I'm tempering my Jarrett Stidham expectations before they get too high, and you should, too
There are two things that 21st century college football fans get over-amped about.
The first of which is recruiting. When a 5-star 17-year-old commits to a school, it’s life or death. National titles are seemingly won and lost with the picking of a hat.
The other thing that gets college football fans hyped is transfers, especially from Power 5 programs. It’s the closest thing we have to free agency in college football. It doesn’t even matter if the transfer has only played in a handful of games at his previous school. He obviously will become a star with a change of scenery.
That’s why the Jarrett Stidham hype train already left the station.
Stidham is everything quarterback-starved Auburn fans have been hoping for. He’s a former 4-star recruit who played in a pass-happy Baylor offense. Combine that with returning 1,000-yard rusher Kamryn Pettway and what’s not to love?
Some believed the Tigers were a quarterback away from making a potential College Football Playoff push last year. Stidham, who was named the starter earlier Monday, has been billed as the last piece to the puzzle. That’s why this very website published a piece on why that should have Auburn thinking national championship.
But before we declare him the last piece of the championship puzzle, let’s make sure all the pieces fit for him to succeed.
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) August 14, 2017
Before Auburn fans get too worked up about someone resisting the Stidham hype, let me point a few things out.
I put Auburn at No. 12 in my preseason top 25. I believe the Tigers pose the most legitimate threat to Alabama’s SEC West reign. From what I’ve seen so far, I think Stidham will finally answer Auburn’s quarterback prayers.
But there’s the problem. What I’ve seen so far isn’t very much. And unless you lived in an alternate universe in which Stidham played an entire season against Power 5 competition, you haven’t seen much of him, either.
Stidham has been generating national headlines each of the past three years. Ironically enough, he has three career starts. And in case you haven’t noticed, the Big 12 isn’t high on the whole “defending the pass” thing.
These were the three defenses Stidham faced as a true freshman starter at Baylor in 2015:
- Kansas State: 120th vs. the pass, 93rd scoring defense
- Oklahoma: 34th vs. the pass, 28th scoring defense
- Oklahoma State: 94th vs. the pass, 88th scoring defense
So that’s two pass defenses that ranked in the bottom 25 percentile against the pass and one that was good. Stidham’s line against Oklahoma was 16-of-27 passing for 257 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Yes, that was one game two years ago. Stidham has matured and all signs point to him being a better quarterback than he was as a true freshman. But he started in one college game since the Oklahoma loss. The sample size is too small in relation to the hype.
Stidham is tied for fifth in the Las Vegas Superbook preseason Heisman Trophy odds. He has the same odds as Saquon Barkley, Jake Browning and Deondre Francois, all of whom led their respective teams to New Year’s Six Bowl berths as second-year players last year. Stidham, on the other hand, was a student in junior college.
Before he’s taken a snap against a real SEC defense — the spring game doesn’t count — Stidham is being labeled as a sure-fire star. Keep in mind that Auburn had one 3,000-yard passer, and it was 20 years ago. That was long before Gus Malzahn took over and turned Auburn into the nation’s 110th passing offense.
By all accounts, Stidham doesn’t look like another Jeremy Johnson, though Tiger fans remember what that hype was like two years ago. It was similar to the love Stidham got in the preseason. Johnson had just two career starts himself. That doesn’t mean Stidham will bring flashbacks of Johnson, especially with new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey on board.
But let’s at least wait until the Clemson game to get the Stidham hype train moving. That’s not asking for too much, is it?
If Stidham knocks off the defending champs, it’ll be full steam ahead.
Cover photo courtesy of Auburn University Athletics.