National College Football Writer

College Football Rewind: Kenny Hill proves Aggies fine without Manziel

Kenny Hill breaks out in a big way for the Aggies. (USATSI)
Kenny Hill breaks out in a big way for the Aggies. (USATSI)

College Football Rewind: Replacing Johnny Manziel is easier than Jadeveon Clowney

Welcome to the first edition at CBSSports.com of College Football Rewind. This is your look back at what happened each week and what it means moving forward. Every Saturday night, I will analyze the week's games and the always colorful world of college football. Tonight is an abbreviated edition of College Football Rewind with some Thursday games.

In the world of college football, where debating the merits of a team is a cherished tradition, let's at least agree on this entering the first year of the College Football Playoff: Something unpredictable always happens.

Texas A&M Most Passing Yards in Game
YardsOpponent (Year)
511Kenny HillS. Carolina (2014)
464Johnny ManzielAlabama (2013)
454Johnny ManzielAuburn (2013)
453Johnny ManzielArkansas (2012)
449Ryan TannehillTexas Tech (2010)

That's the beauty of, you know, actually playing the games. Whatever you think is going to happen often gets turned upside down.

For months, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin kept getting asked about his former quarterback (you might have heard of him). “That's a great question … about the Cleveland Browns,” Sumlin said at SEC Media Days when asked about Johnny Manziel. “Anybody else got something?”

Because Sumlin certainly does. Say hello to Kenny Hill, a strong offensive line and explosive wide receivers like Ricky Seals-Jones. The Aggies had 31 points, 393 total yards, 23 first downs and ran 52 plays … by halftime! Hill finished 44 of 60 for a school-record 511 yards and three touchdowns.

For SEC history buffs, the juxtaposition of Sumlin schooling Steve Spurrier on his home field on the first SEC Network broadcast was striking. Sumlin is changing the SEC in a way only coaches named Spurrier, Urban and Malzahn have done so. In 17 games against SEC opponents since joining the conference, Texas A&M is averaging 39.5 points and 539 total yards per game. The Aggies have exceeded 600 total yards in seven of their 17 SEC games.

Texas A&M 52, South Carolina 28 will be analyzed to death for the next week. This much is clear after Week 1: Replacing Johnny Football was easier than replacing Jadeveon Clowney (plus other departed South Carolina defensive starters).

What We Learned Thursday

1. Kenny Hill is no Johnny Manziel … and that's OK. In the old Texas A&M offense, Manziel was a master improviser. He saw space few other quarterbacks could see and created magical plays with his feet. So it was interesting to see the “new” Texas A&M offense, which looks like some of Sumlin's old offenses. Lots of tempo, quick throws to receivers on the run, and good protection upfront. When Hill did use his feet, he kept his poise and his eyes downfield for throws. Neither style is wrong, just different. Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital continues to nicely tutor quarterbacks, having also coached Geno Smith, Case Keenum and Manziel.

2. SEC looks different than predicted. There will be a rush to make grand proclamations of what Texas A&M's win over South Carolina means in the big picture of the SEC. There's still sooooo many more games, but clearly this shakes up how people assumed the SEC East and West would play out. (This is all the more reason to not read much into preseason predictions.) South Carolina was most media members' pick to win the East and some had the Gamecocks even in the College Football Playoff. The luster just got knocked off of the Sept. 13 South Carolina-Georgia game. Texas A&M was viewed as perhaps a fifth- or sixth-place team in the West. Oops. With Lamar, Rice, SMU and Arkansas coming up next, Texas A&M could easily be 5-0 headed into a three-week stretch against Mississippi State, Alabama and Ole Miss.

3. Texas A&M's defense remains susceptible to big plays. Why is it dangerous to automatically crown Texas A&M? Look at the Aggies' defense, which remained shaky against the pass on Friday. South Carolina had pass completions of 69, 46, 29, 27, 27 and 24 yards. Yes, offensive outbursts is life in college football these days. But Texas A&M has allowed at least 28 points in 13 of its past 16 games. A bright spot for the Aggies' defense: Freshman safety Armani Watts, who had an interception and two big hits, including one that broke up a would-be touchdown pass.

