After a battle that dragged into the third week of the season, the quarterback competition is finally settled for Auburn.
Junior Chris Todd will be under center when the No. 9 Tigers open SEC play Saturday night at Mississippi State.
The competition between Todd, a junior college transfer, and sophomore Kodi Burns began in spring practice and carried over to the first two games of the season. Burns started the opener, a 34-0 win over Louisiana Monroe, but Todd won the job with his performance in last Saturday’s 27-13 victory over Southern Mississippi.
“He’s done a good job all along,” Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said about Todd, citing his vocal leadership and ability to take care of the ball. “It’s not a one-game decision. It’s a decision based upon a cumulative amount of work. The result was a nice performance on Saturday.”
Making his first career start, Todd completed 21 of 31 passes for 248 yards, leading the Tigers (2-0) to a 24-0 lead. Burns, who didn’t play in the first half, went 0-for-3 with an interception in limited time.
“He’s doing good. Kodi’s a competitor,” Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said of his new backup quarterback. “He’s concerned, and I’m glad. I tell him to go out there and fight like heck, because just one play can change everything just like that. He knows that.
“I want the quarterbacks here to be very competitive but also be team players, and he’s always been that. That’s not to say in a couple of weeks he’s not the starter. That’s how this business goes.”
Having the quarterback situation settled should make life easier for the rest of the Tigers. Auburn has switched to a spread offense under Franklin and the team hasn’t clicked on all cylinders so far.
“There’s definitely a different atmosphere,” Auburn receiver Rod Smith said. “I think Chris Todd’s been doing great. He led the team pretty well. He took us down on a lot of big drives. I think Kodi’s still going to play. I think we just wanted to name a starting quarterback so we could end all the controversy.”
Now Auburn can focus on Mississippi State (1-1), which upset the Tigers 19-14 on the road last season to snap a six-game Auburn winning streak in the series. This is the fifth straight year the teams have opened conference play against each other.
The Bulldogs are looking to build momentum after beating Southeastern Louisiana 34-10 last weekend. The big win over the Football Championship Subdivision team helped Mississippi State recover from a shocking 22-14 loss at Louisiana Tech to open the season.
“I had questions on leadership, our discipline and the general character of this football team. All those questions were answered this week,” Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom said. “We took some criticism but did not crumble under that pressure. That is a step forward for me to know how to deal with this team. We can move forward from here.”
Wesley Carroll threw two touchdown passes for the Bulldogs, a week after throwing three interceptions. That was part of a five-turnover, 10-penalty game against Louisiana Tech.
“We can bounce back from anything. Since I’ve been here, we’ve been through a lot of adversity. I think that’s one of the best things we do is handle adversity,” said Bulldogs free safety Derek Pegues, a preseason All-SEC selection who missed the first week.
Junior running back Anthony Dixon had two rushing touchdowns last week, and needs two more to tie Michael Davis’ school-record of 27 set from 1991-94.
Mississippi State is looking to beat Auburn at home for the first time since a 17-10 victory in 2000. The Tigers won 34-0 on Sept. 9, 2006, the last meeting in Starkville.
Mississippi State has won back-to-back games against ranked opponents after losing 24 of its previous 25.