As top-ranked Georgia and No. 10 Auburn prepare to battle inside Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, much is talked about—and for good reason—about both team’s high-powered rushing attacks.
But for Jarrett Stidham and Jake Fromm, Saturday’s matchup is what they’ve been waiting all year for, the chance to prove themselves on a national stage.
Fromm began the season as an afterthought for the Bulldogs. Opening day starter Jacob Eason was entering his sophomore season after throwing for 2430 yards and 16 touchdowns and leading Georgia to an upset of Auburn a year ago.
But when Eason injured his knee in the season opener against Appalachian State, Fromm seized the opportunity to start and never looked back.
The true freshman passed a huge test in his first career start, throwing for 141 yards and a touchdown as the Bulldogs beat Notre Dame on the road.
If winning in one of college football’s most hostile environments wasn’t convincing enough, Fromm cemented himself as the starter by throwing for 201 yards on just 12 passes in a 31-3 blowout of Mississippi State.
Coach Kirby Smart has done a good job putting Fromm in position to succeed, and hasn’t overwhelmed his young quarterback. Fromm has thrown more than 20 passes in a game just three times this season as the Bulldogs have been reliant on a running game that is averaging 279 yards per game.
Fromm has so far avoided the turnover bug that often plagues young quarterbacks, throwing just four interceptions in his eight starts.
“They are efficient throwing the football,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “That has probably been the most impressive thing—the way he has protected the football. He’s been on the money on some of those throws, specifically in the red zone, and has been very accurate.”
Unlike Fromm, Stidham came into the season with sky-high expectations. Auburn fans hoped the Stephenville, Texas native would help Auburn challenge the SEC’s best and maybe compete for a National Championship. Stidham’s name was even thrown into the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Few expected the roller coaster season Stidham has had.
Doubters began to emerge after Stidham struggled in wins over Georgia Southern and Mercer and was sacked 11 times in a loss to Clemson. But Stidham recovered nicely, turning in nearly flawless performances against Missouri, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss.
Stidham was written off again after the offense failed to gain a first down in the second half in a heartbreaking loss to LSU. But the redshirt sophomore proved his resilience again, leading the Tigers to two straight wins as Auburn now controls their own destiny in the SEC.
Both teams will look to win the game on the ground, but if the game is close in the fourth quarter, look for Fromm or Stidham to make a statement late.