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Malzahn says Auburn defense “has a chance to be really good” after impressive spring game

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With a good handful of key offensive players out of action for one reason or another, the Auburn spring game was expected to be highlighted by the effort from the defense. Suffice to say, that was the case on Saturday as the Tigers played the annual spring game in less-than-ideal weather conditions. Regardless of the level of play from the offensive side of the team, head coach Gus Malzahn is ending the spring feeling confident about what the Tigers may end up doing in the fall.

Our defense has a chance to be really good,” Malzahn said after the Auburn spring game. “From a head coach’s standpoint, I feel very good about our overall team.”

Auburn’s first-team defense locked down on Auburn’s second-string offensive unit (with the offense already a bit more shallow than Auburn would have preferred), limiting the offense to negative yardage in the first half of the spring game. Defensive lineman Nick Coe recorded a sack that was good for a safety.

Auburn played without wide receiver Ryan Davis, fullback Chandler Cox, and running back Kam Martin due to nagging injuries, and starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham participated in a seven-on-seven prior to the spring game. Without those notable offensive players, Auburn got a chance to give some other players some playing time to help improve the depth of the team.

“It was good to see those guys out in front of a crowd,” Malzahn said. “Overall, both sides of the football got after it and had fun out there playing in front of our home crowd.”

Auburn still has a pair of practices before calling it a spring. After winning the SEC West in 2017, Auburn looks to become the first team in the division besides Alabama to win back-to-back SEC West Division titles.

J.K. Dobbins races past Bryce Love as Bovada’s updated Heisman favorite

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Remember yesterday when we shared the initial 2018 Heisman Trophy odds from Bovada? Well, scrap that already because the people have come in with enough bets to warrant some quick changes to the Heisman odds. Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins soared up four spots to climb into the top spot on Bovada’s board after just 24 hours.

Dobbins was initially given 12/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy, and the bettors went scrambling for those odds. Bovada’s updated odds see Dobbins as the way-too-early favorite with 6/1 odds. Tied for the best odds with Dobbins is another Big Ten running back, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. Taylor didn’t move up quite as dramatically to 6/1 after having 8/1 odds a day ago. The short-lived preseason favorite from Bovada and 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up, Stanford running back Bryce Love, has slipped into third on the board with 7/1 odds. Alabama’s national championship hero, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, tied Love with 7/1 odds.

Some other notable dramatic changes include the addition of Missouri quarterback Drew Lock (25/1). Lock, the SEC’s top passer returning in 2018, was initially left completely off the board. He is the only newcomer to the updated odds from Bovada at this moment. The most notable drop in the odds was from Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver, who fell from 55/1 odds to 66/1. Most other drops were just by a few spots, including Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate falling from 9/1 to 14/1, West Virginia quarterback Will Grier falling from 12/1 to 16/1 and Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley dropping from 18/1 to 20/1.

Here are the updated Heisman odds as relayed by Bovada:

J.K. Dobbins (RB Ohio State) 6/1
Jonathan Taylor (RB Wisconsin) 6/1
Bryce Love (RB Stanford) 7/1
Tua Tagovailoa (QB Alabama) 7/1
Jake Fromm (QB Georgia) 12/1
Khalil Tate (QB Arizona) 14/1
Will Grier (QB West Virginia) 16/1
Jarrett Stidham (QB Auburn) 16/1
Kelly Bryant (QB Clemson) 18/1
Justin Herbert (QB Oregon) 18/1
Trace McSorley (QB Penn State) 20/1
Cam Akers (RB Florida State) 25/1
Rodney Anderson (RB Oklahoma) 25/1
Jake Browning (QB Washington) 25/1
Ryan Finley (QB NC State) 25/1
Drew Lock (QB Missouri) 25/1
McKenzie Milton (QB UCF) 25/1
Travis Etienne (RB Clemson) 35/1
Nick Fitzgerald (QB Mississippi State) 35/1
D'Andre Swift (RB Georgia) 35/1
Brandon Winbush (QB Notre Dame) 35/1
David Sills (WR West Virginia) 45/1
Ed Oliver (DL Houston) 66/1
Nick Bosa (DL Ohio State) 75/1

No. 14 Auburn overpowers Texas A&M to remain a viable threat in SEC title (and playoff) picture

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The odds are pretty good that No. 14 Auburn (7-2, 4-1 SEC) is not going to find a way into the College Football Playoff, but after a dominating performance on the road against Texas A&M (5-4, 3-3 SEC), one should not sleep on the Tigers potentially giving Georgia and Alabama a fight in the regular season later this month. Kerryon Johnson stepped up in the running game and Jarrett Stidham passed for three touchdowns in a 42-27 victory over the Aggies in Kyle Field on Saturday afternoon.

