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Auburn vs Memphis: Who Will Quarterback the Birmingham Bowl?

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Jeremy Johnson has started the last four games for Auburn. Will he be the starter for the Birmingham Bowl?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

We know the opponent (Memphis) and the location (Birmingham Bowl) for Auburn's 2015 post-season game. There are still a number of other unknowns, though.

Perhaps the biggest for Auburn in terms of the players on the field (rather than the coaches off of it) is just who will be the Tigers' starting QB for the bowl game.

The general assumption is that it will still be Jeremy Johnson, since he's started every game since Texas A&M while Sean White has been injured. However, White was said to be close to ready to go by the Iron Bowl. With the extra month off, will he be primed and ready to go? And if he is, should he be the starter?

Comparison

Statistically, it's a an interesting comparison. They're so close in a number of statistics. Take a look at the table below with stats from cfbstats.com.

Name Games Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int Rating Att/G Yards/G
1 Sean White 6 130 75 57.7 1064 8.2 1 2 125.9 21.7 177.3
2 Jeremy Johnson 10 156 94 60.3 1043 6.7 9 7 126.49 15.6 104.3

Just looking at these stats, I would say go with Sean White and it's not even a question. It's even more evident if you get into a by-game breakdown. In his last three games as a starter before they made the decision to rest him, White threw for 250+ in each game. Yes, that counts the overtime against Arkansas, but if there hadn't been so many drops, the stats are likely similar and the teams don't even go to OT.

Jeremy Johnson played an excellent game against Texas A&M, though he wasn't asked to do much. Against Georgia's defense, it was much tougher sledding. He was pretty good against Idaho. Then against Alabama he really didn't do all that much other than the lucky tip from Jason Smith. Opportunities were there and he just wasn't too great at putting the ball where it needed to be.

Who do you play?

When it comes to running the football, then Jeremy Johnson would be the better option. I do think Sean White is athletic enough to run it if need be, but you also have to take care of his knee. In fact, unless Sean White is 100% healthy, then I think this whole argument is pointless because he shouldn't play. But hey, we have to write about something leading up to the bowl game, right?

That being said, Memphis' rushing defense ranks as the 31st best in the nation. Their passing defense is 115th. Given that statistic, you have to think Auburn is going to want to throw the football a bit. Running the ball will still be key, given the potency of Memphis' offense and the desire to keep the ball out of their hands, but neither of Auburn's QBs is truly mobile. If we have to rely on one to hand off and then take advantage of the opponent's defensive weakness, then I'm going with Sean White.

The Wildcard

The wildcard in all of this is the Wildcat. Or perhaps going full-on mobile QB. Jason Smith, during the lead-up to the Iron Bowl, indicated he'd gotten some work at QB before the Alabama game. Could Auburn be thinking of giving him more of a look at the position?

Smith had a 62% completion rating in JUCO, and threw for 18 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. If Malzahn is thinking of going back to a running QB and wants to use the bowl practices and bowl games as a way to get his players used to that, again, then Smith might not be a bad option. I still put the odds of this happening at minuscule at best, though.