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SEC Week 6 top performers: Mettenberger gives LSU another dimension

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Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan kicks a game-winning field goal in overtime against Tennessee. (Source: Georgia Athletics) Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan kicks a game-winning field goal in overtime against Tennessee. (Source: Georgia Athletics)
Georgia's J.J. Green runs against Tennessee. (Source: Georgia Athletics) Georgia's J.J. Green runs against Tennessee. (Source: Georgia Athletics)
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall runs for a touchdown against Ole Miss. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall runs for a touchdown against Ole Miss. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)

(RNN) – Here's a weekly look at five of the SEC's best in Week 6 and who to watch in Week 7.

Week 6 top performers:

1. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU – Mettenberger dispatched pesky Mississippi State with 340 passing yards and two touchdowns, earning the SEC's offensive player of the week award. It was a historic day for Mettenberger and his team -  he became the first LSU quarterback to throw for 300 yards in consecutive games since 2001, and only the third in school history.

But in the 59-26 win, most of LSU's touchdowns came on the ground with three players combining for six rushing touchdowns. The offense is still based off of the run, but Mettenberger is in the middle of a breakout year and is starting to make use of the Tigers' talent at wide receiver. Odell Beckham, who had 179 yards and two touchdowns, and Jarvis Landry, who had 96 yards, are the primary beneficiaries.

LSU (5-1, 2-1) will face another test this week in Florida and its juggernaut rushing defense. With Mettenberger at the helm of the passing attack, LSU might be in a perfect position to make Florida's defense finally crack.

2. Louchiez Purifoy, DB, Florida – Purifoy was named the SEC's defensive player of the week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in the 30-10 win over Arkansas. The turnover was a perfect microcosm of how Florida wins games.

The Gators (4-1, 3-0) were losing 7-3 before Purifoy's interception with 8:33 to play in the second quarter. Florida has a consistent track record of winning when it wins the turnover margin, which it did against Arkansas 2-0.

Florida is second in the nation in total defense and rushing defense and tied for fourth in the nation and first in the SEC (with Alabama) in scoring defense, allowing 12.2 points per game. Florida's offense isn't going to get many headlines unless it turns the ball over, but once the Gators get a lead, they don't give it up. Purifoy's touchdown gave them the lead.

Against LSU, that rushing defense will need to be at peak performance to force Mettenberger to win the game, which, despite his emergence, he hasn't yet shown the ability to do.

3. J.J. Green, RB, Georgia – The last person who expected Green to rush for 129 yards against Tennessee might have been Green himself. With Todd Gurley sidelined with an ankle injury and Keith Marshall suffering a season-ending ACL tear during the game, Green was called on to be Georgia's feature back.

He didn't disappoint, running for 7.6 yards per carry in the Bulldogs' 34-31 win. It doesn't get easier for Georgia in the coming weeks with games against newly-ranked Missouri, Vanderbilt and Florida.

Assuming the ankle injury to Gurley doesn't keep him sidelined, Green will slide into Marshall's role as the No. 2 back. The ground attack might see an increased role with wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley sidelined for the season with an ACL tear and receiver Michael Bennett ruled out against Missouri and potentially longer with a knee injury of his own.

4. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn – In a game that was alternately a borderline blowout and an ugly turnover festival, Marshall put Auburn (4-1, 2-1) back in position to make some noise in the SEC with a 30-22 win over Ole Miss.

Auburn is one year removed from an 0-8 conference record and Marshall, under new head coach Gus Malzahn, has led the run-focused Tigers back to relevance. Marshall threw for just 93 yards, but ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns against the suddenly down-trodden Rebels (3-2, 1-2).

The effort boosted Marshall ahead of Cameron Artis-Payne to become Auburn's No. 2 rusher on the season with 288 yards. It's likely Auburn will be bowl eligible before November and could improve its conference standing with wins over Arkansas and Tennessee before closing with its annual Georgia-Alabama grinder.

5. Marshall Morgan, K, Georgia – For the second week in a row, Morgan was named the SEC's special teams player of the week after kicking a career-long 56-yard field goal against Tennessee and a 42-yard game-winner in overtime.

The 56-yard kick was the longest kick in the SEC this year, the longest field goal on the road in Georgia history, the longest field goal ever kicked in Neyland Stadium and the longest kick anyone had ever made against Tennessee.

Morgan, a sophomore, has done a lot to redeem himself after being suspended against South Carolina following a drunk boating charge. He is a perfect 15-of-15 on PATs and 6-of-8 on field goal attempts. He has accounted for 33 points this season – 10 of which came against Tennessee.

