Week 9 top performers: Shaw keeps Gamecocks in title game hunt - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Week 9 top performers: Shaw keeps Gamecocks in title game hunt

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Alabama safety Landon Collins (26) makes an interception against Tennessee. Collins ran the interception back 89 yards for a touchdown and was named the SEC's defensive player of the week. (Source: Alabama Athletics) Alabama safety Landon Collins (26) makes an interception against Tennessee. Collins ran the interception back 89 yards for a touchdown and was named the SEC's defensive player of the week. (Source: Alabama Athletics)
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, shown here earlier in the season, was named offensive player of the week after rallying the Gamecocks to a 27-24 win over Missouri. (Source: South Carolina Athletics) South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, shown here earlier in the season, was named offensive player of the week after rallying the Gamecocks to a 27-24 win over Missouri. (Source: South Carolina Athletics)
Georgia returns to action this week led by quarterback Aaron Murray, shown here in the season opening against Clemson. (Source: Georgia Athletics) Georgia returns to action this week led by quarterback Aaron Murray, shown here in the season opening against Clemson. (Source: Georgia Athletics)
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(RNN) – Here's a weekly look at five of the SEC's top performers in Week 9 and who to watch in Week 10.

Week 9 top performers:

1. Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina – Shaw threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-24 win over Missouri, but that's only half the story of why he was named the SEC's offensive player of the week.

Shaw was dealing with an injured knee, didn't start and wasn't expected to play. But when the Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2) fell behind 17-0, he told coach Steve Spurrier he was able to play if he was needed. Spurrier put him in and he led a comeback that culminated with a tying touchdown with under a minute to play.

South Carolina won in the second overtime when a Missouri field goal attempt bounced off the upright.

The win was huge for South Carolina, which had been upset by Tennessee the week before and was on the verge of being eliminated from the SEC championship game. However, South Carolina still needs Missouri to lose another game and needs to beat Mississippi State and Florida to earn a berth.

2. Landon Collins, S, Alabama – The first interception of Collins' career came in Alabama's 45-10 win over Tennessee, and he returned it for an 89-yard touchdown. He also forced a fumble and was named the SEC's defensive player of the week. It was exactly the type of performance Collins needed to show he is a capable replacement for Vinnie Sunseri.

Sunseri himself had two interceptions returned for touchdowns this season before being sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Collins is not just some back-up elevated to a starting role, however. He has been active on special teams all year and in nickel packages and was named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which honors the nation's top defensive back.

He is the second leading tackler for the Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0) and now plays a prominent role on the only defense in the country that is allowing fewer than 10 points per game.

3. I'Tavius Mathers, RB, Ole Miss – Ole Miss has struggled to replace the production of injured running back Jeff Scott, but Mathers stepped up in the Rebels' 59-14 win over Idaho and rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown.

Mathers is 90 yards away from eclipsing Scott as the team's leading rusher, but already has equaled his two touchdowns. Scott has been sidelined with a thigh bruise and Mathers and Jaylen Walton – who has five fewer yards and three more touchdowns than Mathers on the season – have been serviceable in his absence, but neither possesses Scott's speed or versatility in the passing game. Walton has more receiving yards than Scott, but more than half of them came on a 50-yard touchdown against Texas A&M.

The Rebels (5-3, 2-3) are a win away from being bowl eligible and only play one ranked team – No. 9 Missouri – the rest of the year. All three of their losses came against teams currently ranked in the top 12 in the BCS standings.

4. Odell Beckham, WR, LSU – LSU played Furman, so its 48-16 win was only surprising because the Tigers (7-2, 3-2) were only ahead by four at halftime. But Beckham was the star of the game, catching six passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns. All other LSU receivers combined for 136 yards and one touchdown.

Beckham has 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns on the season, which is fourth in the country and second in the SEC. He also has 700 more yards as a kick and punt returner and is second in the country in all-purpose yards, averaging 207 per game.

LSU is fighting for a chance to make the SEC championship game, and can take a big step toward that with a win over Alabama in two weeks. The Tigers have a bye week before Alabama then another bye week after the Tide before closing the season with Texas A&M and Arkansas.

