Jalen Hurts started at quarterback for the University of Alabama during his freshman season in 2016. That season, the youngster managed to win SEC Offensive Player of the Year under the tutelage of offensive-guru Lane Kiffin. Over the next two seasons, he compiled a 26-2 record as a starter for the Crimson Tide and appeared in two National Championship games. He lost the first game to a Deshaun Watson-led Clemson team, and was well on his way to losing a second the following year against Georgia. That’s when everything changed. Tide head coach Nick Saban benched the two-year starter at halftime in favor of highly-touted Hawaiin Tua Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa entered the game, playing the role of savior for ‘Bama when he tossed three second-half TD’s, including the overtime game-winner en route to earning the game’s offensive MVP honors. Alabama defeated Georgia 26-23, and in just one half of football the Crimson Tide managed to add a National Championship trophy to their collection, while also brewing up a quarterback-controversy that would stretch into the following season.
Despite maintaining the starting QB spot was open throughout spring-practice and fall-camp, Saban declared Tagovailoa the team’s starter after just one game of 2018 season. Jalen found himself on-the-bench and out of favor as an Alabama junior, while questioning his future with the university and as a football player. His replacement Tua starred for the Tide, as the sophomore garnered multiple awards, set a new FBS passer-rating record and made another appearance in the finals of the NCAA postseason.
Hurts made an appearance for an injured Tagovailoa in the SEC Championship Game in December. He came in and played extremely well, and pretty much saved the Crimson Tide’s season and championship aspirations. Saban commended the former-starter for his resilience throughout the entire process, dating back to his benching in the championship game the prior season.
With proof in hand that he could still play at a high-level, Jalen announced via social media that January that he would finish his degree and head to Oklahoma University to play for Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley as a graduate transfer for the upcoming 2019 season. The choice was made in large to help prepare Hurts for his aspirations of playing in the NFL. Riley had gained quite the reputation after producing the last two Heisman Trophy Winners and first overall picks in the NFL Draft, in subjects Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Hurts had a chip on his shoulder, and with something to prove the move to Norman looks like it’s going well. At the midway point of the regular season, the quarterback has been electrifying while leading the Sooners to an undefeated record. He has been lighting up defenses with both his legs and arm. For the season, he has 1,758 passing yards to go along with 17 TD’s. On the ground, he is also carrying the load for his team with 630 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Jalen is slaughtering defenses each weak, with rival Texas being his latest victims.
Tua is also having quite the season for Alabama. The Tide are again undefeated and hold a number one ranking in all the college football polls. Last weekend the quarterback set a school-record for career touchdown passes, and has once-again cemented himself as a serious contender for December’s Heisman Trophy presentation. He has completed 73.6% of his passes, while amassing 2,011 yards through the air to go along with 27 TD passes. There is talk that he may be the first-overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.
Both quarterbacks are extremely talented, and the fact they are the two best quarterbacks in college football this season is a journalist’s dream. This long standing battle has stretched from the deep-south of Tuscaloosa and may wind up seeing it’s finish in New York City, off the field for a change. Heading into the meat of the SEC conference play, Tua will have every opportunity to continue building his resume. In the meantime, Jalen will continue to dazzle and pad his stats in a weaker Big 12 conference. In the end, it’s uncertain which passer would take home accolades and individual hardware. However, it’s entirely possible the battle will wage on to the National Championship. If all the cards fall into place and each team remains undefeated, we may see a showdown for the ages that stretches into April to see which quarterback gets picked first…
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Header Photo Credits: Burnt Orange Nation, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports