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Hurts, Fromm Key for Alabama, Georgia

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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There are plenty of storylines at play with the national championship game, but don't overlook the quarterbacks.

If quarterbacks are supposed to lead, the two teenagers are a combined 37-3 as starters.

 Monday night's national championship game will feature two of the top defenses in all of college football, the most-productive running back tandem in FBS history and a prototypical go-to wide receiver. Lost in the shuffle, and often unfairly labeled, are two tremendous young quarterbacks. Alabama's Jalen Hurts and Georgia's Jake Fromm are polished and poised underclassmen who have helped take their teams to college football's biggest stage. They won't just be under center, but also out in front.

If quarterbacks are supposed to lead, the two teenagers are a combined 37-3 as starters; if their play is supposed to set the tone, Fromm ranks fourth in the nation in passer rating and Hurts slots 11th.   

As a true freshman, Hurts was a play away from a national championship. If not for a legendary finish from Deshaun Watson, the drive college football would have long remembered would have been Hurts'; down four late in the final period, he paced Alabama down the field, completing a 15-yard pass on 3rd-and-16 and later giving the Crimson Tide the lead on a 30-yard burst into the endzone. Hurts' season started with four touchdowns in a 52-6 triumph over top-ten USC and nearly ended with a signature drive in the title game. 

Hurts, this fall, has the best touchdown-to-interception ratio, 17-to-1, in college football. Furthermore, he is the only quarterback in the country with at least 800 yards rushing to complete 60% of his passes. For point of reference, Hurts averages more yards per throw than Josh Rosen and more yards per rush than Derrius Guice. Hurts tossed two touchdown passes in a semifinal victory over defending national champion Clemson.

Only Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, McKenzie Milton and Mason Rudolph have higher passer ratings than Fromm, who has thrived as a true freshman just as Hurts did. Fromm's 166.4 total mark is the SEC's highest tally since Johnny Manziel in 2013. His 23 passing touchdowns are good for third in the league. Notably, Fromm has been at his best when throwing downfield, averaging an impressive 9.2 yards per attempt.

Over his last three games, two of them coming against top seven teams, Fromm is completing over 71% of his passes with six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was calm and clutch against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl; Fromm is the only quarterback to date to have not thrown a pick or fumbled in a semifinal pairing.

On Monday night, the challenge will be immense. Alabama ranks third in the country in pass defense, while Georgia stands eighth. Of Hurts and Fromm, whoever can make the big play, or avoid the big mistake, may very well determine who wins it all. 

There are plenty of storylines at play with the national championship game, but don't overlook the quarterbacks. Both Hurts and Fromm have earned their place in the spotlight and their roles on top teams.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports