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Texas A&M Football: Is Kenny Hill the SEC's Best Heisman Candidate?

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2014

Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill (7) passes against SMU in the first half of an NCAA college football game,  Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Saturday afternoon's blowout performance proved one thing—Kenny Hill is not a fad. Rather, he is in fact the top Heisman Trophy candidate in the SEC so far in 2014. 

Sure, the Texas A&M Aggies were facing the SMU Mustangs, one of FBS' most hapless teams this season. 

But nevertheless, it seems like since Week 1, when he toasted the South Carolina defense, we've all been waiting for Hill to slip up. We've been waiting for him to have an off week that proves he's just another product of the Kevin Sumlin spread-offense systemthat he actually isn't on the same level as his predecessor, Johnny Football. 

He hasn't slipped up, not yet at least. He's been on point every game this year, and so far he has proved to be the rightful heir to Manziel. 

TexAgs @TexAgs

CBS pulls up the Heisman Watch and the first name they mention is Kenny Hill. http://t.co/E6Aw35VM9V

On Saturday against SMU, Hill torched the Mustangs to the tune of 265 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-22 passing—all in the first half—before being replaced by Kyle Allen. 

His 265 yards and two touchdowns were actually both season lows. He also threw his first pick of the year, but even that may not have been his fault, according to Kirk Bohls of the Austin-American Statesman. 

Kirk Bohls @kbohls

A&M's Kenny Hill throws his first interception of year on a route where it appears he thought Ricky Seals-Jones would run out, not deep.

But his nearly 73 percent completion rating was the second highest of the year behind only his Week 1 showing against the Gamecocks. He also rushed for a season-high 57 yards.

To date, Hill has racked up 1,361 passing yards and 13 touchdowns through the air and has been sacked just five times. He also has the Aggies poised to make a run at an SEC title. 

But to be the top Heisman contender from the nation's best conference, you have to beat out some pretty tough competition that includes Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall. 

While those three guys are certainly on an elite level, there is a case to be made for Hill being better than all of them. 

Sep 20, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley (3) runs the ball against the Troy Trojans during the first half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated Troy 66-0. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

In the case of Hill vs. Gurley, there's a direct comparison between how each performed against a lesser opponent. Against Troy on Saturday, Gurley had just 73 yards—albeit on six carries—and no scores.

Gurley also has a loss on his resume to the team that saw Kenny Hill transform into "Kenny Trill."

The Bulldogs lost to the Gamecocks in a thriller last week. And while Gurley was excellent in that contest with 131 yards, wins and losses are so critical when it comes to Heisman candidacy. Two years ago, former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein saw his Heisman hopes dashed when the undefeated Wildcats lost to Baylor. 

Last year, the primary reason for Jameis Winston winning the Heisman was the fact that the Florida State Seminoles rolled basically every team they played. 

To be a Heisman winner, you have to win most, if not all of your games. The loss to South Carolina, a team Hill torched, puts Gurley behind the eight ball. 

Sep 20, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) carries the ball as Florida Gators linebacker Antonio Morrison (3) pursues him at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Looking at Amari Cooper, the simple fact is that so seldom is the Heisman given to a wide receiver. In fact, only Tim Brown and Desmond Howard lay claim to being primarily wideouts who are also Heisman winners. 

While Cooper is undoubtedly the SEC's best receiver, he's not putting up the type of out-of-this-world numbers for voters to rank him over a quarterback who has surpassed 260 yards passing in every game he's ever started.

Sep 18, 2014; Manhattan, KS, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall (14) looks to the sideline for a call during a 20-14 win against the Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Finally, there's the only other quarterback from the SEC considered a Heisman candidate—Nick Marshall. 

On Thursday night in front of a rabid Manhattan, Kansas, fanbase, Marshall led the Tigers to their toughest win since the SEC title game last year, as they upended the Bill Snyder-led Kansas State Wildcats 20-14. He had 231 yards and two touchdowns in what many perceived as a trap game for the Tigers. He proved he is the bona fide leader of the reigning SEC champs. 

But regardless, the numbers just aren't there for Marshall. He only has 382 yards passing and five total touchdowns to his credit, as running back Cameron Artis-Payne is proving to be a better replacement for Tre Mason than expected. 

His passing total ranks outside the top 10 in the SEC, behind the likes of Patrick Towles of Kentucky, Justin Worley of Tennessee and Jeff Driskel of Florida. You can't get outgunned by names like that and be worthy of the Heisman over the conference's passing leader. 

The schedule is set up to help Marshall more than Hill. Five of Auburn's last six games are against teams in the Top 15 as of Week 4. If Marshall shines in those games, the "what have you done for me lately" nature of college football will reward him over Hill. 

But if he falters, that will be an irremovable nail in his Heisman coffin. 

Hill's Heisman candidacy is coming together, and everybody is starting to come around to the idea. 

Heading into Week 4, NFL.com's Mike Huguenin listed Hill as the third-best candidate for the award behind only Gurley and Oregon's Marcus Mariota. 

Hill's 511-yard, three-TD performance in the opener against South Carolina took on a little extra sheen with the Gamecocks' victory over Georgia. Hill and the Aggies have cruised past Lamar and Rice in the past two weeks, and get a bad SMU team next weekend. Then comes SEC play, when we will find out if Hill truly is a Heisman contender. He is fifth nationally in passing yards and fourth in TD passes; he also is the only quarterback among the 18 nationally who have thrown for at least 850 yards not to have tossed an interception.

For now, Hill is the best Heisman candidate the SEC has to offer. If he keeps it up, he'll likely become the second Aggies quarterback in three years to win college football's most coveted award. 

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