When Johnny Manziel was done with No. 1 Alabama, finishing
off the top-ranked Crimson Tide by taking a knee, he handed off his helmet and
the game ball to a team manager. The manager then handed to a coach for safekeeping.
When asked what the plans for the ball
and helmet were, the coach simply replied, “We just want to hang on to them.”
Though the message was bland, it rang
loud and clear: Johnny Football, the SEC’s newest star, is submitting
performances worth remembering — none bigger (so far) than his dismantling of
Nick Saban’s defense.
But Manziel wasn’t the only Aggie, or
SEC player, to submit elite performances on Saturday. Here’s this week’s SEC
Big Men on Campus
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: The
Aggies’ big-play senior receiver, who coach Kevin Sumlin calls the program’s
biggest recruit this offseason, delivered against Alabama’s secondary. He found
soft spots down the field all night, finishing with 11 catches for 111 yards
and a touchdown. He became just the second receiver — joining Michigan’s Jeremy
Gallon — to finish with 100 or more receiving yards against the Crimson Tide
Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall,
Georgia: The appropriately-dubbed “Gurshall” was at it again this
weekend, both surpassing 100 yards rushing against rival Auburn to help clinch
the SEC East title. The two true freshmen have been a revelation in Athens, a
much-needed boost after the team’s dismissal of last season’s SEC Freshman of
the Year, Isaiah Crowell. Both players now rank in the top-15 among SEC
rushers, with Todd Gurley ranking second with 973 yards and 11 touchdowns.
C.J. Mosley, Alabama:
Though his defense was less than spectacular for the second-consecutive week,
Mosley proved once more that he’s one of the nation’s best. He finished with 11.5
tackles and a sack (never an easy accomplishment against Manziel) and made
plays all over the field Saturday night. The junior is a force.
Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt: With
his NFL superstar brother (Aaron Rodgers) watching from the stands, Rodgers
helped the Commodores become bowl eligible for the second-consecutive season
for the first time in school history. In a 27-26 win over resurgent Ole Miss,
Rodgers passed for 267 yards and two scores. His final touchdown pass came with
just 56 seconds remaining to clinch a bowl berth.
Tyler Bray and James Franklin,
Tennessee/Missouri: “Tyler Bray in a losing effort” has replaced
former Arizona quarterback Nick Foles place in the national vernacular, as both
he and Franklin were extraordinary in four overtimes Saturday afternoon.
Franklin (226 yards, four touchdowns) got the 51-48 win, but Bray (404 yards,
four touchdowns) posted better numbers. With the win, the Tigers improved to
2-4 in SEC play. It’s hard to see Bray (or coach Derek Dooley) sticking around
after this dismal season.
Disappointment of the Week
Tennessee: A quick
word (again) on Tennessee’s defense: The Volunteers became the first defense in
SEC history to allow 38 or more points in six straight games. Safe to say, the
transition to defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri’s 3-4 defense has been rough.
And with Dooley posting a 1-13 record in his past 14 SEC games, the loss to
Missouri looks like the nail in the coffin.
Player of the Week
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: What can
be said about Manziel that hasn’t already in the past 24 hours? He threw for
253 yards (24-for-31) against Nick Saban’s defense, including two touchdown
passes. He ran for another 92. He’s firmly planted in the Heisman Trophy race
as just a redshirt freshman, as he leads the nation in total offense while
competing in the most defensive-minded league around.
Coach of the Week
James Franklin, Vanderbilt: With all due
respect to Kevin Sumlin, who should be the frontrunner for the National Coach
of the Year race after his team’s win over Alabama, it would be a crime to not
also recognize Franklin. The Commodores’ enthusiastic head coach has approached
the academically-restricted job and churned out a consistent product. His team
is heading to its second straight bowl game. He’s one of the hottest coaching
commodities in the country. After losing three of the first four games this
season (to tough competition), the Commodores rebounded to pull off what’s
never been done before in school history.