Sean White should be Auburn's starting QB the rest of this season

Honestly, I think Jeremy Johnson gives [Auburn] the better chance to win.

That was my prediction last week. Gus Malzahn had yet to announce a starting quarterback for the Kentucky game, and I thought it was Johnson, not Sean White, whom Auburn should go with if it wanted to win its first SEC game.

I was wrong.

And not necessarily about Johnson, who the coaches have talked up since he was benched after a 45-21 loss to LSU in Week 3. Maybe the uber-talented junior really has gained back his confidence. Maybe he wouldn’t have turned the ball over as much against Kentucky. Maybe Auburn still would’ve won with him under center. We’ll never know.

Where I went wrong was underestimating White.

The redshirt freshman looked like a different quarterback Thursday night. The stats might not show it -- he went 17-of-27 for 255 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions -- but it was clear he had an improved grasp of the offense.

Just look at third-down conversions. Auburn was 4-of-14 on third down in White’s first start against Mississippi State. On Thursday, the Tigers finished 11-of-18 on third down, and White went 6-of-10 for 96 yards on those plays.

What is even more telling were the number of explosive plays, or plays of 20 yards or more, that Auburn had against Kentucky. Nine. That’s more than this team had through the first four games combined. In White’s first start, Auburn finished with just two explosive plays.

“We wanted to be more aggressive,” Malzahn said after the Kentucky game. “We’re starting to settle in and we’re starting to get some rhythm in practice. The week off was big for us. We wanted to come out and have an aggressive mindset, and [White] did a good job. We made some plays through the air.”

This was the first time, maybe all season, that we’ve seen the Auburn offense we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the past few years under Malzahn.

Credit the offensive line, which played arguably its most complete game all year. Credit Peyton Barber, who had some tough runs, and although he didn’t get to 100 yards, he still had an impressive night with 92 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Certainly give credit to Ricardo Louis. In Auburn’s first game without D’haquille Williams, Louis went off for seven catches for 154 yards.

But at the end of the day, the reason behind the improved offense and Auburn's first conference win comes back to the quarterback. And White was terrific.

It’s not likely that Malzahn will name White the starter for the rest of the season. He likes the competition, says it’s been good for both players and for the team. But maybe it’s time to accept the fact that, barring any kind of injury, Johnson’s time at Auburn is over. White should be the starter for the rest of this season and for the foreseeable future.

I realize that this was just one game, and it was against a Kentucky defense that’s middle-of-the-pack in the SEC, but the coaches must have seen something they liked in the redshirt freshman if they benched Johnson after just three games.

The downside is that if Johnson doesn’t play the rest of the season, he’s as good as gone. He only has one more year of eligibility, and he’s not going to spend it watching White from the sideline.

But I was wrong before. This is White’s team now.