Can Payton Thorne go out a Winner with the Auburn Tigers?

Auburn Tigers quarterback Payton Thorne struggled mightily in 2023, but he's back and Auburn needs him to step up.
Auburn Tigers quarterback Payton Thorne
Auburn Tigers quarterback Payton Thorne / Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
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Payton Thorne can cap his college career by helping the Auburn Tigers reach a bowl game, recapturing some semblance of program luster. Yet, doubts remain if the Michigan State transfer will lead the Tigers back to respectability in 2024.

With at least a dozen games ahead, the fate of the 2024 Auburn University Tigers rests in his hands. Next year does not exist in his vocabulary as his eligibility expires.

Time on the Plains may end for Thorne in December, but for the fans, alums and boosters, time does not cease. In all honesty, Thorne can either cement his legacy as someone that helped the program or another quarterback that allowed the program to float aimlessly in a sea of hopeful mediocrity. The Tigers have lost at least four games in 10-straight seasons.

Best Option?

When Thorne arrived at Auburn, the team had been struggling through atrocious coaching, coupled with quarterback play that took the speed train from bad to terrible. When Auburn wins, the signal-caller, like most teams, plays a significant role. Yet, the litany of passers that couldn't complete a clutch pass meant the team will struggled. 

Unfortunately, that's what Auburn did in 2023 as well. Too many multiple-game losing streaks, close losses that derailed the season. Additionally, watching the New Mexico State Aggies stroll in Jordan-Hare to punch the Tigers squarely in the mouth irks the fanbase. However, looking behind Thorne on this year's depth chart. pray that he plays the whole season.

Freshman Walker White, a project for the future remains the only viable threat. Unfortunately for White, despite talent he lacks experience, greener than Kermit the Frog eating spinach, while sitting on a leaf wearing a jade pinky ring. 

Three Game Saving Grace

Between the October 19 game in Missouri and the Nov. 23 home tilt with Texas A&M, Thorne should presumably help Auburn earn bowl eligibility. Games versus Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Louisiana-Monroe set up like three victories.

Halfway to a bowl game should not thrill fans and alum of a proud program that competed for national championships prior to their streak of four-plus loss seasons. Along those same lines, that three game stretch should see Auburn improve which bowl game they attend.

The Cricket Celebration Bowl isn't the preseason goal of any Auburn team. Winning all three matchups should see Thorne and Auburn with at least six wins, facing Texas A&M and Alabama to wrap up the regular season.

Why It Matters

In college, schools rebuild on the fly via the transfer portal. In contrast, coaches see their seat warm and cool from year to year if they don't build a winning foundation. While regarded as a team leader, Thorne can selfishly shoot for a personal goal and still help the team. 

Thorne needs 1,752 passing yards to reach 10,000. In the era of early NFL declarations, ten thousand yards means a great deal. Since 1956, only 151 quarterbacks reached that milestone. Provided the ball finds receivers in stride, Thorne could enjoy a little personal glory with team success.

Overview

Payton Thorne may not be the best quarterback in the SEC. However, playing at Auburn affords you with playmakers on offense. Under those circumstances, anything can happen. Remember, he placed the team in a position to win against Alabama. One defensive stop at the end, Thorne becomes a semi-legend. He'd never need to buy a beer in town. 

With this last year, brings another chance to change his fate, win games, and maybe improve draft stock in the meanwhile. Payton Thorne may not sit atop the list of quarterbacks fanbases want, but he is the one in the starters spot.


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Terrance Biggs

TERRANCE BIGGS

Senior Editor/ Podcast Host, Full Press Coverage, Bleav, Member: Football Writers Association of America, United States Basketball Writers Association, and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, National Football Foundation Voter: FWAA All-American, Jim Thorpe, Davey O'Brien, Outland, and Biletnikoff Awards