Georgia won its first SEC Championship since 2005, running past Auburn 28-7 in the conference championship game. After losing 40-17 at Auburn on Nov. 11, the Bulldogs held the Tigers’ offense in check, allowing a touchdown on the game’s opening drive but shutting out Auburn for the rest of the game.
Georgia rushed for 238 yards, even as running back Sony Michel was sidelined with an injury midway through the game, and freshman quarterback Jake Fromm was an efficient 16-of-22 passing for 183 yards and two touchdowns. It was a win that will certainly shake up the College Football Playoff rankings as No. 2 Auburn suffered its third loss of the season and No. 6 Georgia picked up its biggest win of the season.
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Jarrett Stidham put his goal out there for the world to see after watching last year’s Southeastern Conference championship game on TV.
“Can’t wait to be playing on this day next year,” Stidham posted on Twitter afterward.
That message proved prophetic, and his wait is almost over.
The former Baylor quarterback who signed with Auburn (10-2, No. 2 CFP) has helped the fourth-ranked Tigers earn a spot in Saturday’s game against No. 6 Georgia (11-1, No. 6 CFP) in Atlanta.
“I just felt like it was going to be a big opportunity for us in the future coming here and everything,” Stidham said. “I knew what kind of team that we had. I just felt confident in it and was just really looking forward to having that opportunity.”
The Tigers wouldn’t be in this position — one win from a playoff berth — without him.
Stidham delivered an impressive performances in wins over Georgia and Alabama, the biggest games of the year before this next one against the Bulldogs. In fact, he has been steady and efficient ever since struggling in a loss to LSU, and it’s no coincidence that Auburn hasn’t lost again.
Stidham has passed for between 214 and 268 yards over the past five games. The most incompletions he has had: nine.
Not known as a runner, Stidham was smashing into Alabama defenders trying to get extra yards and ran 16 yards for a decisive touchdown.
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That’s part of the reason teammate Kerryon Johnson thinks Stidham should be considered one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
“If you watch the Alabama game, there are some third down runs and his touchdown run that are just huge plays that might go unnoticed, but you’ve got to consider them,” said Johnson, the SEC’s leading rusher. “I mean, he’s a sneaky athlete, and he plays his heart out. I think that’s what makes him so good.”
In other words, Stidham is the quarterback Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has been looking for since Nick Marshall left in 2014. While Marshall was a dangerous runner who set up the passing game off zone read plays, Stidham is a passer who runs occasionally.
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) November 30, 2017
“He’s playing just comfortable football,” Malzahn said. “There was some guys rushing the passer last week that are dynamic that were right around him and he was real relaxed and then he got rid of the football.
“He’s a very, very talented young man now that he’s running the football some. It’s really opened up other things and he’s playing at a high level at the quarterback position, which is what you’ve got to do. If you want a chance to win championships in our league, your quarterback has to play at a high level and he’s done that so far. And he’ll need to do that again Saturday.”
If Stidham does, his postgame Tweet this time might as well be: Can’t wait for the playoffs.
This article was written by John Zenor from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.