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‘A very big opportunity’ for Auburn offense in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

While UCF averages a nation-leading 49.4 points, Auburn’s offense brings its own impressive stats into Monday’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Kerryon Johnson

While UCF averages a nation-leading 49.4 points, Auburn’s offense brings its own impressive stats into Monday’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

The Tigers scored a program best 327 points in eight SEC regular season games (40.8 per game) while producing 27 plays of at least 40 yards in Chip Lindsey’s first season as offensive coordinator.

“I think we’re really trying to focus on what we try to be good at on our side of the ball and let Coach Steele worry about trying to stop those guys,” Lindsey said Saturday. “We really tried to focus on being who we are and doing what we do well. We’ve got enough issues worrying about their defense.”

Auburn’s offense figures to benefit from a rested and recovered Kerryon Johnson. The SEC’s offensive player of the year rushed for 1,320 yards and 17 touchdowns before an Iron Bowl injury slowed him in the SEC Championship Game.

“I feel 100 percent, finally, or as close to 100 percent as you can get at this point,” Johnson said Saturday before the Tigers’ last practice. “I felt really good. I’ve been running like my old self and making moves like my old self. It’s giving me confidence and making me happy, and I’m ready to see what I can do in the real game now.”

Aided by a veteran offensive line, Johnson’s breakout season helped the Tigers knock off two top-ranked teams in November.

“You see him on film and you give him a little bit of a crease and he’s gone,” senior right guard Braden Smith said “He’s a big playmaker. He’s explosive. Every time he’s out there, you know you’ve got a good shot to do great things.”

Of KJ, senior lineman Austin Golson said, “There’s no question in my mind he’s the best back in the country.”

Auburn’s 2017 offense achieved near perfect balance, rushing for 228 yards per game while passing for 225. Jarrett Stidham threw for 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions while completing nearly 67 percent of his passes.

“To be in a New Year’s Six Bowl like the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, it’s a very big opportunity for this team,” said Stidham, who joined Auburn in January after transferring from Baylor and sitting out last season.

“If I had to do it over again, I would choose Auburn again,” Stidham said. “Auburn, to me, is full of great people, and I like to surround myself with great people. I think anybody can see that if you come and visit the Plains.”

Stidham’s top target, Ryan Davis, set Auburn’s season receptions record with 76 for 768 yards and five touchdowns.

“Coach Lindsey does a good job of using me and using me to my strengths,” Davis said. “He’s done a great job of just putting me in a position to excel with my strengths, and I feel like I’ve been able to showcase that this year.”

Auburn’s offense will try to do its part Monday at 11:30 a.m. CT at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to help the Tigers earn win No. 11 and knock off a third undefeated team in two months.

“They are going to be motivated to play this game, and that’s going to make them go even harder,” Johnson said. “If we don’t let them disrupt us, that will be a huge advantage to our offense.”