In a stunning 52-28 upset, Texas A&M's offense blasted SEC East favorite South Carolina as new Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill stole the show and broke Johnny Manziel's school record for passing yards in his first career start. A&M scored on its first drive and didn't look back, using its high-powered attack to gas the Gamecocks' defense and spreading the field with its wide array of offensive weapons. And so, we got a game full of a lot of this:
Despite losing Jadeveon Clowney and numerous others on its defense, South Carolina was expected to be among the best teams in the nation. However, the Gamecocks were wildly outmatched by the A&M offense. The Aggies defense, while still inconsistent, did enough to make sure this one didn't get close while star freshman Armani Watts showed the potential that's coming to the A&M unit.
Suddenly, Texas A&M becomes a dark horse in the SEC West while South Carolina is left looking for a lot of answers with a dangerous game against East Carolina coming up.
Three things we learned
1. Kenny Hill is going to be just fine
The national narrative surrounding Texas A&M this year was all about who could replace Johnny Manziel. Against a supposedly-solid South Carolina defense, Kenny Hill left no doubt that he was up to the task. Hill went 44 for 60 for 511 yards and 3 touchdowns, and the early pressure didn't get to him at all.
The Aggies' offense looks like it will be just as potent this year due in part to Hill, but also due to the plethora of wide receivers that Hill will have at his disposal and the tempo of the offensive unit. 10 different A&M receivers caught passes, and Ricky Seals-Jones and Malcome Kennedy will provide major problems for defenses. The bottom line is that A&M's offense is going to be just as good, and Hill has the potential to be a star just like his predecessor.
2. The SEC West is going to be stacked
This is true every year, but with Ole Miss and Mississippi State potentially taking steps up this year it looked like a solid (if young) Texas A&M team could finish as low as sixth in the division. Granted, that could still happen, but the team picked to finish sixth in the SEC West by the media now looks like it could have the most potent offense in the league.
In addition to Texas A&M and its high-octane offense, the SEC West will feature top five teams Alabama and Auburn; young and dangerous LSU; and potential dark horses Ole Miss and Mississippi State. So while the Aggies may have dominated the preseason pick to win the SEC East, they still face an extremely tough road in their own division. After watching Thursday night, no other SEC West teams can feel that great about their own chances, either.
3. South Carolina's defense needs work
Reports of South Carolina's rise were apparently very exaggerated. While the Gamecocks have talent, they were absolutely obliterated by the Texas A&M offense, allowing 680 yards, the most in school history. South Carolina had no semblance of a pass rush and have shown they'll need a lot of help to replace three defensive linemen — including Jadeveon Clowney — from last year.
But it wasn't just the defensive line that struggled. The South Carolina secondary struggled mightily and gave the A&M receivers far too much space to do whatever they wanted. Until the defense fixes its gaping holes, the Gamecocks can no longer be considered the favorites in the SEC East.