Predicting SEC top performers for week nine

The back-half of the schedule will soon be underway, and the SEC Championship Game is right around the corner. Who will step up this week as a top performer?

KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 28, 2015 - running back Jalen Hurd #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

The SEC Championship Game is within striking distance, the pressure for players to show out is growing and wins are a prized possession. It’s the time of year that players make a name for themselves. Here are a few names to watch for this week in SEC play.

Jalen Hurd, Tennessee RB

The Vols are coming off of a bye week after being obliterated 49-10 by the Alabama Crimson Tide. In that game, Hurd had just 13 carries for 28 yards. Tennessee’s first game for the back half of its schedule will be in Columbia against the South Carolina Gamecocks — a team ranked 96th in the country in total rushing defense. The Gamecocks have allowed an average of over 211 yards per game, and they allowed 146 in their close win against Massachusetts last week. After resting up over the bye week, the Vols are returning all of their starters on the offensive line. However, Tennessee will be missing Alvin Kamara in the backfield on Saturday, which gives Hurd a chance to have a big day against the dismal Gamecocks run defense.

Kamryn Pettway, Auburn RB

No. 15 Auburn is coming off of an upset win over Arkansas where they blew the Razorbacks out, 56-3. It was a huge game for the Auburn offense — the Tigers gained 543 yards rushing on Arkansas, and Pettway was accountable for 192 of those yards. Pettway has rushed for 361 yards and five touchdowns in the past two games for Auburn. He will attempt to continue this streak against a struggling Ole Miss defense that has allowed 227 rush yards per game, which is ranked 113th in the nation. If the Tigers’ offense can be as lethal as they have been in the past two weeks, look for Pettway to have a big day.

Stephen Johnson, Kentucky QB

The Wildcats have won back-to-back games after pulling off a last second win with a 51-yard game-winning field goal against Mississippi State last week. Junior quarterback Stephen Johnson threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns, and Kentucky showed how powerful its offense can be. Meanwhile, the Missouri secondary was gashed for 280 yards through the air against Middle Tennessee State. The Tigers’ defense also gave up 300 yards of rushing to the Blue Raiders. If Kentucky is able to get contributions from Boom Williams and freshman Benjamin Snell Jr. at running back, Stephen Johnson will have a solid performance this Saturday in Colombia.

Edited by Adam Milliken

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics