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Week 4 top performers: Hill makes the most of his opportunity

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Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray passed for 408 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-21 win over North Texas last week, (Source: Sean Taylor/Georgia Athletics) Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray passed for 408 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-21 win over North Texas last week, (Source: Sean Taylor/Georgia Athletics)
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger gets sacked by the Auburn defense. Mettenberger has gotten off to a good start this season and plays Georgia this week. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger gets sacked by the Auburn defense. Mettenberger has gotten off to a good start this season and plays Georgia this week. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Alabama's defense forces a fumble against Colorado State. The Tide will face Ole Miss and dual-threat quarterback Bo Wallace on Saturday. (Source: Alabama Athletics) Alabama's defense forces a fumble against Colorado State. The Tide will face Ole Miss and dual-threat quarterback Bo Wallace on Saturday. (Source: Alabama Athletics)
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(RNN) – Here's a weekly look at five of the SEC's top performers in Week 4 and who to watch in Week 5.

Week 4 top performers:

1. Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU – After an offseason arrest, Hill's status on LSU's team was put to a vote of his teammates. They voted him back on the team. His ability to rush for 183 yards and three touchdowns, as he did in a 35-21 win over Auburn last week, was undoubtedly a reason why.

No backfield is more crowded than the Tigers'. Saturday's performance earned Hill the SEC's offensive player of the week award and vaulted him to the top of LSU's rushing stats. It was Hill's second consecutive 100-yard game after being suspended for LSU's season opener.

LSU's ability to run the ball is not in dispute as the Tigers (4-0, 1-0) have rushed for 251, 293, 307 and 229 yards in their first four games. Hill has contributed 350 of those yards himself with six touchdowns while sharing the backfield with Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard, who have both led LSU in rushing in at least one game this year, and Alfred Blue who had 89 yards against TCU.

Hill is now the frontrunner of that stable of workhorses, which will be called on this week against Georgia and throughout the season to take pressure off quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who is starting to blossom but has a bit of a checkered past.

2. James Franklin, QB, Missouri – The key to Missouri's season is in Franklin's hands. Franklin had to earn his job as the starter back after working through injuries and inconsistent play last season, but he appears to be in top form in 2013.

Franklin threw for 343 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 61 yards and a touchdown in Missouri's 45-28 win over Indiana last week. After playing only three games, Franklin is currently fifth in passing yards among SEC quarterbacks. Missouri (3-0) has one more game before starting conference play against Vanderbilt, and if the Tigers are to make a bowl game after missing out last season, Franklin will be the reason why.

3. Dante Fowler, DL, Florida – One of the more reliable things this football season has to offer is Florida's juggernaut defense, which forced six turnovers against Tennessee.

Fowler forced two of those fumbles, recovered a fumble, and was named the SEC's defensive player of the week. He also was the only Florida player to record a sack in the 31-17 win.

The Gators (2-1, 1-0) have struggled on offense and will be without quarterback Jeff Driskel, who broke his leg (more on this below), but their defense has been steady and reliable, and shows no signs of letting up. Florida held Tennessee to 66 yards rushing and 220 total yards, and in their loss to Miami only allowed 50 rushing yards and 212 total yards.

Florida is second in total defense in the nation behind Michigan State, leads the SEC in scoring defense (19th nationally) and is No. 1 in the country on third down defense. The Gators' opponents are 7-of-37 on third down conversions, or .189 percent.

4. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia – Perhaps overlooked in Georgia's 45-21 win over North Texas was Murray's 408 passing yards and four total touchdowns, because North Texas wasn't expected to put up as big a fight as it did.

Murray tossed three touchdown passes and spread the ball to nine receivers, which could almost describe any game Murray has played in. He also ran for 37 yards and a touchdown, which is a bit uncharacteristic.

The three touchdowns closed the gap between Murray and Danny Wuerffel for most touchdown passes in SEC history. Murray needs 13 touchdowns to pass the former Florida Heisman Trophy winner, and will likely get there before facing the Gators on Nov. 2.

Georgia is the opposite of Florida in that its defense is inconsistent and unreliable while the Bulldogs' offense is as steady as they come, and Murray is the reason for that. His play will assure Georgia will be in every game it plays.

5. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State – The Bulldogs have a bit of a quarterback controversy on their hands. Prescott has been steady for Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1) after taking over when Tyler Russell suffered a concussion.

Russell was cleared to play last week, but Prescott played in the Bulldogs' 62-7 win over Troy. Prescott threw for 233 yards and ran for 53 and two touchdowns against the Trojans. Prior to that, he threw for 213 yards and ran for 133 and two touchdowns against Auburn. Those are numbers that can't be ignored, but Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen isn't swayed by them.

Mullen has stated that Russell will start against LSU, which is Mississippi State's next opponent following a bye week. Russell entered the season as the undisputed starter, but suffered a concussion in the season opener against Oklahoma State.

Prescott's dual-threat ability makes him a more dynamic player than Russell, but Russell was a more than capable leader for the 'Dogs last season. LSU isn't an ideal opponent for Russell to face after having not played for a month, and it isn't the type of team to attempt to resolve a controversy against.

