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Jack Freifelder | | November 21, 2016

Alabama's QB Jalen Hurts stays in the moment

College Football: Hand Him The... Alabama QB Jalen Hurts

There has been a capable pair of hands at the helm for the No. 1 team in the land this season. Sure, the head coach and the defense have stolen a lot of the headlines, but there's no denying the steady play of true freshman quarterback, Jalen Hurts.

Giving the keys to a new signal-caller on offense the year after a title run likely puzzled some college football pundits initially, but the Crimson Tide have never looked back with No. 2 under center.

To be fair, there have been a slew of freshman quarterbacks to hit the college football scene in 2016.

Whether it's Georgia's Jacob Eason; Texas' Shane Buechele; Florida State's Deondre Francois; or Duke's Daniel Jones, to name a few, all have had their moments, but the tale of the tape pales in comparison to Hurts' performance.

RELATEDUndefeated college football teams

Alabama is the only undefeated Power 5 team left in football. Plain and simple. Sure, the Broncos of Western Michigan might chime in here, but all roads to the College Football Playoff National Championship likely go through the Crimson Tide.

  'Bama's Jalen Hurts has been a threat through the air and on the ground, tallying six games with 3+ TDs.
And with good reason.

Hurts' performance via both the run and pass have been key components of an Alabama offense that averages over 40 points a ballgame. Though he may not top the charts across the nation, he has proven more than capable in reading and reacting against some of college football's best defensive units.

  Passing yards Passing TDs Interceptions Rushing Yards Rushing TDs Three-Touchdown games
Shane Buechele (Texas) 2,740 21 10 156 2 3
Jacob Eason (Georgia) 2,127 13 6 -52 1 2
Deondre Francois (Florida State) 2,990 17 5 126 3 2

Jalen Hurts

2,168 19 7 803 11 6
Daniel Jones
2,520 13 9 471 7 3

The kicker here is that Hurts has managed to save some of his best efforts for the late-season slate. In other words, the trend of a quarterback's progression is as important as the week-to-week stats that he posts.

In his last two games, the precocious young quarterback has completed more than 70 percent of his passes, although the 31-3 win over Chattanooga on Saturday was a bit less impressive than the 51-3 win against Mississippi State in Week 11. Nonetheless, Hurts has seven touchdowns in that span and he is showing the maturation that head coach Nick Saban is likely going to have to help channel if Alabama is going to repeat as the national champions.

  Hurts is hoping that the race for this year's Heisman Trophy is based a bit more on the football intangibles.
A lot have said the race for the Heisman Trophy has been all but locked up since Louisville's Lamar Jackson first stepped on the gridiron this season, but his team had a chance to get back into the discussion for college football playoff and missed. That would have effectively cemented Jackson's status — given the already eye-popping stats — but one thing is for sure: Jackson won't be the only player representing his team in New York at the Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony.

Last but not least, the biggest opportunity to make a statement is here: the Iron Bowl.

Before the SEC Championship Game against Florida, Hurts will have one more ballgame in the regular season against No. 15 Auburn to try to put a stamp on his first year in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

As noted by's Anthony Chiusano:

The Tide have captured four of the past five Iron Bowls --Auburn's last win came on Chris Davis' memorable "kick six" in 2013 -- but this year's Tigers appear to be one of the most talented it's been over that stretch. Nick Saban didn't seem happy with Alabama's play in Week 12, despite the win, so look for the Tide to come into next weekend fired up.

Of course the bowl game(s) that follow will be just as high-profile an opportunity for Alabama to test their mettle, but there's something about performing against SEC foes that adds a little oomph. Hurts will do all he can to make a run at the Heisman, but if he's not due for a look this year he'll be right there as a potential candidate next season.

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