Texas A&M pulled a quarterback switch along the way. With Kellen Mond struggling (5/11, 16 yards), Nick Starkel got a chance to relieve him and try to rejuvenate the offense, and he did to a degree. Starkel completed 11 of 22 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. But it was too little too late as the Aggies were already down too much and unable to slow down Auburn on offense.

After a sluggish start, Auburn came alive in the second quarter with three touchdowns to take a 21-13 lead into the halftime break. The Tigers continued to push forward with an overpowering offense with two more touchdowns in the third quarter to create some separation with the Aggies. The win by Auburn keeps a bizarre trend alive in this series. Since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012, the road team has won six straight games in this series.

November has not been kind to Texas A&M in recent years, and it would appear things are once again in danger of trending in the wrong direction in November with this loss. And because of that, the discussion about the job security for Kevin Sumlin will once again come into question. The Aggies have now lost back-to-back games by double-digit margins to Mississippi State and Auburn. And the way things are going in Gainesville, you will not win many points for a 19-17 victory over Florida. It was not so long ago that Texas A&M was 4-1, marred by an ugly collapse on the road against UCLA in the season opener. Sumlin needs a strong finish with the Aggies to put some of the hot seat talk to rest.

Next up for Auburn is a big one. The Tigers will host No. 1 Georgia next Saturday, November 11. For Auburn to play in the SEC Championship Game, beating Alabama will be essential as the Tigers trail their in-state rivals by one game in the loss column already with two games to play. But before any scenarios with Alabama can be explored, Auburn must find a way to take down the Bulldogs next week. It is certainly no easy task for any team needing wins against Georgia and Alabama this season, but the Tigers playing at home in each makes for an interesting final three weeks in the SEC.

Texas A&M will play their final home game of the season next week against UNLV. After that, the schedule wraps up with back-to-back SEC road games against Ole Miss and LSU. The way things have been going, next week’s game against the Rebels may be a must-win game for Texas A&M to get to the postseason.

Auburn names Jarrett Stidham as starting QB

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What had long been expected has become the reality today at Auburn. Former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham has officially been named the starting quarterback at Auburn.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn made the official announcement Monday. Sean White will be Auburn’s backup quarterback heading into the 2017 season. The quarterback battle had been one of the biggest topics of conversation for Auburn this summer, with Stidham expected to give White a good run to be the starter in the fall.

Stidham announced a transfer to Auburn from Baylor in December after initially announcing his decision to transfer out of the Baylor program in July 2016 amid controversy at the program. Stidham was granted a release from his scholarship by Baylor but was blocked from transferring to another Big 12 program. In addition to Auburn, other SEC schools that were reportedly jumping in the recruiting mix for his services included Florida and Texas A&M.

At Auburn, Stidham steps into a role that could play vital to Auburn’s chances and hopes of giving Alabama a push for the SEC West Division. Stidham will share the same backfield as one of the top running backs in the SEC, Kamryn Pettway. Auburn’s offense likely upgraded at the quarterback position by a significant margin.

Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham confirms commitment to program

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Continuing a trend we have witnessed at Baylor over the past week, incoming and future players are looking elsewhere while players already in the program are preparing to stay put. In the past 24 hours, a lot has happened with the program with the resignation of athletics director Ian McCaw following the hiring of head coach Jim Grobe. While the school still works to gain control of the situation, Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham announced he intends to stand by the program.

“Can’t wait to get back on that grind [Tuesday] with my brothers,” Stidham said in an update posted on his Instagram account on Monday. “This year is going to be different than the rest in many ways, but either way we will make a statement to everyone. Excited for the opportunity God has presented this team with to overcome adversity and become even closer as a family. Stick with us Baylor nation, we got this.”

Stidham was a major addition to Baylor’s recruiting class in 2015. After initially pledging his commitment to Texas Tech, Stidham later flipped his commitment to Baylor. Although Baylor appears set to have a healthy Seth Russell (who also has been making statements on Instagram) leading the offense this fall, all signs point to Stidham being the starting quarterback in 2017 (if not sooner).

Baylor has managed to keep all current players on the roster in Waco, which is not too surprising. Unless the NCAA chimes in later and drops a hammer of the weight it slammed on Penn State four summers ago (which is perhaps not all that likely to happen for a number of reasons, and they have no comment at this time), there is likely no reason to expect a mass exodus from the current roster. The recruiting game, however, is a different story.

Some key pieces of Baylor’s Class of 2016 — including running back Kameron Martin, offensive lineman Patrick Hudson and offensive tackle J.P. Urquidez  — made the late decision not to enroll in summer courses this week, which means they may still land elsewhere before the start of the fall football season. The Class of 2017 has quickly been dismantled and reduced to just a small handful of players for now as well.

How much Grobe can keep the recruiting ship afloat will be fascinating to watch, especially if he is simply on a one-year deal with no real chance to be the long-term head coach.