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Lacy, Driskel have breakout games

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Alabama running back Eddie Lacy (42) runs against Ole Miss. Lacy had a career-high 177 yards last week against Missouri. (Source: Alabama Athletics) Alabama running back Eddie Lacy (42) runs against Ole Miss. Lacy had a career-high 177 yards last week against Missouri. (Source: Alabama Athletics)
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(RNN) - Here's a weekly look at five of the SEC's top performers in Week 7 and who to watch in Week 8.

Top performers Week 7:

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Manziel led the conference in rushing and passing last week in a 59-57 win over defensively challenged Louisiana Tech. Manziel's 181 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns made him the SEC's leading rusher in yards, yards per carry, yards per game and tied him for the lead in rushing touchdowns.

After throwing for 395 yards and three touchdowns, "Johnny Football" is the third leading passer in yards and yards per game, tied for second among starting quarterbacks in completion percentage, second among starters in passing efficiency and tied for second in passing touchdowns.

However, the nation's No. 2 defense comes into to College Station this week. LSU is second in total defense, rushing defense and passing defense behind Alabama and will be by far the toughest test Manziel has seen this year.

The only other highly rated defense the Aggies (5-1, 2-1) have faced was Florida in the season opener. In that game, Manziel was held to 173 yards passing and 60 yards rushing with one touchdown.

2. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

Lacy had a career-high 177 yards and three touchdowns in the Tide's 42-10 dismantling of Missouri. It was a breakout day for the Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0) on the ground as T.J. Yeldon picked up 144 yards and two touchdowns as well.

It may not have been a surprise, but Alabama's running backs haven't been getting that many yards because they share carries, and Lacy in particular is not an explosive, big play threat. Even with this breakout game, Lacy is averaging 81 yards a game. Yeldon is averaging 72.

Alabama used it's off week to install a new offensive quirk by putting defensive tackle Jesse Williams at fullback, much in the same way Terrance Cody was used as a blocker in short yardage situation. If there isn't a defense scared of what that could mean in the future, they are in for a rude awakening.

3. Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida

Driskel had the same stat line as Lacy, but did it on seven fewer carries and threw for an additional 77 yards. Florida is looking more and more like an old single wing team. Either the running back runs to the left or the quarterback runs to the right.

Vanderbilt locked down on running back Mike Gillislee, and Driskel took advantage of Vanderbilt's slower secondary and took on Gillislee's role as the primary offensive weapon. With the Gators (6-0, 5-0) facing South Carolina this week, Florida will need both running options, and a passing threat, to loosen the Gamecocks' defense.

4. Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU

If you think Alabama is deep at running back, you haven't paid attention to LSU. Hill rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries in the Tigers' 31-21 win over South Carolina. Compare that to his season stats, which are 195 yards on 30 carries and four touchdowns.

He's currently the Tigers fifth-leading rusher. That's how deep LSU is in the backfield, and the Tigers are just now learning to exploit it. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger isn't a major passing threat, so LSU has had to turn to the ground game more than it wanted to.

Fortunately, the Tigers (6-1, 2-1) have plenty of weapons to get the job done. Even with the injury to Alfred Blue, LSU's rushing attack hasn't slowed. The Tigers only have one player in the top 15 in the SEC for rushing, but the team is averaging more than 200 yards a game on the ground.

5. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

Yes, he still exists. Arkansas isn't getting much attention after an early season free fall, but the Razorbacks (3-4, 2-2) have leveled off after getting wins over Auburn and Kentucky. A win in two weeks over Ole Miss would get them back to .500.

Arkansas still possesses the SEC's top-ranked passing attack, and Wilson is the only quarterback in the conference averaging more than 300 yards per game. That's in part because the Razorbacks are next to last in the conference in rushing.

Arkansas is still not much a threat because it has the 14th ranked defense in the SEC. However, the Hogs are not out of the hunt for the SEC West crown yet, though it is a long shot. They will have to pull off at least one upset over South Carolina, Mississippi State or LSU to get bowl eligible.

Who to watch in Week 8:

1. JaDaveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

There are a lot of people wanting Clowney to be considered for the Heisman Trophy. His value to the Gamecocks can't be measured in statistics, so it likely won't happen, but he's perhaps the best defender in the nation.

South Carolina (6-1, 4-1) was able to shut down Georgia's explosive offense two weeks ago, and he will be expected to do the same thing this week against Florida. Florida has the SEC's No. 2 rushing attack, but its worst passing offense. South Carolina is first in the SEC – fourth in the nation – in sacks.

If the Gamecocks' defensive front can stop the rushing threats from Mike Gillislee and quarterback Jeff Driskel, South Carolina should be able to put up enough points to come out with a win. Both the Gamecocks and the Gators have defenses rated third and fourth in the conference in most categories, so it should be a similar game to the 23-21 affair the Gamecocks had with LSU.

2. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU

Texas A&M is 13th in the SEC in passing defense. Mettenberger has been criticized for his lackluster outings, and LSU will have to rely on its running game and defense for the rest of the season.

As long as neither falters, the Tigers should be fine. But if Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel can put up points against LSU, Mettenberger will be called on to counter the threat. If he can't do that, the Aggies could take a step toward winning the SEC West and put the Tigers in a tough position of needing some help if they want to make it to Atlanta.

3. Jordan Rodgers, QB, Vanderbilt

All of Vanderbilt's toughest opponents are behind them, and the Commodores (2-4, 1-3) are easily capable of becoming bowl eligible. Vanderbilt faces Auburn this week to start a stretch of six games to close the season with only one opponent – Ole Miss – currently with a winning record.

Vanderbilt outranks Auburn in every major statistical category, except one – rushing defense. Auburn has the SEC's 13th-ranked rushing defense and Vanderbilt is 14th. That actually works well to Auburn's favor, because Vanderbilt has been more of a passing team this year, and the Tigers have started to put increased focus on their running game.

A win for Vanderbilt is a crucial step toward becoming bowl eligible. If that is to happen, Rodgers – the younger brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers – has to have a good game. Auburn's defense is allowing more passing yards per game that the Commodores have been averaging.

4. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

Gurley was not heard from in Georgia's 35-7 loss to South Carolina and the Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1) have had two weeks to figure out what went wrong.

Gurley, and the entire Georgia offense, will have plenty of opportunities to make noise against Kentucky this week and prepare for their showdown with Florida, which could be an SEC East-clinching game for the Gators. It's tough to know who will be the top performer for the Bulldogs' offense against Kentucky (1-6, 0-4) because the Wildcats' defense is terrible in every category.

5. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama

The only SEC starting quarterback to not throw an interception will face the conference's 12th-ranked passing defense in Tennessee. Alabama is one of only three teams in the country – Louisiana Tech and Air Force are the others – to not throw an interception on the season.

Conversely, the Tide is fourth in the country and first in the SEC at getting interceptions, while Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray has thrown the third most interceptions in the SEC this season and averages more than one per game.

Tennessee likely will be stacking the line of scrimmage to not let Alabama's running backs get room to run, something almost every opponent Alabama has faced has done. McCarron has answered every challenge given him to date, and is the most efficient quarterback in the SEC – fifth in the nation.

But McCarron injured his knee in last week's win over Missouri. It isn't thought to be a serious problem, but it was bothering him some during practice. It remains to be seen if that will carry over to the game.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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