Several Southeastern Conference coaches are taking a slight respite from their competition on the gridiron to transfer those same rivalries to the golf course this week for the Regions Tradition Pro-Am in Birmingham. According to SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy, who was also in attendance for the pro-am, the two coaches with the best chance to win the SEC West heading into 2017 are both present: Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn.
McElroy was kind enough to leave the course to talk some football with his fellow SEC Network co-worker Paul Finebaum. During their conversation, Finebaum asked the former Alabama quarterback which team he believed posed the biggest threat to the Tide in the West next season.
Thanks to the offseason addition of former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham, McElroy is much higher on the Auburn Tigers than the LSU Tigers. Video of the interview can be found on the SEC Network’s site.
“Auburn with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback, I think that’s what gives them the edge, ahead of LSU at this point. I think Stidham is the best quarterback by a pretty wide margin that Gus Malzahn has had since Cam Newton. He is very gifted as a deep ball thrower.
“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. 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.”
“I do think that Auburn’s going to be quite good and will pose a test to Alabama.”
McElroy went on to call Alabama the best program in the SEC and the best program in the nation. If Auburn has any chance of matching up to that standard, Stidham is likely going to have to not only meet growing expectations but potentially exceed them.