4. Pundits may want to reassess Ole Miss. The Rebels were a trendy preseason pick to contend in the SEC West. That may still happen, especially given the talent on Ole Miss' defense. But the final score from the Rebels' 35-13 victory over Boise State was misleading. That was one sloppy win. Bo Wallace threw for 386 yards and four touchdowns, but he tossed three mind-boggling interceptions in the first half. The offensive line had six false-start penalties in the first half. Ole Miss led only 7-6 entering the fourth quarters. The teams combined for seven interceptions. A win is a win, but this wasn't an impressive one by Ole Miss against a Boise State team that lost its swagger in recent years.

5. Rutgers makes a statement. In its first game as a Big Ten member, Rutgers went cross-country and beat Washington State 41-38. Remember the name Paul James. He was very impressive running for 173 yards and three touchdowns for Rutgers, which won despite allowing Washington State's Connor Halliday to throw for 532 yards and five touchdowns. In Ralph Friedgen's debut as offensive coordinator, Rutgers scored more points than in any of its final eight games of 2013. Every nonconference game could count come December when the College Football Playoff committee picks teams. It's not a high-profile result, but a team considered to be one of the Big Ten's weakest got a road win against Mike Leach and the Pac-12.

Stat of the Day

Texas A&M's 52 points were the fourth-most ever scored against a Steve Spurrier team. Nebraska scored 62 on Spurrier in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, Auburn scored 56 on Spurrier at the 2010 SEC Championship Game, and Florida scored 56 on Spurrier in 2008. The Aggies could have scored more but took a knee near the goal line at the end of the game.

Score of the Day

Temple 37, Vanderbilt 7. What a nightmare debut for Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, whose team committed seven turnovers with three quarterbacks. This against a Temple team that went 2-10 in 2013 with losses to Fordham and Idaho. How bad was it for Vanderbilt? Temple went 2-of-17 on third-down conversions and still won by 30 points. The SEC East, the weaker of the SEC's divisions, lost twice on opening night.

Week 1 Saturday Questions

1. Who wins the intriguing Clemson-Georgia coordinator battle? Clemson's Chad Morris is arguably the top offensive coordinator in the country, but he's got a new quarterback in Cole Stoudt and lost playmaker Sammy Watkins. Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt arrives with a big reputation from his time Alabama and Florida State, but inherits an inexperienced and shaky secondary. Will Morris' offense keep clicking? Will Pruitt immediately rejuvenate a defense that underachieved in recent years? Clemson vs. Georgia gets my nod as the most intriguing game of Week 1.

2. What will Leonard Fournette do? The buzz within college football is that Fournette, LSU's freshman running back, is the game's best ball-carrier since Adrian Peterson. Les Miles even used Michael Jordan's name in the same sentence when discussing Fournette, who will get to face a questionable Wisconsin rush defense. If Fournette is as good as advertised, the Tigers will be challenged to rotate multiple running backs as they traditionally like to do. LSU hasn't lost a regular-season nonconference game since 2002, the nation's longest streak.

3. How will Alabama's quarterbacks look? It's still strange to think of Lane Kiffin as Alabama's offensive coordinator. How Kiffin uses Blake Sims and Jacob Coker at quarterback and how they play will be the biggest intrigue of Alabama-West Virginia. Neither quarterback separated himself during camp. Coker hasn't been anointed the starter — at least not yet — as so many people believed he would be after transferring from Florida State.

4. How quickly will Florida State put away Oklahoma State? Florida State-Oklahoma State is getting primetime TV exposure even though the game should be over by the third quarter. Chalk this up to bad timing for Oklahoma State, which has seven new starters on defense. There will be some intrigue to see Jameis Winston throwing to some new receivers, but this figures to be the least-competitive, high-profile game of the week.

5. What time do I have to wake up on Saturday? That would be 8:30 a.m. ET, assuming you crave any kind of football and want to see the time-honored tradition of Penn State and UCF play in Ireland. Penn State, still impacted by NCAA penalties, appears to remain in rebuilding mode under first-year coach James Franklin. UCF will have its first shot to show what life is like without Blake Bortles, who was a big reason why the Knights won the Fiesta Bowl last season.

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