Auburn’s defense stole the show on Saturday against No. 1 Georgia, holding the Bulldogs to only 46 rushing yards in the Tigers’ big 40-17 victory.
However, the Tigers also got some huge contributions from star RB Kerryon Johnson, who put the team on his back offensively. Johnson got 32 carries and ran for an impressive 167 yards — the highest total against Georgia this year. He also caught two passes for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Though he didn’t score on the ground (the first time he’s failed to find the end zone rushing during SEC play), he did find ways to help Auburn come up with its biggest win in a few years against their SEC crossover rivals.
Now, maybe, Johnson will get the attention he deserves when it comes to the Heisman Trophy. For weeks now, people have been talking about Alabama QB Jalen Hurts as the conference’s best chance to win the prestigious trophy, but Johnson thrust himself into the conversation on Saturday.
Johnson, who topped the 1,000-yard mark on Saturday, needs to have a strong finish to the season, but based on what we saw in Saturday’s blowout of the No. 1 team in the country, he seems to be up to the challenge. He gets a lot of work, but he makes the most of it.
Here are just a few reasons Johnson is deserving of some Heisman hype moving forward:
He’s an all-purpose back
Unlike Heisman candidate Saquon Barkley of Penn State, Johnson had a big game against the Tigers’ toughest opponent, leading his team to a big win.
And the great thing for Auburn was he did it without being a one-dimensional back. As mentioned above, he scored his touchdown on a pass — his second receiving touchdown of the year.
Now that Barkley’s Penn State team has lost a couple of games against tough opponents, Johnson has a chance to surpass him, especially with tough games against Alabama and potentially Georgia (again) coming up on the schedule.
Stanford’s Bryce Love also has a legitimate shot at the Heisman, but if Johnson can lead the Tigers to another big upset or two, he should earn a spot at the Heisman ceremony in New York.
He’s a touchdown machine
At the end of the day, you don’t win football games if you don’t score touchdowns, and not many players score touchdowns like Johnson does.
Even after missing two games earlier this year — most notably at Clemson — Johnson has 17 total touchdowns (15 rushing, two receiving). Even down on the goal line, where everyone knows the ball is going to Johnson, he’s managed to stay effective, scoring at a high rate.
The Tigers will need him to continue finding success in the red zone against Alabama in a two weeks, as the Crimson Tide will likely be ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings by that point.
If he can score like he has all year, though, Auburn will have a chance to pull off a big upset in the Iron Bowl.
He’s a workhorse
Earlier this year, people were talking up Georgia RB Nick Chubb’s Heisman chances. However, the system the Bulldogs use doesn’t provide Chubb with as much work as Auburn gives Johnson.
Granted, when you have players like Sony Michel and D’Andre Swift like Georgia does, you have to get them the ball, too. Unfortunately for Auburn, Kamryn Pettway has been injured for most of the season, so the bulk of the work has fallen to Johnson.
Johnson hasn’t shied away from the pressure, though, and has put the team on his back in numerous games already this year.
If he can keep up this level of play with the volume of carries and catches he’s getting, he may just work his way into Heisman contention before the year is said and done.