Texas A&M vs. South Carolina: How Early Upset Shakes Up SEC Landscape

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistAugust 29, 2014

COLUMBIA, SC - AUGUST 28:  Kenny Hill #7 of the Texas A&M Aggies reacts a time expires in a win over the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Columbia, South Carolina. Texas A&M won 52-28.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The South Carolina Gamecocks quickly saw their championship aspirations dampened after suffering a 52-28 loss to Texas A&M to kick off the 2014 NCAA college football season. Just like that, the SEC looks much different after Thursday night's rout.

Steve Spurrier's squad looked to cement itself as a legit SEC contender. Instead, Texas A&M came out smelling like roses following a magnificent outing from Kenny Hill, who quickly has fans at College Station renaming their old quarterback "Johnny Who?"

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Johnny Manziel never completed so many passes in any start, let alone his first. 

That number, by the way, soared all the way up to 44 before the night ended. Hill finished the evening with 511 passing yards and three touchdowns. 

"We were ready to prove everyone wrong," Hill said after the game, according to an Associated Press report, via ESPN. "We were ready to show we could play without Johnny."

The lesson here: Kenny Hill is really good, and the Aggies still must be feared after losing Manziel and wideout Mike Evans to the NFL. The team didn't miss a beat without that duo, either. If anything, the Aggies look stronger.

Without Evans grabbing jump balls, senior Malcolme Kennedy played first fiddle, reeling in 14 catches for 137 yards. A year after catching 97 passes for 1,083 yards, the senior looks poised for a monster season.

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Josh Reynolds, Edward Pope and Ricky Seals-Jones all added a touchdown each to the cause. Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports argued this batch of wideouts is even better than last year's.

Texas A&M should enjoy a healthy boost up the AP rankings into the teens. If the Aggies keep this up, they could find themselves in the top 10 soon enough. There is, after all, a spot up for grabs once No. 9 South Carolina falls.

While Texas A&M didn't miss Manziel, their foes looked lost without defensive behemoth Jadeveon Clowney. Per ESPN Stats & Info, their defensive ineptitude in the season opener set a dubious record.

South Carolina suffered a similar blow early last year, losing 41-30 to then-No. 11 Georgia. While the Gamecocks bounced back to win 10 of their final 11 games, the margin for error proved small in college football's toughest conference. Despite falling short to South Carolina in double overtime, the Missouri Tigers advanced to the SEC Championship Game at 11-1.

After going into the Georgia game ranked No. 6, South Carolina fell to No. 12. Expect a similar fall outside the top 10 this week. If No. 12 Georgia can fend off No. 16 Clemson, the Bulldogs become the SEC East's team to beat.

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Steve Spurrier of the South Carolina Gamecocks waits on the field during their game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

South Carolina and Texas A&M, however, cannot be pleased with their defensive showings. The two squads combined to amass 1,113 total yards, 877 of which came through the air. 

In a losing effort, Dylan Thompson poled holes into Texas A&M secondary, with two deep bombs during the first half. While Thompson only completed half of his passes (20-of-40), he found Nick Jones for 69 yards and connected with Damiere Byrd for a 46-yard score to momentarily keep things close. 

A year after allowing 32.2 points per contest, Kevin Sumlin can't be happy to see his defensive backs exposed so early. He can't count on Hill to rattle off 500 yards every game.

If this inaugural game is any indication, the SEC is going to be fun to watch and tough to predict this season. 


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