Auburn might be a contender in the SEC West title race this season, and new quarterback Jarrett Stidham could be a big reason why.
Former Alabama quarterback and current SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy said Wednesday on “The Paul Finebaum Show” that Stidham will help Auburn challenge the Crimson Tide for the division title in 2017.
“I think Stidham is the best quarterback by a pretty wide margin that Gus Malzahn has had since Cam Newton,” McElroy said. “He is very gifted as a deep ball thrower.”
McElroy mentioned LSU as another SEC West program that could pose a threat to Alabama this upcoming season. However, he said Auburn has a better chance because of its quarterback situation.
“Auburn’s always going to run the ball effectively, and they are always going to play with remarkable tempo, I think they have good personnel on defense, especially in the secondary, but I think they really needed that quarterback,” McElroy said. “Sean White was gritty, he was tough, and when he was playing well, that offense was tough to stop. Now, you have a guy that’s gritty and tough and physically gifted that can also expose you on the deep ball. That’s a recipe for a lot of success offensively.”
Alabama has won at least a share of the SEC West in five straight seasons. In four of those five seasons, the Crimson Tide also won the SEC championship.
During the lone season (2013) in which it didn’t win the SEC title during that stretch, Auburn represented the SEC West over co-champion Alabama because of tiebreaker rules.
“I do think that Auburn’s going to be quite good and will pose a test to Alabama,” McElroy said. “Alabama is certainly the best in the business. It’s the best program in college football and picking against them would be a bold strategy. I wouldn’t recommend it, given what they’ve done over the last few years with different quarterbacks.”
Malzahn has not named his starting quarterback for the 2017 season. Stidham, though, is expected to win the job over White, the returning starter, and true freshman Malik Willis.
Stidham was the star of Auburn’s A-Day spring game, throwing for 267 yards on 16 of 20 passing.
Newton won the Heisman Trophy and guided the Tigers to a national championship during his lone season at the school in 2010.
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
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