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Sunday Morning Hangover: The Truth of 26-2

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The Truth Hurts (sorry, not sorry)

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Preface

I wrote the following article during SEC Media Days in July, but at the time all the quarterback talk was at a fever pitch and I didn’t want to look like I was piling on. While waiting for the talk to die down, the gale winds turned into a category 5 hurricane and does not seem to be slowing down. Therefore, here for your perusal and judgement is yet another Alabama quarterback article. ENJOY!

26-2

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. It’s a vague stat that lazy college football reporters enjoy trumpeting in their articles and on the airwaves when talking about Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts. Yes, it is a fact that the Crimson Tide rising junior was the starter at quarterback in 28 games over the past two seasons in which the Tide won 26 and loss just two. But is it a true representation of his success? There are many factors to consider including the quality of the opponent, the highly successful Tide defenses that can overcome multiple 3-and-outs by the offense, the outstanding stable of running backs, an entire offensive line that could all find themselves on a NFL team in the near future, credit for a win in a game he could not finish, and much more.

THE NON-START

Granted that the one game of his college career that he did not start, Hurts looked good and got the fan base a little excited. Coming off the bench in the first game of the 2016 season against Southern Cal, Hurts ignited a sleepwalking offense. The true freshmen was 6 of 11 passing for 118 yards but most of those yards came on two long touchdown passes to ArDarius Stewart of 39 and 71 yards, the second of which was busted coverage by the Trojans. Hurts ran 9 times for 32 yards but also fumbled away his first collegiate snap and threw an interception in the game. The Trojans could not capitalize on those mistakes as the stifling Bama defense held them to 3-and-outs after both of the abovementioned turnovers. It was the defense that really won the game. Tuck that fact away for a minute.

THE REAL DEAL

I really hate to do this because I really like Jalen Hurts. He is a talented athlete and a very likeable guy. He does charity work above and beyond what most young men of his age do (or of any age for that matter). He is not a diva. He is a great leader and loves Alabama. But we need to set the record straight for all the flapping gums out there.

Below are the raw stats of every game Hurts has started for the Tide:

2016-2017

OPP RESULT CMP ATT YDS CMP% LNG TD INT ATT YDS AVG LNG TD
Southern Cal W 52-6 6 11 118 54.5 71 2 1 9 32 3.6 9 2
Western Kentucky W 38-10 23 36 287 63.9 51 2 0 11 19 1.7 6 0
@Ole Miss W 48-43 19 31 158 61.3 45 0 0 18 146 8.1 41 0
Kent State W 48-0 16 24 164 66.7 31 1 0 7 54 7.7 20 1
Kentucky W 34-6 20 33 262 60.6 46 2 0 9 25 2.8 11 0
@Arkansas W 49-30 13 17 253 76.5 67 2 1 8 20 2.5 6 2
@Tennessee W 49-10 17 27 172 63 36 1 1 12 132 11 45 3
Texas A&M W 33-14 15 25 164 60 45 2 2 21 93 4.4 37 1
@LSU W 10-0 10 19 107 52.6 52 0 1 20 114 5.7 28 1
Mississippi State W 51-3 28 37 347 75.7 67 4 1 11 100 9.1 60 1
Chattanooga W 31-3 15 21 136 71.4 47 3 0 16 68 4.3 34 0
Auburn W 30-12 27 36 286 75 39 2 2 12 37 3.1 17 1
@Florida W 54-16 11 20 138 55 52 1 0 8 1 0.1 12 0
CFP SEMIFINAL
Washington W 24-7 7 14 57 50 16 0 0 19 50 2.6 33 0
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Clemson L 35-31 13 31 131 41.9 68 1 0 10 63 6.3 30 1

2017-2018

OPP RESULT CMP ATT YDS CMP% LNG TD INT ATT YDS AVG LNG TD
Florida State W 24-7 10 18 96 55.6 53 1 0 15 55 3.7 20 0
Fresno State W 41-10 14 18 128 77.8 23 1 0 10 154 15.4 55 2
Colorado State W 41-23 12 17 248 70.6 78 2 0 11 103 9.4 27 1
@Vanderbilt W 59-0 9 17 78 52.9 12 0 0 9 48 5.3 22 0
Ole Miss W 66-3 12 19 197 63.2 60 2 0 10 101 10.1 29 1
@Texas A&M W 27-19 13 22 123 59.1 30 1 0 14 56 4 38 1
Arkansas W 41-9 12 19 155 63.2 29 1 1 10 41 4.1 18 1
Tennessee W 45-7 13 21 198 61.9 34 1 0 5 14 2.8 7 0
LSU W 24-10 11 24 183 45.8 47 1 0 14 44 3.1 19 1
@Mississippi State W 31-24 10 18 242 55.6 63 1 0 19 40 2.1 14 1
Mercer W 56-0 7 7 180 100 66 3 0 2 30 15 26 0
@Auburn L 26-14 12 22 112 54.5 36 1 0 18 82 4.6 17 0
CFP SEMIFINAL
@Clemson W 24-6 16 24 120 66.7 22 2 0 11 40 3.6 19 0
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
@Georgia W 26-23 (OT) 3 8 21 37.5 9 0 0 6 47 7.8 31 0


For a better understanding of these past two seasons, strip away the cupcakes, the mediocre foes like Arkansas and Tennessee, while focusing more on the elite opponents.

