Who’s the most popular guy on campus?
How about the backup quarterback?
Everybody always wants the backup to play. Even a guy like Alabama's Jalen Hurts isn’t immune to losing ground in the popularity race to the guy just behind him on the depth chart. Hurts has led Alabama to the national championship game for the second straight year, but that hasn’t dampened calls for backup Tua Tagovailoa.
But the thing is, Hurts is doing what his coaches most want from him.
Alabama needs Hurts not to make turnovers, and he does that as well as any quarterback in the country.
The Tide has an excellent defense from front to back. The running game is strong. The punter is an All-American.
With all that, Alabama is built to win the field position battle, and without turnovers, the Crimson Tide can beat anybody in the country at it. Alabama doesn’t need its quarterback to gamble and possibly screw it up.
Going into tonight's game against Georgia, Alabama has made only nine turnovers this season, which is the fewest among the 129 FBS schools. Only four happened when Hurts was on the field. Hurts has three himself -- two lost fumbles and an interception.
Heck, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham had three in the Peach Bowl loss alone.
Of the 110 passers in the FBS, none has thrown as few interceptions as Hurts. He also ranks 11th nationally in passing efficiency.
At times, of course, Hurts seems a bit paralyzed by his primary directive to not gamble away the ball. He rarely takes chances in the passing game, and it doesn’t help that his deep passing game still is evolving.
But Hurts doesn’t screw up a game, not even in the loss to Auburn. I’d blame puzzling play-calling and a passive defensive effort before Hurts.
If mistake-free play is what Nick Saban wants from Hurts, and he delivers as well as he does, why should Alabama stick him on the bench for a less-experienced quarterback who likely won’t protect the ball as well?
At times, Tagovailoa has shown himself to be an awesome talent. But think back to Alabama's win over Tennessee. With Tagovailoa in the game, Alabama had the ball at the Tennessee 5-yard line. Tagovailoa threw a bad pass, which the Vols intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
Alabama won 45-7, but what if this was in a playoff game with the score tied? Or one team ahead of the other by only a touchdown? A play like that can change the game. So, would Saban rather gamble on someone who could give him that kind of play, or would he rather have Hurts, who he knows likely won't give up the ball?