Who to watch in Week 7:

1. James Franklin, QB, Missouri – After torching Vanderbilt for 278 yards and four touchdowns, Franklin gets a shot to redeem Missouri's heartbreaking loss to Georgia last season, and it could be coming at the perfect time.

Georgia had a lot of problems against Tennessee, due to injuries, and those players will also be out against Missouri. The Bulldogs secondary has struggled with consistency all season as well. Franklin has been nothing short of spectacular against lesser competition, throwing for 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those numbers put him fifth in the SEC and 22nd in the country in passing.

Last season against Georgia, Franklin threw for 269 yards and two TDs. But he threw a costly interception in the fourth quarter and fumbled on the next possession, allowing Georgia to pull ahead in a 41-20 win.

The good news for Missouri is Jarvis Jones – who forced both turnovers – now plays in the NFL and Georgia's defense hasn't shown that type of playmaking ability in games against Clemson, LSU or Tennessee.

2. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina – Everybody seems to have forgotten about Clowney because he isn't launching running backs' helmets into near-Earth orbit on a weekly basis. He also isn't doing much in the way of statistics: 12 tackles and two sacks in the four games he has played.

If you believe Steve Spurrier, he isn't doing much at all. Clowney benched himself before the Gamecocks' 35-28 win over Kentucky, and Spurrier tried to convey his disdain by speaking in non-specific terms while implying Clowney might not being committed to football.

Clowney has reportedly dealt with illness, bone spurs and bruised ribs, so he may not have been able to give 100 percent in any game. Spurrier has been typically evasive whenever the subject has come up, so reliable non-passive-aggressive information in hard to come by.

South Carolina (4-1, 2-1) has a string of five conference games coming up and can't afford to lose another one. Even if he's not what was expected, he's still the best defender South Carolina has, but whether he plays – and whether Spurrier is OK with that – is anybody's guess.

3. Tyler Murphy, QB, Florida – Two weeks ago, Murphy wasn't Florida's starter, and two weeks ago Zach Mettenberger wasn't the SEC's top passer. Now both are true, and Murphy may be called on more than Florida would like to keep its national championship chances alive.

Florida's next three games are against ranked teams, and the first two are on the road. With LSU's new-found offensive capabilities, Florida's defense – as dominant as it is – may not be enough to get the job done.

LSU's defense is no pushover, so the Gators likely won't be able to grind out long drives like they have grown accustomed to doing. That's where Murphy comes in. His 530 passing yards through three games show he has the ability to move the ball through the air, but LSU is by far Florida's toughest opponent to date.

If he can protect the football, Florida will have a chance. If he turns it over, the Gators will likely falter.

4. Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss – Ole Miss' read option attack was shut down by Alabama and then shut down again by Auburn, forcing Ole Miss to turn to its passing game to get anything going offensively.

Now the Rebels face Texas A&M and may need to score 50 points to even sniff a win. The Rebels' defense has shown no signs of being able to stifle someone like Johnny Manziel, and the Aggies' defense appears to be equally bad. That means points will be easy to come by.

With Manziel exploiting holes all over Ole Miss' defense, Bo Wallace will need to match him to have a chance. Moncrief should be the biggest beneficiary of that system. Moncrief is averaging 15.4 yards per reception and has caught four of Wallace's six touchdown passes.

He may need that many Saturday just to keep the Rebels in contention. A third consecutive loss entering their game against LSU is not something the Rebels can afford.

5. Tyler Russell/Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State – Mississippi State (2-3, 0-2) parlayed its two quarterback system into three quarters of solid football against LSU until it all went downhill in the fourth quarter.

Russell threw for 146 yards and two touchdowns and Prescott ran for 103 yards and a touchdown while throwing for 106 more. Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen has expressed his commitment to using Russell as the starter, but Prescott is the team's leading passer and rusher.

What they do going forward is still a mystery, and games against Bowling Green and Kentucky will give Mullen some time to figure out a plan before facing a South Carolina-Texas A&M-Alabama gauntlet.

Having two capable quarterbacks could be a good problem to have if utilized properly, but of the two it appears Prescott is the more valuable. Until one earns the job – or until a new double-barrel shotgun formation is invented – the Bulldogs' quarterback battle is a game unto itself.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

  • WSFX.com poll

  • Who do you think will win this week's marquee SEC matchups (No. 25 Missouri at No. 7 Georgia and No. 17 Florida at No. 10 LSU)?

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

    Missouri and Florida
    4%
    10 votes
    Georgia and Florida
    16%
    33 votes
    Georgia and LSU
    62%
    131 votes
    Missouri and LSU
    18%
    37 votes
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