flat out has a better chance to go into Auburn and pull off the upset.

Sam Khan: Keep an eye on Mississippi State sophomore wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson. He's coming off a good game at LSU (four catches, 91 yards and a touchdown) and he looks like a budding star for the Bulldogs. He had success against Texas A&M last season, catching seven passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 51-41 loss at Kyle Field. He's big (6-foot-5), athletic and has a large catch radius, which is perfect when Mississippi State needs to move the chains on third down or get in the end zone. He leads the team in catches of 20-plus yards this year (four), and this game looks to be a shootout, so he should have plenty of opportunities to make an impression.

Edward Aschoff: My breakout player is Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones. He was supposed to be an All-American this year, but he's yet to really get things going for the Bulldogs. He does have two sacks on the season, but those came against cupcakes. Texas A&M’s offensive line presents a great test for the sophomore, who I think will put some nice pressure on A&M quarterback Kenny Hill and force him into some tough situations. It's time for him to impress us. His bulky, 6-5, 308-pound frame will clog the middle against the run, but where I see him standing out is against the pass, which is the key to stopping the Aggies' offense.

SEC Week 6 predictions

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
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Now we're talking. Three SEC West games between top 15 teams, plus a Tennessee-Florida rivalry game with Will Muschamp fighting for his job. Which teams will take a giant step toward the playoff this weekend? Let's get on with the picks.

Why Tennessee wins: The Vols have lost two straight but went toe-to-toe with Georgia in a tough road environment. Now they return home, where they've played well this season and let's be honest: Justin Worley has outplayed Jeff Driskel so far this year. Quarterback play goes a long way in a tightly contested game, which this could be. So give me the home team with the better quarterback. Florida had an off week and the Gators needed it badly, but they still have a lot of work to do. Tennessee 30, Florida 24 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Why Florida wins: Through the first three games, Florida is trending in the wrong direction. The Gators were lucky to survive against Kentucky and then were throttled by Alabama the next week. But I think they bounce back Saturday. They had a week off, which is a good remedy for any struggling team, and they’re better up front, especially with the return of starting left tackle D.J. Humphries. Florida 31, Tennessee 24 -- Greg Ostendorf

Why Texas A&M wins: Arkansas was probably the worst matchup for A&M in the entire SEC and the Aggies survived -- barely. Defending Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson won’t be a treat for A&M, either, but Mississippi State’s beleaguered secondary is in for a long Saturday. This should be a great game, but my money’s on Kenny Hill & Co. putting up a few more points. Texas A&M 30, Mississippi State 21 -- David Ching

Why Mississippi State wins: Is there anything Prescott can’t do? The kid can embarrass defenses with his arm and his legs, and with the holes in the defense A&M showed us against Arkansas, I think he’s going to have another big day. It’ll be interesting to see how Mississippi State’s secondary holds up against Hill, but I think they can put pressure on him up front. This one is coming down to the very end, and with a bruising back like Robinson helping Prescott, the Bulldogs get another big West win. Mississippi State 31, Texas A&M 28 -- Edward Aschoff

Why Alabama wins: I went back and forth with this one so many times because I think Ole Miss has the offense to hurt Alabama. That up-tempo play won’t be kind to the Crimson Tide, but having two weeks to prepare is a major advantage. This is by far the best team either has faced to this point, and I just don’t think Ole Miss will be able to run the ball. That means the Tide can put pressure on Bo Wallace and force him to make mistakes. Those mistakes late will have Bama walking out of the Grove with a close win in front of the “GameDay” crew. Alabama 27, Ole Miss 23 -- Edward Aschoff

Why Ole Miss wins: This isn't your daddy's Ole Miss. This isn't even your slightly older brother's. This version of the Rebs is different with a talented group of pass-rushers, a ball-hawking secondary and one of the best wide receivers in the country. Throw in the fact that the game's in Oxford and that Ole Miss runs the hurry-up, no-huddle as well as anyone, and you've got the right ingredients for an upset. Ole Miss 34, Alabama 31 -- Alex Scarborough

Why Auburn wins big: It’s not as much that I think Auburn is that good -- the offense still isn’t quite in sync. It’s more that I don’t trust LSU freshman quarterback Brandon Harris. The talent is there, but he’s making his first start in what will be a raucous atmosphere on the Plains. And this isn’t last year’s Auburn defense. The front four will make life difficult for Harris and the LSU offense. Auburn 31, LSU 14 -- Greg Ostendorf

Why LSU keeps it close: Clearly none of us has been too impressed with LSU's defense, but Auburn's defense has yet to contend with a passing game like the one it will see on Saturday. Though just a true freshman, Harris has "an NFL arm," according to none other than Gus Malzahn. Expect lots of drama on the Plains. Auburn will prevail in front of the home crowd, but this one could come down to which team has the ball last. Auburn 34, LSU 30 -- Jeff Barlis

Why South Carolina wins: Kentucky is one of the feel-good stories in the SEC this season and South Carolina currently exists somewhere on the opposite end of the happiness spectrum. The Gamecocks might go into meltdown mode if they lose to the Wildcats. I won’t rule out that possibility -- the Wildcats are vastly improved this season, but South Carolina still feels like the safer pick. South Carolina 30, Kentucky 20 -- David Ching

Why Kentucky wins: I predicted this early in the week, before Dorian Baker and Stanley "Boom" Williams were suspended. But despite my newfound misgivings, I'm not backing off. This is a classic case of two teams going in opposite directions. Za'Darius Smith and Bud Dupree will harass Dylan Thompson into a few interceptions, which A.J. Stamps may or may not pick off, and the Wildcats will score just enough points to win in regulation. Kentucky 30, South Carolina 24 -- Alex Scarborough

Why Georgia wins big: We all like Georgia big, and it's easy to see why. The Bulldogs are deeper and more talented and have arguably college football's best player in Todd Gurley. Vanderbilt has struggled out of the gate and might be without quarterback Patton Robinette for this game. It doesn't look pretty for the Commodores. Georgia 42, Vanderbilt 10 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Standings
Jeff Barlis 44-5
Chris Low 44-5
Edward Aschoff 43-6
David Ching 43-6
Greg Ostendorf 43-6
Sam Khan Jr. 42-7
Alex Scarborough 41-8
Big Ten teams need to find a way to increase athleticism through recruiting and Wisconsin is working hard in Florida to make that happen. Plus, UCLA quarterback commit Josh Rosen continues to be the gift that keeps on giving for the Bruins on the recruiting trail.

video

Trevor Matich and Brad Edwards make their picks for when undefeated Texas A&M meets undefeated Mississippi State on Saturday.
video

Trevor Matich and Brad Edwards make their picks from the biggest games of Week 6 including Alabama-Ole Miss, Texas A&M-Mississippi State and Stanford-Notre Dame.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Malcome Kennedy lay on the turf, trainers tending to his injured left shoulder.

[+] EnlargeEdward Pope & Malcome Kennedy
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsTexas A&M receivers Malcome Kennedy and Edward Pope have combined for 49 receptions and six touchdowns through Week 5 this season.
With 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Aggies trying to march downfield and complete a scoring drive to cap off a come-from-behind win against Arkansas, something was wrong with Texas A&M's senior receiver after he landed squarely on his left side and quickly reached for his shoulder. It was separated.

"I thought he was done," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said afterward.

Kennedy hadn't come this far -- all the way from Cayuga, a small East Texas high school that played in the state's smallest 11-man classification, Class 1A, when he was there and from being a reserve receiver who waited his turn to become a featured target and a senior leader -- to allow shoulder pain to keep him from finishing.

"I felt like I had to go," Kennedy said. "I popped it out of place and the trainers came over, calmed me down and popped it back in. They asked me if I was all right and if I was done. I said 'No. I've got to go.' I just had a lot of adrenaline so it didn't hurt. I still was ready to go."

Moments later, he proved as much, catching a dart from Kenny Hill for the game-winning 25-yard touchdown in Texas A&M's 35-28 overtime win against the Razorbacks.

In many ways, Saturday was a snapshot of what Kennedy means to the Aggies. He usually isn't the first name outsiders think of when discussing Texas A&M receivers. For the past two seasons, that distinction belonged to Mike Evans, a 2014 first-round NFL draft pick who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This season, Kennedy is the elder statesman of the Aggies' deep, young receiving corps, but some were more interested in discussing the bigger (sophomore Ricky Seals-Jones) or faster (true freshman Speedy Noil) young, new toys that the Aggies had to play with.

Meanwhile Kennedy, the dependable "Y" receiver in the Aggies' Air Raid-inspired offense, simply catches footballs -- lots of them -- does his work and speaks up when necessary, leading his group and the offense forward.

"Malcome is the vocal leader of our offense," offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said.

He's also the leading receiver currently. Through five games, he tops the Aggies in catches (33) and receiving yards (378) to go with two scores. His catch total is more than double of the next-best receivers, Edward Pope and Josh Reynolds, who each have 16.

And those who miss the days of Evans, the freakishly-athletic former basketball player who could seemingly catch everything in his stratosphere? Kennedy even showed he has the ability to do that, going up and leaping over an SMU defender on a jump ball on third-and-13 in the first quarter of the Aggies' win against the Mustangs last month. It is the kind of catch few associate with Kennedy, who does the majority of his work across the middle of the field. He has been invaluable to the development of Hill, the Aggies' sophomore sensation quarterback.

"He has helped a lot because he is an easy target to find," Hill said. "He's always getting open. That helps a lot. ...On a third down, he's a guy you can lean on and go to."

For a team that starts two freshmen (Noil and Seals-Jones) and a sophomore (Reynolds) alongside him at receiver, Kennedy is the heart of the receiving corps. He displayed as much Saturday when the Aggies' trailed the Razorbacks by 7 points at halftime and he delivered an inspired speech to his teammates in the locker room.

"At halftime, I walked in with something I was going to say," Sumlin said. "When I got to the door, I'm the last guy there, but Malcome Kennedy was standing at the door, talking to everybody as we're going in. And then he looked at me and said 'I have something I've got to say.' So we went back in, I listened to him for about 30 seconds and I said 'Yeah, that's better than anything I can say.' So we started looking at adjustments offensively for the second half."

Kennedy, a member of the team's leadership council, also has a knack for making big catches. His first such one came in one of biggest games in recent Texas A&M history, the 2012 upset of Alabama. With the Aggies clinging to a six-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, Johnny Manziel launched a pass toward the front left corner of the end zone where Kennedy beat Dee Milliner and hauled in the final points the Aggies would score in their 29-24 landmark victory.

So it's no surprise that when the Aggies need a big catch to move the chains or change the game, he's the one they turn toward.

"When the game's on the line," Spavital said, "Malcome's the guy we're going to."

He knows that. That's why two plays after the shoulder injury, he subbed himself in on third down before the clock expired in regulation. When the Aggies got the ball first in overtime, Spavital called a play that he said he woke up thinking about, one that they called earlier in the game, but didn't work.

Kennedy manned his spot at the "Y" receiver, saw what he liked and the rest is history.

"It was finally the look we wanted," Kennedy said. "The two high safeties; they were playing pretty far off the hash and the linebackers were tucked in the box and they were ready to stop the run so I went in there like I was blocking and I came out full speed and Kenny hit me."

Said Spavital: "I knew that play was going to eventually score for us in this game and it was the perfect opportunity to get it in there to Malcome. ...He made a great misdirection and made a big-time play and won the game for us."

Replay: SEC Spreecast

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
2:45
PM ET
Watch a replay of ESPN.com reporters Edward Aschoff, David Ching and Chris Low previewing a monster week of SEC action. They broke down Alabama-Ole Miss, Mississippi State-Texas A&M and LSU-Auburn, while also talking Todd Gurley's Heisman chances and answered viewer questions.

All week, we're discussing Saturday's terrific slate of games in the SEC West. We looked at which games we'd pay the most to see. We debated which team has the most to prove. Now it's time to talk about the quarterbacks.

The question is simple. With the game on the line, which quarterback would you want leading your team? The answer? Not so easy, but our SEC writers take a stab at it anyway.

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertIf the Bulldogs were to find themselves behind in a game, QB Dak Prescott is the player many would prefer to see leading the charge.
Edward Aschoff: I'm taking Mississippi State's Dak Prescott. If I need plays made late in the game, I'm going with someone who can not only fire the ball around but can take off and get plenty of yards with his feet. I'm so new-school in that respect. Give me a mobile quarterback any day over a statue pocket passer. Look at what Prescott did against LSU, in Baton Rouge no less. You're telling me I can have someone who strutted into the intimidating confines of Tiger Stadium and got a win with 373 total yards and three touchdowns? Yeah, sure. Sign me up.

David Ching: There are some good choices here, but I'll take Mississippi State's Prescott. Kenny Hill is an impressive talent with a bunch of weapons at his disposal at Texas A&M. Nick Marshall makes some incredible plays while leading Auburn's prolific offense. Blake Sims and Bo Wallace aren't bad, either. Give me Prescott. I had a front-row seat to watch his improvisational skills occasionally embarrass LSU's defense two weekends ago and came away impressed. He's got his work cut out on Saturday to keep up with Hill and Texas A&M's high-scoring offense, but I'll take my chances with Prescott any time.

Alex Scarborough: What if I say Sims and have him throw screen after screen to Amari Cooper -- the equivalent of an extended handoff? No? That's cheating, you say? OK, fine. If I'm forced to choose, give me Prescott. Something about his intangibles tells me he can win a close game for me. He's a better pure passer than Marshall, he's a more explosive and physical runner than Hill, and he's less Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde than Wallace when it comes to turning over the football. Sims, on the other hand, has never played a meaningful snap on the road, and that gives me pause.

Jeff Barlis: Hands down, Auburn's Marshall is the best clutch quarterback in the SEC. Coach Gus Malzahn said it himself last week: "If you compare him to all the other quarterbacks around the country when the game's on the line, we've got the best guy." Marshall proved it time and time again during the Tigers' miracle run last season, but that was done mostly with his legs. This season, he's shown improvement as a passer as evidenced by the Tigers' huge road win at Kansas State when he started 5-of-13 passing for 56 yards and closed out the game by going 12-of-18 for 175. Marshall will have to come through one more time for Auburn to beat LSU.

Greg Ostendorf: Don't sleep on Wallace. He's much better at home. I was at the LSU game last season when he went 8-of-11 for 71 yards on the final drive to set up Ole Miss for the game-winning field goal. With that said, I'm going to have side with Jeff on this one. Marshall isn't the best quarterback in the SEC. He might not even be in the top three. But when the game is on the line, nobody is better. He orchestrated game-winning drives against both Mississippi State and Texas A&M last season; he threw the touchdown to Sammie Coates that made the kick-six possible in the Iron Bowl; and more recently, he made the clutch third-down throw to put away Kansas State on the road. The kid is as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Sam Khan: I don't think there are very many wrong choices here. I like Prescott and Marshall a lot. Heck, I even like LSU freshman Brandon Harris, though he'll need some more experience before I can fully trust him in that situation. Today, give me Hill. He's as cool a customer as they come and that's what you need with the game on the line -- someone who is poised. Hill showed those characteristics last week, with his team down by 14 points in the fourth quarter. After struggling through three quarters, Hill made every throw he had to make and compiled 204 passing yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a perfectly-thrown dart for the game-winner to Malcome Kennedy in OT. He has come up big in A&M's two biggest games so far. You have to be darn good to earn the tag of "Trill" in Texas.

