Oklahoma football is heading to the College Football Playoff for the fourth time in the six-year history of the CFP format.
Sooner quarterback Jalen Hurts is also making his fourth trip to the Playoff, but first in an Oklahoma uniform. That’s one less appearance than Clemson, but equal to Ohio State and LSU combined, the top two seeds in the 2019 editon of the College Football Playoff.
Hurts is probably the most experienced player participating in this season’s College Football Playoff, and clearly the quarterback with the most actual game experience at the national championship level. Although Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence led his team to a national title last season as a true freshman, hammering Hurts’ Alabama team, then the defending national champions. Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers are back again this year as the No. 3 seed.
In the three years Hurts was a quarterback for Alabama, the Crimson Tide won 42 games and lost just three, and in his one season as the Oklahoma starting quarterback, he is 12-1, which gives him a remarkable career record of 54-4 (.931) at the collegiate level.
At Alabama, Hurts played in six College Football Playoff games. That’s twice as many as any of the participants in this year’s Playoff. He is 4-2 in those games, and will get a chance to improve on that record when Oklahoma meets LSU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Dec. 28 in one of the two national semifinal games on that day.
Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb is Oklahoma’s best player, but the Sooners’ high-scoring, high-octane offense runs through No, 1, Jalen Hurts. The Alabama graduate transfer has put up video-game like numbers in his final season of collegiate eligibility. He has completed 72 percent of his pass attempts for a career-high 3,634 yards and 32 touchdowns and rushed for a team- and career-high 1,255 yards and 18 additional touchdowns.
Hurts has had a direct hand in 306, or 54 percent, of Oklahoma’s 562 total points this season, and his 51 touchdowns this season matches the number posted by LSU quarterback and Heisman front-runner Joe Burrow, who Hurts and the Sooners will go up against in the Playoff national semifinals on Dec. 28.
One of Hurts’ four Playoff wins came in the Peach Bowl in his Alabama freshman season in 2016. The top-seeded Crimson Tide rolled that New Year’s Eve day, with Hurts at quarterback, defeating No. 4 Washington 24-7.
The following season, in 2-017, Hurts quarterbacked No. 4 Alabama to a 24-6 win over No. 1 Clemson in the national semifinals, but was pulled after a disappointing half against Georgia in the national championship game in favor of then-freshman Tua Tagovailoa. The Tide came back to win the game, 26-23, when the freshman backup threw an improbable 41-yards touchdown pass in overtime to spoil Georgia’s championship bid.
Hurts never reclaimed the starting QB job at Alabama, but if it weren’t for his heroics coming in for the injured Tagovailoa in the SEC championship game last season and orchestrating a couple of touchdown drives in leading his teammates to a come-from-behind win, Alabama would not have made it into the 2018 Playoff.
The Tide was 1-1 in the Playoff last season, defeating Oklahoma in the semifinals before losing convincingly to Clemson for the championship, with Hurts playing only sparingly in both games.
A week after the championship game loss to Clemson, the widely publicized Alabama backup quarterback announced he was on his way to Norman, Oklahoma, to finish out his career as an Oklahoma Sooner.
Regardless of what happens when Hurts takes the field for the Sooners in Atlanta in his seventh College Football Playoff game, he will go down in the record book as the first player to quarterback two different Playoff teams and, hopefully, to his fifth Playoff win.