The Tigers need to win all those games and have Alabama and Auburn each lose another conference game to win the SEC West.

5. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – If it's possible for Manziel to fly under the radar, he's doing it. Manziel is third in the nation in total offense, averaging 386 yards per game. He had 305 yards passing and four touchdowns in the Aggies' 56-24 win over Vanderbilt.

Manziel is on pace to break his own SEC record for total yards, but has been overshadowed by the offensive performances of Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston, who are both behind Manziel in total yards per game.

Manziel is one of only two players (along with Oregon State's Sean Mannion) to have 3,000 total yards this season, but losses by the Aggies (6-2, 3-2) to Alabama and Auburn and the emergence of wide receiver Mike Evans have tempered the hoopla surrounding him.

Who to watch in Week 10:

1. Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri – The "Mauktober" phenomenon surrounding Missouri's new signal-caller took a blow with the loss to South Carolina last week, but Missouri is still the only team in the SEC East that controls its own destiny to make the SEC championship game.

Missouri (7-1, 3-1) has to win all four of its remaining games to win the division, unless South Carolina drops a conference game. Among those opponents are Texas A&M in the season finale, Ole Miss and this week's opponent Tennessee, who Missouri needed overtime to beat last year.

Tennessee (4-4, 1-3) has been a pesky opponent in recent weeks taking Georgia to overtime, upsetting South Carolina and scoring the second most points Alabama has allowed all season, but the Vols' defense has been suspect for most of the year.

Every game is a must-win for the Tigers now following the loss to South Carolina and James Franklin could return to action as soon as this week, though that appears to be unlikely.

2. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina – Davis has rushed for 930 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, which leads the SEC and is eighth in the country. The Gamecocks can't afford a loss if they want to make the SEC championship game.

Davis will likely be called on often against Mississippi State while Shaw continues to recover from his injury. He should be able to find some running room against the Bulldogs (4-3, 1-2) and keep South Carolina in the hunt.

3. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State – Prescott seems to have won the starting job outright over Tyler Russell just as Mississippi State enters the toughest part of its schedule. The Bulldogs are facing the gauntlet run of South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama in the next three weeks.

And if that isn't hard enough, Prescott now has to avoid people on campus as well. He was reportedly kicked Monday by a fellow Mississippi State student.

Prescott is coming off a 268-yard, two-touchdown performance over Kentucky and has had a long break since that game was played last Thursday. The Bulldogs need two wins to become bowl eligible and have only conference games left. They can't make the SEC championship game, but are in excellent position to help decide who does.

4. Tre Mason, RB, Auburn – No team has made a bigger turnaround this season than Auburn, which was 3-8 and 0-8 in the SEC last season. Now the Tigers are 7-1, 3-1 and looking to set up an SEC West championship game in the Iron Bowl against Alabama.

That matchup can't happen unless the Tigers keep winning. The reason for their turnaround has been an emphasis on the running game and the use of four backs capable of eating yards and the clock. Mason has been the most successful, running for a team-leading 753 yards and nine touchdowns to pace a rushing attack that is first in the SEC and fifth in country.

Auburn plays Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia before Alabama, and can only afford a loss if Alabama also suffers one.

5. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia – It has been a disappointing season for both Georgia and Florida, who meet this week in a game that will eliminate one of them from the SEC East title hunt. It would take a doomsday scenario even for the winner to take the division, but Florida has the easiest route.

Both teams are coming off a bye week and Georgia (4-3, 3-2) has suffered consecutive conference losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt after surviving games against Tennessee and LSU by a field goal. Florida (4-3, 3-2) is coming off consecutive conference losses as well to Missouri and LSU.

If Murray can move the ball consistently against Florida's defense, which is fourth in the nation and first in the SEC in total yards allowed, Georgia should be come out on top. If not, the Gators could ride that defense to a win over the still injury-riddled Bulldogs.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

  • Region 8 Responds

  • What SEC championship game matchup would you rather see?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Alabama vs. Missouri
    17%
    58 votes
    Auburn vs. Missouri
    16%
    52 votes
    Auburn vs. South Carolina
    16%
    52 votes
    Alabama vs. South Carolina
    51%
    169 votes
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