Joe Burrow started at Ohio State, but wound up at LSU.
Jalen Hurts started at Alabama, but wound up at Oklahoma.
The change of scenery worked out fine for both quarterbacks and their new teams as Burrow will lead No. 1 LSU and Hurts will lead No. 4 Oklahoma into a College Football Playoff semifinal in the Peach Bowl on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Burrow’s record-setting season for the SEC champion Tigers (13-0) earned him the Heisman Trophy by a record margin. Hurts was the Heisman runner-up as he led the Sooners (12-1) to the Big 12 title.
The quarterbacks and the offenses get most of the attention but neither team would be where they are if they were not a complete package.
“I think teams win championships,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “We have obviously been very, very good on offense. But in order for us to get here, our defense has had to improve throughout the season, and I think they have.
“In order for us to get to where we want to go, our defense has to play very, very well in the Peach Bowl against an outstanding offense.”
Burrow could be without one of his primary weapons in running Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has rushed for 1,290 yards and an SEC-best 16 touchdowns. He’s also a big part of the passing game.
Edwards-Helaire suffered a hamstring injury in practice last week. Orgeron said Edwards-Helaire has “a chance to play.”
“I know Clyde’s going to do all he can to get back as soon as possible,” center Lloyd Cushenberry said. “Whoever gets carries, it’s on us up front to do our job so they can make plays.”
The Sooners will be missing two starters as defensive end Ronnie Perkins was one of three players suspended for the game and safety Delarrin Turner-Yell suffered a broken collarbone in practice last week.
Hurts helped Alabama beat LSU in 2016 and 2017 before being beat out by Tua Tagavailoa and transferring to Oklahoma for this season.
He ran for the game’s only touchdown in Alabama’s 10-0 victory in 2016 at Baton Rouge, then ran for one touchdown and passed for another in a 24-10 home victory against the Tigers a year later.
He’ll have to be a lot more productive to improve to 3-0. This LSU team is third in the country in scoring (47.8) and first in yards (554.3).
“In all reality,” Hurts told ESPN, “not a game that I won at Alabama, not a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown, not anything I did at the University of Alabama is going to help us win games — help me win games — at Oklahoma.”
The Sooners rank just behind the Tigers with averages of 43.2 points and 554.2 yards.
Oddsmakers are favoring LSU by nearly two touchdowns.
“Well, we are going to go ahead and show up,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley told ESPN with a smile. “A lot of people said that we weren’t going to play great defense here. A lot of people said you can’t replace all of these offensive players that went to the NFL. A lot of people said you’re not going to win the Big 12 this year.
“A lot of people said you’re not going to make the playoff after you lose at Kansas State. So it’s not the first time we’ve been told something like that, and I like how our team has responded.”
–Field Level Media