SEC playoff tracker: Oct. 1

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
10:30
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October has arrived and most teams have played a third of their regular-season schedule. One team has fallen off our playoff tracker (South Carolina) but the rest remain from last week. Let's dive in and see where the College Football Playoff contenders from the SEC stand as of today:

Alabama Crimson Tide
Record:
4-0
AP rank: No. 3
Next big obstacle: Oct. 4 at Ole Miss
Reason for optimism: The bye week came at the right time for Alabama. It needed Blake Sims, Jarrick Williams and DeAndrew White healthy for Ole Miss on Saturday. And if it needed any extra motivation, Rebs safety Cody Prewitt delivered, telling reporters that, "We don't think Bama has really been as good as they have been."
Cause for concern: Survive Ole Miss and things don't get any easier. You thought that Oct. 11 trip to Arkansas would be a cake walk? Ha! You thought Texas A&M would be an easier out without Johnny Manziel? That's a good one. That schedule you thought was littered with SEC cupcakes like Tennessee now looks more like a minefield.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Mississippi State over Texas A&M. If the Bulldogs can upset Texas A&M and Auburn the next two weeks, the West might loosen up some. --Alex Scarborough

Auburn Tigers
Record:
4-0
AP rank: No. 5
Next big obstacle: Oct. 4 vs. LSU
Reason for optimism: Nick Marshall continues to look more and more like his old self. On Saturday, he passed for 166 yards and three touchdowns, and he also rushed for 105 yards. His new favorite target? OK, it’s still D'haquille Williams, but fellow wide receiver Quan Bray has emerged as a playmaker on both offense and special teams for the Tigers.
Cause for concern: There are a lot of question marks as to who’s going to play this Saturday against LSU. Linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost are day-to-day with injuries, and starting right tackle Patrick Miller is questionable with an ankle injury. It also looks like Auburn will be without safety Jermaine Whitehead for the third straight game.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Ole Miss over Alabama --Greg Ostendorf

Texas A&M Aggies
Record:
5-0
AP rank: No. 6
Next big obstacle: Oct. 4 at Mississippi State
Reason for optimism: The Aggies passed a big test by showing that their run defense -- while still having a lot of room for improvement -- can do just enough to help them win after being tested thoroughly against Arkansas, the best rushing team in the SEC. The offense also showed it can win when it’s not at its best and Kenny Hill responded to adversity emphatically, showing poise in fourth quarter and overtime. Health-wise, the Aggies are in relatively good shape, which is critical considering what lies ahead.
Cause for concern: The schedule gets only tougher in the next few weeks. This weekend it’s a trip to Starkville to meet undefeated Mississippi State. They return home the following week to host Ole Miss. Then on Oct. 18 they go to Tuscaloosa for a showdown with Alabama. These are all teams and places the Aggies have won before, but now they’re doing it with a team that has a lot of young players in key positions, like quarterback, free safety, defensive end and receiver. This three-week stretch is a monumental test for Texas A&M.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: LSU over Auburn. (This would help the Aggies jump Auburn in the national rankings and gain an advantage in the standings) --Sam Khan Jr.

Ole Miss Rebels
Record:
4-0
AP rank: No. 11
Next big obstacle: Oct. 4 vs. Alabama
Reason for optimism: The defense ranks first in the SEC and fourth nationally, allowing 248 yards per game and has 11 takeaways on the season. QB Bo Wallace is also spreading his passes around very nicely. Even with depth an issue at receiver, the Rebels already have five players with double-digit receptions.
Cause for concern: The West is easily the toughest division in college football. There really isn’t a major weak link when it comes to teams on this side of the division, and Ole Miss still has to go through everyone. We’ll find out if Ole Miss has the depth needed to make a real SEC run.
Who they’re rooting for this week: LSU over Auburn --Edward Aschoff

Mississippi State Bulldogs
Record:
4-0
AP rank: 12
Next big obstacle: Oct. 4 vs. Texas A&M
Reason for optimism: With an open date between their dismantling of LSU and this Saturday’s showdown with Texas A&M, the Bulldogs have had time to rest and scheme to face perhaps the best opponent they’ve played to date. It had to help their confidence to see A&M struggle against Arkansas the way it did, too.
Cause for concern: Mississippi State’s secondary has been one of the team’s few weaknesses, and that’s a bad weakness to have against a high-flying offense like Texas A&M’s. It also doesn’t help that veteran center Dillon Day will miss the A&M game while serving a one-game suspension for unsportsmanlike play against LSU.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Alabama over Ole Miss (because why not?) --David Ching

Georgia Bulldogs
Record:
3-1
AP rank: No. 13
Next big obstacle: Oct. 11 vs. Missouri
Reason for optimism: The SEC East is still a mess, and South Carolina’s loss to Missouri means the Bulldogs once again control their own destiny in the division. Just win, baby, and the Dawgs are headed back to Atlanta. Also, Todd Gurley seems like he’s getting better and better with each week.
Cause for concern: Passing, whether it’s by the Bulldogs or against them. Hutson Mason admitted Saturday that the chemistry between himself and his receivers isn’t where it should be, especially when it comes to throwing the deep ball. Right now, Georgia’s defense can’t stop any sort of passing over the middle of the field.
Who they’re rooting for this week: Tennessee over Florida --Edward Aschoff

LSU Tigers
Record:
4-1
AP rank: 15
Next big obstacle: Oct. 4 at Auburn
Reason for optimism: It seems unlikely that anyone in the SEC West will finish undefeated, so the Tigers can stick around in this race if they start winning. A win in Saturday’s game at Auburn could potentially jump-start LSU’s chances, especially if Brandon Harris goes off as the new starting quarterback.
Cause for concern: Auburn’s running game has to scare LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis a bit after Mississippi State had so much success against the Tigers two Saturdays ago. LSU might be able to stick around in the SEC West race with two division losses, but a playoff bid would almost be out of the question if the Tigers fall again.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Texas A&M over Mississippi State --David Ching
ARLINGTON, Texas -- After he dazzled onlookers and broke records in his starting debut at South Carolina, there wasn’t much more you could ask for from Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill.

He stepped into a tough situation and passed his first test with flying colors. There was one thing, though, that Texas A&M offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital wanted to see from Hill that he didn’t that night, mainly because things went so well: How Hill would respond to adversity.

[+] EnlargeKenny Hill
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezKenny Hill rebounded from a subpar start to rally the Aggies to a victory over Arkansas.
In the Aggies’ 35-28 overtime win over Arkansas on Saturday at AT&T Stadium, the world got to see that aspect of Hill’s makeup.

Turns out Hill does that well too.

The first three quarters easily stand out as Hill’s worst of the year, as he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes (15-of-31) for 182 yards and a touchdown. There were some drops by receivers but Hill often looked uncomfortable, inaccurate, forced passes into tight windows and was close to being intercepted on a few occasions. Eventually, he was picked off in the fourth quarter by Arkansas cornerback Carroll Washington.

The interception notwithstanding, Hill looked like a different player in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Aggies rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to score 21 unanswered points and claim the win. He finished the game completing six of his final 10 pass attempts for 204 yards and three touchdowns to help engineer the comeback.

“It was tough kind of mentally because we faced a little adversity that we hadn't faced yet,” Hill said afterward. “I thought we responded well. The game for me, I mean, it was up and down and up and down the whole time. I mean, I just -- I need to make that a little bit better, just be one level the whole time.”

Because of his early success, eye-popping statistics and some of the early Heisman Trophy discussion, it’s easy to forget that Hill just started his fifth game. He has only appeared in nine games total. Though he has experienced much success in a short time, he’s still a young quarterback.

“It's the first time this year we've really been in that situation,” coach Kevin Sumlin said. “We were off a little bit. Things here, there; we turned it over. But to come through and play the way he did at the end of the game is a big confidence boost for him. Not that he needs it. He is a pretty confident guy. But for our team, too.”

