AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn had just done a 40-17 dismantling of Georgia, which entered last weekend rated No. 1 in the College Soccer Playoff poll, when Mentor Gus Malzahn stepped onto the podium to tackle the situation guiding nevertheless a different Tigers offensive masterpiece.
It did not acquire him prolonged to acknowledge the just one player most accountable for elevating Auburn’s attack from pedestrian in latest years to prolific this time.
“Kerryon Johnson, I’ve been declaring it for a few months, he’s a person of the ideal running backs in the state, if not the most effective,” Malzahn stated Saturday immediately after the junior rushed for 167 yards on 32 carries against the No. 5 operate defense in major faculty football. “He proved it tonight. He desires to be in the Heisman speak.”
Johnson included a 55-lawn landing reception in the 2nd half in amassing 233 yards from scrimmage, vaulting Auburn into the playoff photo irrespective of two losses. The Tigers can additional fortify their profile against No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 25 to figure out the Southeastern Conference’s West Division champion.
The winner of that game will progress to the SEC championship activity in opposition to Georgia, which has locked up the East Division, Dec. 2 in Charlotte. The SEC winner is all but sure to be awarded 1 of the 4 berths in the College or university Soccer Playoff.
The Tigers (8-2, 6-1) would not be in placement for a opportunity nationwide championship operate without Johnson, whose 1,034 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns guide the SEC inspite of missing two game titles with a hamstring injuries. Free of charge from nagging injuries that hindered him in excess of the last two seasons, Johnson is averaging an SEC-most effective 128.4 yards for every sport against conference opponents and requirements 190 yards to surpass Kamryn Pettway’s staff-leading overall from past time.
Johnson is on observe for the most rushing yards at Auburn in a few several years. With two common season video games left and the possibility of 3 a lot more — the SEC championship and the two-spherical playoff — he also would be inside of access of transferring into the major five for one-year dashing in method background.
In that scenario, he’d be in rarefied statistical corporation with the likes of Bo Jackson and Cam Newton, equally Heisman Trophy winners.
“I take pleasure in it from him, viewing as he’s Mentor,” Johnson mentioned of Malzahn advertising him for higher education football’s most prestigious individual award. “Just a number of men in that discussion and guys that have gained it, so I appreciate that from him, but until finally it is in there it is not in there, so I’ll just retain heading out, and I’ll run, and if it will get in there, it’s pretty neat.
“It’s always been a aspiration of mine. I by no means assumed I’d get to that amount, but it’d be very brilliant.”
In addition to Johnson’s creation, the offense has benefited substantially from the developing relationship between very first-calendar year offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and quarterback Jarrett Stidham. The sophomore leads the SEC in completion share (67.08), and his three interceptions are the fewest in the meeting among all those with at the very least 200 passing makes an attempt.
Stidham has six touchdowns and no interceptions above his final two game titles. In opposition to the Bulldogs, the transfer from Baylor completed 16 of 23 attempts for 214 yards and 3 touchdowns and rushed for a further on a seven-yard keeper out of the read option, encouraging Auburn gain for just the fifth time in the very last 16 installments of the Deep South’s longest-standing rivalry.
His selection-producing and notice to ball protection have permitted Lindsey to open the playbook to maintain defenses off-stability. The outcome has been Auburn averaging an SEC-greatest 40 points for each sport in-meeting, including hanging 52 and 51, respectively, on Arkansas and Missouri.
“Obviously previous yr I took that 12 months off and missed out on a large amount of time, but this 12 months each week I actually truly feel like I have created some strides,” explained Stidham, who sat out 2016 for each NCAA transfer guidelines. “Got a lengthy way to go, but which is why you exercise, and that’s why you perform.”
The Tigers are 22nd among 129 educational institutions in the Soccer Bowl Subdivision in whole offense (468.3 yards for every game) underneath Lindsey, who replaced Rhett Lashley following the Malzahn understudy departed for Connecticut to turn into its offensive coordinator. The Tigers are averaging 231.6 passing yards for each video game this season — rarely elite, but their most as a result of the air in Malzahn’s five seasons. Their scoring common of 37.2 points is their most given that 2013, when they highly developed to the BCS nationwide title activity in Malzahn’s very first season.
Auburn’s offensive figures stand to raise this weekend towards Louisiana-Monroe, which is ranked 113th in complete protection and making it possible for 37.9 factors per sport, 11th most in the state.
Then will come bitter in-state rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Crimson Tide is yielding the fewest factors for each match (11.2) nationally and ranks second in full defense, but the damage-riddled device allowed 330 complete yards in this past weekend’s 31-24 victory more than Mississippi Point out.
Auburn has lost a few in a row to Alabama and 5 out of the previous 6.
“We have a fantastic chance right now,” explained Malzahn, who cited a 27-24 reduction to Louisiana Point out Oct. 14 as a turning stage. “Our intention was to earn the SEC championship, and listed here we are ideal in the center of it. All the goals we have are even now alive. That LSU game I stated, “It’s not the close of the environment,’ and what I intended by that is we nonetheless management our individual future.
“And we continue to do now.”