2016-2017

OPP RESULT CMP ATT YDS CMP% LNG TD INT ATT YDS AVG LNG TD
@LSU W 10-0 10 19 107 52.6 52 0 1 20 114 5.7 28 1
Auburn W 30-12 27 36 286 75.0 39 2 2 12 37 3.1 17 1
@Florida W 54-16 11 20 138 55.0 52 1 0 8 1 0.1 12 0
Washington W 24-7 7 14 57 50.0 16 0 0 19 50 2.6 33 0
Clemson L 35-31 13 31 131 41.9 68 1 0 10 63 6.3 30 1

2017-2018

OPP RESULT CMP ATT YDS CMP% LNG TD INT ATT YDS AVG LNG TD
Florida State W 24-7 10 18 96 55.6 53 1 0 15 55 3.7 20 0
LSU W 24-10 11 24 183 45.8 47 1 0 14 44 3.1 19 1
@Mississippi State W 31-24 10 18 242 55.6 63 1 0 19 40 2.1 14 1
@Auburn L 26-14 12 22 112 54.5 36 1 0 18 82 4.6 17 0
@Clemson W 24-6 16 24 120 66.7 22 2 0 11 40 3.6 19 0


[For 2017-18, I added Mississippi State (they were not good in 2016) and removed the NCG vs. UGA game, but we’ll get to that game later.]

By this criteria, Hurts is 8-2. Looking at the stats of those games, he did not perform so well. He certainly was not the star of any of those games.

THE BIG STAGE

In four years of the college football playoff, there have been 12 games played. Only three of those games had the winning team scoring less than 30 points. All three of those victors were Alabama and all of them had Hurts as the starter.

Scores from every playoff game:

Season Semifinal Winner Loser Score
2014-15 Rose Bowl 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 59-20
Sugar Bowl 4 Ohio State 1 Alabama 42-35
Championship 4 Ohio State 2 Oregon 42-20
2015-16 Orange Bowl 1 Clemson 4 Oklahoma 37-17
Cotton Bowl 2 Alabama 3 Michigan State 38-0
Championship 2 Alabama 1 Clemson 45-40
2016-17 Fiesta Bowl 2 Clemson 3 Ohio State 31-0
Peach Bowl 1 Alabama 4 Washington 24-7
Championship 2 Clemson 1 Alabama 35-31
2017-18 Rose Bowl 3 Georgia 2 Oklahoma 54-48 2OT
Sugar Bowl 4 Alabama 1 Clemson 24-6
Championship 4 Alabama 3 Georgia 26-23 OT

Hurts gets credit for those wins as a starter but could it possibly be due to the smothering defenses and/or outstanding rushing performances from running backs?

2016–17 Peach Bowl: Alabama vs Washington W 24–7

Hurts: 7-14 passing for 57 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT; 19 rushes for 50 yards, 0 TDs. He does not show up on the highlight reel.
Running Backs: You may recall, this was the Bo Scarbrough show on offense. He broke out for 180 yards on 19 carries and 2 TDs.
Defense: The Huskies were held to a measly 44 yards rushing. All-American WR John Ross gained only 28 yards receiving and lost a fumble. Bama’s Ryan Anderson had a pick-six. Without that score, it’s 10-7 going into the fourth quarter.

2016–17 Championship: Clemson vs Alabama L 35–31

Hurts: 13-31 passing (42%) for 131 yards, 1 TDs, 0 INT; 10 rushes for 63 yards, 1 TD. As you recall, Hurts drove the field to give the Tide the lead late in the fourth quarter. That was a remarkable drive but Alabama may not have been in that position had he and the offense not had such difficulty gaining a first downs and keeping the defense off the field. It is admirable that the Bama defense held Deshaun Watson and company to only 35 point on an astronomical 99 plays. The Tide had eight three-and-outs on offense compared to two for Clemson.
Running Backs: I will go to my grave blaming this one on Bama’s one-game OC Steve Sarkisian (and Lane Kiffin for being a self-centered pr**k). He got all starry-eyed for Bo (16 rush-93 yds, 2 TD) and forgot about Damien Harris (5-24) and Josh Jacobs (2-16). Much of the other offense belonged to tight end OJ Howard’s ability (4-106, TD) to run with the ball after catches and CU’s blown coverages.
Defense: Ryan Anderson recovered two fumbles; 91 yards rushing for Clemson.

2017–18 Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs Clemson W 24–6

Hurts: 16-24 passing for 120 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT; 11 rushes for 40 yards, 0 TDs. On paper, these are some decent stats but where are the points? Only 16 first downs.
Running Backs: Harris 19-77; Bo 12-24.
Defense: If you recall, the Tigers did not convert a first down in the first quarter. Yet, this game was still in doubt at 10-6 in the third quarter until two big defensive plays: Da’Ron Payne’s interception that set the Tide up at the Clemson 27 and Mack Wilson’s pick six on the Tigers’ next play from scrimmage. There would be no more scoring.

2017–18 Championship: Alabama vs Georgia W 26–23 OT

Hurts: 3 for 8 passing for 21 yards, 0 TDs; 6 rushes for 47 yards, 0 TDs; 1 first down after the opening dive; 0 points for Bama in the first half. UGA led 13-0 at the half. The punting of J.K. Scott and the defense kept this one from getting out of hand in the first half.
Do we need anymore evidence?

IN CONCLUSION

  1. Stop spouting “26-2” like it means anything. Quarterbacks do not get wins the way pitchers do in baseball. Most of those wins were due to unworldly defenses and RTDB.
  2. Hurts does not show up against better opposition.
  3. 26-2 < 2nd and 26.