SEC Football: Ranking Top 10 Performances from Week 8
Week 8 of the 2013 season was one the SEC won't soon forget, a surge of chaos and turbulence that turned football's most powerful conference on its head.
Three of the four, four of the six, and five of the eight highest-ranked teams in the conference came up in defeat on Saturday, more often than not in games they were favored to win.
A weekend like that, while noted for its impact on teams and title races, naturally brings with it a number of standout individual performances.
But who stood tall among the rest?
10. QB Maty Mauk, Missouri
Mauk didn't set the world on fire against Florida on Saturday, but nobody asked him to. He was asked to move the offense efficiently, make some timely plays and do just enough to win.
The redshirt freshman did that and more, finishing the game with 310 total yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Even against a banged-up Gators defense, there was enough talent lining up across from him to walk away impressed with those numbers.
Mauk set the tone in each half, leading the Tigers to momentum-gathering touchdown drives at the start of the first and third quarters. He needs to work on his accuracy (50 percent completions), but for now, he looks gutsy enough to keep Mizzou rolling.
9. DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Clowney waved "hi" to the haters in Knoxville, and even in upset defeat, the suddenly maligned superstar played his best game of the 2013 season.
He finished the game with 2.5 tackles for loss (nearly doubling his season-to-date total) and even almost recreated The Hit that helped make his name.
Much of Clowney's criticism is undeserved, the product of media boredom and shock-jock proclivity. Unless he plays like this every single week, people will find a way to say he's overrated.
But playing like this every week is not unthinkable. The talent is certainly there.
8. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
For just the fourth time in his career—and the first against a team ranked lower than his own—Manziel was not able to outscore his opponent on Saturday.
But it's hard to blame Johnny Football for the home loss to Auburn. He put up his typical stats, totaling 502 yards and five touchdowns, and fought through a painful shoulder injury to re-enter the game and almost lead a game-winning touchdown drive.
The two interceptions were a problem, and his recklessness with the ball—compared to, say, Marcus Mariota's zero interceptions—could well keep him off the Heisman podium in 2013. But that's just the way Manziel plays.
You have to take the good with the bad.
7. RB Kenyan Drake, Alabama
Drake needed just eight carries to reach 104 yards against Arkansas on Saturday, finishing with two first-half touchdowns—including one of the highlight-reel variety.
He's looked better each week for Alabama, which now—if Derrick Henry's late-game breakout means anything—goes at least four deep with talented runners.
T.J. Yeldon is still the lead horse, and Jalston Fowler still gets work in short-yardage sets. But Drake proved on Saturday, once again, that he will be a factor in this offense.
He's earned the right to some carries.
6. WR Marquez North, Tennessee
North caught just three passes against South Carolina, but that's all he needed to make a meaningful impact and lead Tennessee to an upset win.
All three receptions went for 15-plus yards, all came on Volunteer scoring drives and two were among the best you will see a receiver make all year.
The timing of North's acrobatic, downfield catches in the fourth quarter makes them all the more impressive, and without his heroics, Tennessee would have settled for "close but no cigar" in yet another home game.
North made sure that didn't happen.
5. QB Nick Marshall, Auburn
Marshall was "Manziel Light" on Saturday in College Station, not posting the same gaudy numbers as his Heisman-winning opponent, but making a lot of similar plays and leading his Tigers to a thrilling victory.
He finished the game with 336 total yards (including 100 on the ground) and four touchdowns, converting a couple of clutch third downs in the fourth quarter, when Auburn scored 21 points to come back and steal the game.
Marshall's 236 passing yards came on just 11 completions, and he still looked uncomfortable, at times, throwing from the pocket. So really, he's closer to what Manziel was last year than what he's been in 2013.
But 2012 Manziel, in case you didn't know, was pretty freakin' good.
4. QB Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
Of the many reasons LSU was favored to beat Ole Miss in Oxford, its perceived advantage at quarterback—Zach Mettenberger over Bo Wallace—was arguably No. 1.
But Dr. Bo came out and played his best game of the season, shredding the Tigers (for the second straight season) to the tune of 77 percent completions and 346 passing yards.
More important than that, the normally imprudent Wallace managed to abstain from throwing interceptions—unlike Mettenberger, who played his worst game of the year and threw three.
The question now becomes whether or not Bo can keep this up.
3. DE Michael Sam, Missouri
Good things come in threes.
Sam notched three sacks against Florida on Saturday, bringing his season total up to 9.0 and tying him with Clemson's Vic Beasley for the FBS lead.
All nine of his sacks have come in three games, as this was his third time notching three sacks in a game this year (and his second time against an SEC opponent).
Sam now also leads the nation with 13.0 tackles for loss, 0.5 better than a four-way tie behind him. In holding Florida's offense to a pathetic 2.5 yards per play on Saturday, his contributions cannot be overstated.
2. RB Tre Mason, Auburn
Mason was expected to have a great game on Saturday, leading the high-powered Auburn ground attack against Texas A&M's porous (to put it kindly) rush defense.
But watching him do it—and do it to this extent—still provided a sense of awe. He finished the game with 178 yards on 27 carries, including the game-winning touchdown (scored too early) with 1:19 on the clock.
Mason showed a little bit of everything against A&M, eluding tacklers when he could and plowing over them when he couldn't. He kept his legs churning and generally looked like a man among boys.
Against the Aggies run defense, though, that's kind of what he was.
1. WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Wow. Just wow. Even in defeat, how could anyone else top this list?
Evans somehow shattered all the season-highs he set at Alabama, traipsing through the Auburn secondary for 11 catches, 287 yards and four touchdowns.
He almost came down with a ridiculous one-handed grab for his fifth score, which would have given A&M the win and forever put this game atop the pantheon of great SEC receiver performances.
But even though the pass went wanting, Evans still belongs in that conversation.