The three touchdown passes he made were on target. The first one, to Edward Pope, was aided by an Arkansas defender falling as the ball arrived in Pope’s hands, allowing him to sprint freely to complete an 86-yard score. Hill fit the ball into a tight window to Joshua Reynolds on the right sideline and as a Razorback defender dove and missed, Reynolds sprinted to finish off a 59-yard scoring reception. And the last one, a 25-yard dart to Malcome Kennedy, was placed perfectly to the open senior receiver.

Hill always seems calm and cool and Kennedy said Saturday was no different.

“Kenny kept his poise like always,” Kennedy said. “I've never seen him walking around with his head down. He didn't sulk. He never pointed fingers at anybody. If anything, he was like, 'My fault, my bad.' That's what a leader has to do.”
video

Paul Finebaum discusses the SEC teams with the most to gain and lose this weekend.

SEC Heisman watch: Week 5

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
1:00
PM ET
Well, Todd Gurley isn't exactly slowing down these days.

The Georgia running back just keeps chugging along, leaving defenders shamed along the way. On Saturday, Gurley ran for a career-high 208 yards, had two touchdowns and averaged 7.4 yards per carry against Tennessee. Not bad. No wonder he now has 16 career 100-yard rushing games.

On the season, Gurley has 610 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He's averaging an SEC-high 8.8 yards per carry.

Again, we know how good Gurley is and he should be at the top over everyone's Heisman ballot, at least for the SEC. He should be at the top of it nationally, but some folks are hung up on that Mariota guy.

[+] EnlargeKenny Hill, Kevin Sumlin
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesKenny Hill showed his moxie against Arkansas, propelling Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies to 5-0.
But let's take some time to talk about Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill -- the trillest of them all.

We've been impressed with how he has terrorized defenses through the first part of the season, but I think he had his best performance this past Saturday against Arkansas. First, he had to bring his team back from a 14-point deficit in the second half. Then, he had to win in overtime. All he did was throw touchdowns of 86 and 59 yards to tie the game in the fourth. In overtime, he needed just one play, finding Malcome Kennedy, who was somehow behind three Arkansas defenders, for a 25-yard game-winning touchdown.

Kenny Trill's gutty performance showed us that he's more than just a kid tossing the ball around in a pass-friendly system. He had to bring his team back from the edge and then win the game. He did both without really breaking a sweat, throwing for 386 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.

On the season, Hill leads the SEC with 1,745 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. No SEC quarterback is on his level right now.

Here are four others to keep an eye on in the SEC:

  • Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: He was off this past weekend but still leads the SEC with 43 receptions and 655 receiving yards. He's tied for first with five touchdowns.
  • Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: He was also off but has been the SEC's best dual-threat quarterback this season. Prescott has 964 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. He has rushed for 378 yards and three more scores.
  • Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas: Even though the Hogs lost to A&M on Saturday, Collins had another solid outing, rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown. However, that failed fourth-and-1 attempt in overtime will haunt him. On the season, Collins leads the SEC with 621 rushing yards and is tied for the league lead with six rushing touchdowns.
  • Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State: Off as well, Robinson is fourth in the SEC with 485 rushing yards and has four rushing touchdowns. He's averaging 7.8 yards per carry.

Big Games, Big Impact

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
12:41
PM ET


video

Ivan Maisel and Heather Dinich explain what kind of effect the six big games this weekend could have on the playoff race, and which ones stand to have the greatest impact.

Big Weekend In Mississippi

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
12:41
PM ET


video

The state of Mississippi hasn't seen a college football weekend this big in decades. Chris Low and Toni Collins look ahead to the big matchups in the Magnolia State.

Playoff Top Four: Week 6

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
12:32
PM ET


video

Heather Dinich and Ivan Maisel look at who belongs in the playoffs after five weeks of the season.

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Week 6 Picks: Texas A&M-Mississippi State
Trevor Matich and Brad Edwards make their picks for when undefeated Texas A&M meets undefeated Mississippi State on Saturday.
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SEC SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 10/4