Through two weeks of college football, one things has become clear. The SEC has a lot of talent at the quarterback position. Throughout the conference, signal callers have dazzled, putting together solid performances in leading their teams to wins. That comes with a caveat, of course, as many of those showings came against what we’ll respectfully call lesser competition. But still, it seems that nearly every team in the conference has a quarterback that their fans can be confident in heading into the rest of the season.
With another week of games fast approaching and some key matchups on the schedule, we’ll get to see tests for guys like Jordan Ta’amu at Ole Miss and Joe Burrow for LSU, as they take on Auburn and Alabama respectively. To break down the quarterback play in the conference and for a look at some of the matchups this week, we called CBS Sports Network analyst Aaron Murray. (The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.)
CBS Local Sports: I want to start with your alma mater, Georgia, which was impressive last week in a 41-17 drubbing of South Carolina. What has stood out to you the most about Kirby Smart’s squad this year through two games?
Aaron Murray: The biggest thing for me is not the offense, but the defense. I knew their offense was going to be dominant when you look at their offensive line, and one of their guys gets hurt against South Carolina and they are able to plug in a five-star recruit like Cade Mays. They are deep, they’re big, they’re physical and they have some good running backs. Then, they have probably the deepest group of receivers that they have had in a long time. And then, Jake Fromm is just a tremendous quarterback. Smart kid, is going to put you in the right situation and is going to be able to go out and win you football games. Offensively, I knew they were going to be elite and probably one of the best offenses in the SEC.
Defensively, it was a big surprise. The question marks for me were can you replace not only talent but leadership on that side of the football. They have demonstrated they can so far this season. They have shown that they’re like Alabama now, where it’s not worrying about losing all of these guys in the first round. Instead it’s, we can reload, we have depth, we have talent. It’s that next man up mentality that’s pretty special, and only Alabama has shown that they’ve been able to do that.
CBS Local Sports: You mentioned Jake Fromm there, it seems like there’s a very good class of quarterbacks this year in the SEC with Fromm, Tua Tagovailoa, Nick Fitzgerald, Joe Burrow, etc. What do you think of this class of quarterbacks?
Aaron Murray: I’m not ready to put Joe Burrow in there just yet. Defensively, they (LSU) have dominated and he still has not proven enough to me to be considered one of the top guys in the SEC. Two names that really stand out that you didn’t mention there.
One is Jordan Ta’amu from Ole Miss. You watched him last year, you watched him these first two games and yes, he has tons of talent. But watching his mechanics, his accuracy, his pocket presence, I’m left looking at him saying ‘This kid is legit.’ He’s going to have a chance this week to prove it against Alabama. If he can go in there and have a pretty good day against that defense, you have to put him up there as one of the top guys in this very deep class of SEC quarterbacks.
Then, there’s Drew Lock at Missouri. For me, he needs to prove he can be more accurate. He’s done that in the first two games. He’s been a 55 to 57 percent passer the past couple of years. If he can bump that up to 62, 63 percent, it’s only going to help this team going forward. In my eyes, that’s where I judge quarterbacks. Can you be in that range for accuracy? He’s proven it, and he looks better in the pocket. Those two guys are others that I would throw onto that list of guys who have impressed me so far this year.
CBS Local Sports: As we look ahead to this weekend, the big matchup in the SEC is LSU taking on Auburn, what are you watching for with these two teams?
Aaron Murray: It’s going to be a fun game. I’m a big fan of Jarrett Stidham. If you asked me who are you going to pick as your quarterback if you had to start an SEC team today, I’m taking him. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s physical. He can throw every single route that you want, and he throws it effortlessly. That offense, though, will struggle in this game. This is going to be a low-scoring game. LSU’s defense is dominant.
Still, I don’t think LSU is going to be able to move the ball against Auburn. I know they played well against Miami, but who knows how good that Miami team is going to be. Auburn proved against Washington, with Jake Browning and that running game, that they can shut down a very good offense. And on the other side, they moved the ball throughout the game, and Stidham played well enough to win. So they proved they can move the ball against good defenses. Auburn has answered a lot of questions, whereas LSU still has a lot of questions on the offensive side of the football.
Who is going to be their stud running back? Is that guy going to be a 1,000-yard rusher? Can Joe Burrow be a good SEC quarterback? I’m not a believer right now, but if they go out and win, maybe he’ll start making me one. At the moment, I don’t see LSU being able to move the ball against that tough Auburn defense, particularly at Auburn, which is always a tough place to play.
CBS Local Sports: Now, you were talking about the Alabama-Ole Miss matchup earlier. The Rebels have been able to put up points in a hurry, but they’ve had a tough time stopping opponents. Can they figure it out in time to pull an upset this weekend?
Aaron Murray: No. And I don’t know anyone in the country, besides Clemson and Georgia, that can matchup with Alabama’s offense. It’s kind of funny to me that we’re talking about Alabama’s offense and who can matchup with them, because it’s a big question mark. If you load the box up to stop the run, they have plenty of young talent outside and an incredible quarterback in Tua, who can pick you apart. Not just with dink and dunks or RPOs, but with posts, go routes and corners. He (Tua) has the full arsenal right now with his arm talent and the talent around him.
I don’t think Ole Miss can stop them at all. Alabama is going to run right through them. It’s going to be a matter of if this Ole Miss offense can keep up. They have proven they can put up a ton of points, but now they’re going against one of the top offenses.
They’ll make it fun. I’m going to tune into this game, because I think it will be high-scoring and fun to watch. But Alabama’s firepower on offense is unmatched in the SEC right now.
CBS Local Sports: Finally, you’re on the call this weekend as Arkansas State takes on Tulsa on CBS Sports Network. Tulsa gave Texas a scare last week, and Arkansas State is an annual power in the Sun Belt. What are you looking for from this matchup?
Aaron Murray: It’s two exciting offenses. I know last week Arkansas State struggled against Alabama, but that was expected. This game features two teams that traditionally light it up on the scoreboard. I’m excited for a high-scoring game. Overall, comparing these two teams, it’s a much better matchup than Arkansas State versus Alabama, that’s for sure.