Auburn, Ala. (EETV) - All the college football confetti has fallen officially closing the book on the 2017 season. With Auburn's Peach Bowl loss to UCF on Jan.1, the Tigers will take a brief hiatus before the 2018 season rears its head.
The 2017 season was one for the ages, full of ups and downs, smiles and tears, and most importantly, victory and bitter defeat.
The Auburn season was full of memories many Tiger fans will never forget, including moments when they wanted to pull out their hair.
With the 2017 Auburn football chapter fully written, I break down the entire season to give you my 5 takeaways from the 2017 Auburn football campaign:
1) Jarrett Stidham for 2018 Heisman
The Tigers gained an important asset during the 2017 off-season in quarterback Jarrett Stidham. The Baylor transfer sparked a lot of noise before the season began, and by the end of the 2017 season, Stidham lived up to the hype.
Yes, Stidham started out 2017 slow and, for lack of a better word, rusty. He didn't look like the football prodigy he was proclaimed to be.
However, by week 3, Stidham hit his stride and played a key role in helping Auburn end 2017 10-4 overall. He played an even bigger role in allowing Auburn to finally have a passing game, something that has been minimal since the 2015 season.
Clearly, Stidham put up impressive numbers through 14 games. He would finish with 3,158 passing yards and 18 touchdowns. Additionally, Stidham had a completion percentage of 66.5%.
These numbers are impressive for someone only playing their first full college football season as a starter. What is even more important, these numbers should improve in the 2018 season as he continues to train.
Stidham also rushed for 153 yards and 4 touchdowns. Although Sithdam put up impressive stats, he still showed inexperience and youth by throwing 6 interceptions and took 35 sacks on the season.
I expect these things to change in 2018 because Sithdam will continue to gain valuable knowledge in the offseason and will work on improving in these areas.
With Stidham officially announcing he will return for another season with the Tigers, it's safe to say Auburn will continue to be am SEC contender.
Made the decision to stay at Auburn. We have unfinished business and I’m excited for what the 2018 season holds! War Eagle, Auburn Family! pic.twitter.com/JVrpqPl8De— Jarrett Stidham (@Jarrett_Stidham) January 6, 2018
He will bring a season of experience with him and will be a key leader in the Auburn offense. I am calling it now Tiger fans, Stidham will more than likely have a Heisman worthy season in 2018.
2) Another year, another great running back season
The Tigers, especially head coach Gus Malzahn, have been known for producing top running backs. Look at the 2017 season, Auburn had 2 star running backs in Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway.
With both Johnson and Pettway declaring for the draft, many Tigers fans feared that the powerful Auburn run game would be a thing of the past.
However, I am here to tell you, you are wrong. With both Johnson and Pettway out at various times during the 2017 season, we got to see the future of the Tiger running game.
Running backs Kam Martin, Devan Barrett and Malik Miller all answered the call when injuries plagued the Auburn running backs. These three runners helped continue to establish an Auburn run game and proved they are more than ready to lead the team in 2018.
Martin, my projected 2018 starting running back, rushed for 453 yards on 74 attempts. He averaged about 6 yards per carry and rushed for 2 touchdowns. On top of that, Martin was a vital pass option, receiving for 53 yards on 3 targets and 1 touchdown.
I believe Martin is a LeSean McCoy style runner, powerful yet fast, quick and agile. In my opinion, Martin will be one of the top running backs in the country in 2018.
Poised to run alongside Martin are Barrett, and Miller, who will help balance the Auburn run game.
In 2017 Barrett rushed for 79 yards on 14 attempts, not bad numbers for so few touches. Miller, on the other hand, rushed for 135 yards on 34 attempts and 1 touchdown.
2018 will be another season filled with numerous running backs. With Stidham at the helm, I believe the Auburn run game will provide balance the offense and will help the Tigers put huge numbers on the scoreboard.
3) Inconsistent on the big stage
Auburn was in line to make a run at the national title and make their first appearance in the College Football Playoff when the 2017 regular season concluded. However, Auburn could not step up on the big stage to punch their ticket to the playoff.
Sitting pretty at number two, all Auburn needed was to defeat UGA a second time in the SEC Championship. The Tigers blew their chance at a college football playoff appearance losing to Georgia 28-7.
It was fun while it lasted for Auburn. UGA gets the 2 point conversion.— Sara Palczewski (@SaraPalczewski) December 2, 2017
Auburn - 7
Georgia - 21
13:06 Q4 pic.twitter.com/oCYk4EhebX
This game was an atrocious performance from top to bottom for Auburn, finishing with 259 total offensive yards (114 rushing yards) while allowing Georgia to bulldoze the Tiger defense for 421 total offensive yards.
With that in mind, Auburn also turned the ball over twice, something they rarely did throughout the regular season.
The SEC Championship wasn't the only game the Tigers couldn't perform at. Auburn also underperformed in the Peach Bowl.
The Tigers struggled again, losing to AAC conference team UCF 34-27. The Auburn offense, however, was able to perform, finishing with 421 total yards (90 rushing yards). Once again, the Tigers shot themselves in the foot by turning the ball over 3 times.
Auburn is better than both of these teams lol don’t bring up the UCF game you really think Auburn was excited to play in the chic fil a peach bowl vs a no name school— john serricchio (@AlsoKnownAsBurt) January 8, 2018
The loss in the New Years Six Bowl drops Malzahn to 1-4 in bowl games. Poor performances on big stages, at least when playing away from Jordan-Hare Stadium, seems like a negative trend the Tigers need to end.
If the Tigers want a better end to the 2018 season, they must learn to rise to the occasion and win the big games.
4) Malzahn rollercoaster
"You're hot and you're cold. You're yes and you're no... You're up and you're down." These famous lyrics by Katy Perry perfectly describe the Auburn fans feelings toward Malzahn this season.
The 2017 season was a rollercoaster of emotions due to head coach Malzahn with many fans wanting him fired and then begging for a contract extension.
The hot seat was felt more often than not, but it heated up to an extreme following the 27-23 loss to LSU. The LSU game left Tiger fans extremely frustrated with Malzahn, considering Auburn blew a 20-0 lead.
Look at the bright side Auburn fans, when you wake up tomorrow morning— Joe Hunk (@JoeHunk) January 2, 2018
Gus Malzahn is still your head coach pic.twitter.com/jwJhiKi2Av
Following the game, Malzahn did what he could to move off the hot seat and gain more fan support. And he did exactly that, leading Auburn to a 5-game win streak, wins over UGA and Alabama, and an SEC West title.
Malzahn coached Auburn to a number two ranking as well, bringing the team and the fans to a new high on this roller coaster.
However, the rollercoaster quickly dropped with loses to UGA in the SEC Championship and to UCF in the Peach Bowl. These loses once again left fans wondering whether Malzahn is the right person for the job.
During this rollercoaster, Malzahn managed to secure himself a new contract for 7-years worth $49 million. This indicates Malzahn has at least a few more seasons with Auburn.
Which means a few more seasons on this emotional rollercoaster for Tiger fans, so you better prepare yourself.
5) 2017 National Champions
Well, with wins over Georgia and Alabama, Auburn fans can claim they have won the national title.
Watching the National Championship wasn't an easy task for Tiger fans, especially knowing Auburn not only beat both teams but steamrolled over them.
Auburn knocked off Georgia 40-17 and two weeks later defeated Alabama 26-14.
We’ll just leave this right here. pic.twitter.com/S5L6evy6G8— AUFAMILY (@AUFAMILY) January 2, 2018
Therefore Tiger fans, celebrate your team, celebrate your season because I believe this team could be celebrating an actual national title this time in 2019.