Alabama and Florida State square off in one of the premier matchups of opening weekend in college football. While each side features plenty of star talent, all eyes will be on quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Deondre Francois.
Both quarterbacks are coming off freshman years in which they demonstrated plenty of natural talent, but also made their share of rookie mistakes. The winner of this game could simply be decided by the quarterback who made the most substantial strides this offseason.
Here’s a look at the passing chart for each quarterback:
Both quarterbacks clearly struggled with the deep ball, but Hurts may have a slight advantage in that area due to the return of Calvin Ridley. In 2016, Hurts targeted Ridley at 20+ yards downfield 21 times. Francois, however, lost his leading deep threat (Travis Rudolph, 22 targets) to the NFL.
Based on last year’s results, it’s hard to say either team has a definitive edge at quarterback. Both Hurts and Francois flashed the talent necessary to carry their team, but also struggled to consistently make the types of plays that could win big games. Against their toughest opponents, both teams mostly scaled back the workload for their quarterbacks.
Hurts was especially shaky in big games, completing fewer than 50 percent of his pass attempts in Alabama’s final three games of the year—the SEC Championship Game and the College Football Playoff. In those three games combined, he was just 6-20 on throws beyond 10 yards.
On Saturday night, whichever quarterback proves capable of making plays down the field could give his team a decided advantage and swing momentum in their favor.