Transfer quarterbacks dominate the field for College Football Playoff

Transfer quarterbacks dominate the field for College Football Playoff

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Tremendously well for the quarterbacks and their new teams, judging from the College Football Playoff field.

Three of the four starting quarterbacks in this season's playoff began their college careers at other schools: LSU's Joe Burrow transferred from Ohio State, Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts from Alabama and Ohio State's Justin Fields from Georgia.

"We're fortunate that the transfer rule is in place," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. "Joe's one of the most important recruits we've had at LSU."

Two of the transfer quarterbacks in the playoff, Burrow and Hurts, will meet in a semifinal game in Atlanta's Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. No. 1 LSU (13-0) and No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) will square off Dec. 28 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The playoff's other transfer quarterback, Fields, will be in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl semifinal in Glendale, Ariz., where No. 2-seeded Ohio State (13-0) will face No. 3 Clemson (13-0), also on Dec. 28. Clemson is the only playoff team without a transfer starting at quarterback. Clemson's QB, Trevor Lawrence, led the Tigers to the national title as a freshman last season.

The LSU-Oklahoma matchup crystallizes the impact of quarterback transfers on college football. Burrow, in his second (and last) season at LSU, is the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Hurts, in his first (and last) season at Oklahoma, is the latest in a line of transfers to thrive at quarterback for the Sooners, following the past two Heisman winners, Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield.

"The transfers for quarterbacks have been good for us - that goes without saying," Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. "I totally believe you have to have very good quarterback play to get into the playoffs and to eventually win it all. It's such an important position.

"Jalen's been a very positive impact on our program. His (impact) has been unique because it hasn't been years; it's been months. So it's been kind of fast and furious, but very positive."

Burrow and Hurts graduated from Ohio State and Alabama, respectively, and thus were eligible immediately at their new schools under NCAA rules for graduate transfers.

Burrow spent three years (including a redshirt season) at Ohio State, transferring to LSU in May 2018 after losing a spring-practice competition for the Buckeyes' starting QB job to Dwayne Haskins. Hurts spent three years at Alabama, the first two as a starter and the third as a backup, before transferring in January 2019 rather than spending his senior season backing up Tua Tagovailoa.

Burrow has passed for 4,715 yards and 48 touchdowns this season. "With the spread offense, we couldn't have had success without him," Orgeron said. Hurts this season has passed for 3,634 yards and 32 touchdowns, rushed for 1,255 yards and 18 TDs and now is in the playoff for the fourth consecutive season, the first three with Alabama.

Come the Peach Bowl, Mercedes-Benz Stadium won't be new to Burrow or Hurts. Burrow was named MVP of the Tigers' SEC Championship game victory over Georgia there Saturday. Hurts played in the building three times for Alabama - once in a Chick-fil-A Kickoff game, once in an SEC Championship game, once in a national title game. Alabama won all three.

Hurts was benched for the second half of the national championship game against Georgia in January 2018 as Tagovailoa took over and led the Crimson Tide to a come-from-behind victory. Then the roles reversed at the SEC Championship game in December 2018, when Hurts replaced an injured Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter and rallied Alabama to another win over Georgia.

Peach Bowl officials relish the story lines Burrow and Hurts will bring to Atlanta later this month.

"To have Jalen Hurts, who won the SEC Championship game with tremendous play against Georgia, coming back to the same stadium to play against the No. 1 team in the nation - you can't write that script any better," Peach Bowl CEO Gary Stokan said.

The other transfer quarterback in the playoff, Fields, left Georgia for Ohio State in January 2019 after playing sparingly behind starter Jake Fromm as a freshman last season. The NCAA approved a waiver of the rule requiring non-graduate transfers to sit out a year, making Fields eligible to play for the Buckeyes this season. He has thrown for 2,953 yards and 40 touchdowns (against just one interception) and run for 471 yards and 10 more TDs.

Fields' and Hurts' former teams didn't make the playoff. But Burrow possibly could face his former team in the national championship game.

If he relishes that prospect, Burrow wouldn't say so after the SEC title game. "Look, we'll play anybody anywhere," he said.

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