Who to watch in Week 5:

1. Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss – Against Texas A&M, Alabama (3-0, 1-0) showed it has problems defending a quarterback who can run. Wallace might be able to capitalize on some of the same weakness Johnny Manziel exploited, if he can get help from running back Jeff Scott, who is averaging 110 rushing yards a game.

Tide coach Nick Saban said earlier this week that even though the Rebels (3-0, 1-0) run a spread and have a mobile quarterback, their offense is nothing like the Aggies'. And he's right. Wallace is not as prolific as Manziel as a passer or runner and the Rebels rely heavily on the running game.

Wallace gets most of his rushing yards on designed runs from the read option while Manziel gets most of his yards by scrambling on busted passing plays. The bad news for Ole Miss is Alabama has proven better able to stop their brand of offense than just about any other form of the spread.

In order to beat Alabama, Wallace will have to get the ground game going and play flawlessly when passing. He has thrown for 648 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns. He'll also need to stay away from safety Vinnie Sunseri, who has returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season.

2. Alex Collins/Johnathan Williams, RB, Arkansas – It is perhaps the biggest cliché in football that the best defense is a good offense, but when playing Texas A&M, nothing else rings more true.

It takes more than just good defense to stop the Aggies as Alabama found out two weeks ago. In their 49-42 win over Texas A&M, Alabama at one point scored 35 straight points and kept Johnny Manziel and his high-powered offense stifled. The biggest contribution to that effort was made by the Tide's offense, which was steady and methodical, and kept Manziel on the sideline.

Arkansas doesn't possess the type of defense that can be expected to stop the Aggies, so the best chance the Razorbacks (3-1) have is to play keep away and take advantage of A&M's own defensive weaknesses.

Collins is averaging 120 yards per game, and is ranked No. 14 nationally and second in the SEC. Williams is No. 31 nationally and No. 6 in the SEC with 104 yards per game. Arkansas will need to use both of them and capitalize on its ability to play ball control (the Razorbacks are No. 10 in the nation in time of possession) to try to keep the game manageable.

If the offense falters and A&M is allowed to open up a lead, Arkansas won't be able to overcome it.

3. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU – Passing efficiency is one of the most difficult stats to understand, but even if you aren't sure what it means, it's still a good barometer for determining a quarterback's success. Mettenberger is second in the SEC and sixth nationally in passing efficiency with a 193.6 mark.

The dominance of LSU's rushing game is not in dispute, but Mettenberger's evolution as a passer has turned the Tigers' offense into the total package, and they look like the most complete team in the SEC at this point.

Balance and efficiency will be of great importance against Georgia, which has similar ability on offense, but a much more susceptible defense than the Tigers (4-0, 1-0). Murray is the only SEC quarterback better than Mettenberger in passing efficiency (he's fourth nationally), and the Bulldogs have a running game just as good as LSU's. While Hill is averaging 117 yards per game, Georgia's Todd Gurley is gaining 125 per game, which leads the SEC.

Perhaps more surprising than anything is that even with LSU's prolific rushing attack, Mettenberger trails only Johnny Manziel in the SEC and is 10th nationally in touchdown passes with 10.

There is potential for this game to turn into a shootout. If that happens, Mettenberger will need to match Murray stride-for-stride. No matter how it turns out, Mettenberger will need to remain consistent against by far LSU's best opponent to date to come out on top.

4. Tyler Murphy, QB, Florida – Florida's defense is good enough that the Gators (2-1, 1-0) could probably punt on first down and still beat Kentucky (1-2, 1-1). That's good for Murphy, who will be making his first collegiate start.

Florida lost Jeff Driskel for the season when he broke his leg in the first quarter against Tennessee. Murphy came in and threw for 134 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 84 yards and another touchdown. Murphy won't be asked to do too much in Florida's offense other than protect the ball.

Driskel had problems with that at times, and even in his brief appearance against Tennessee, attempted six passes and had one of them intercepted. Florida's running game and defense are good enough that as long as Murphy doesn't turn the ball over, the Gators will have a chance to win every game they play, regardless of the opponent.

5. Taylor Bertolet/Josh Lambo, K, Texas A&M – It's utterly ridiculous that this even bears mentioning, but Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1) has a problem kicking PATs. Bertolet missed consecutive PATs wide left last week against SMU and Lambo was brought in to take over the job. On Lambo's first attempt, the holder dropped the ball and the kick hit a lineman in the head.

Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin then said the two would compete for the job. On the season, Bertolet is 23-for-26 on PAT attempts and 2-for-3 on field goals. Lambo is 1-for-2 on PATs and 1-for-1 on field goals, with all of his attempts coming against SMU.

Bertolet kicked and recovered a surprise onside kick against the Mustangs, but it isn't known if that will play into Sumlin's decision.

The Aggies' game against Arkansas might get ugly fast, and there could be plenty of PAT opportunities. It's possible the only interesting thing about the game will be to see who is doing the kicking and if he's doing it well.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

  • Which player will have the most rushing yards this week?

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

    Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
    15%
    12 votes
    Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
    46%
    36 votes
    Jeff Scott, RB, Ole Miss
    6%
    5 votes
    Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
    1%
    1 vote
    Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
    16%
    13 votes
    Mack Brown, RB, Florida
    8%
    6 votes
    Other
    8%
    6 votes
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