New faces in new places OK

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When he was replaced by freshman Tua Tagovailoa in the 2018 national title game and spent last season as a backup, it was easy to forget that former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts was good at football. 

Now, with another starting job at a different school, Hurts looks even better. 

In his Oklahoma debut, Hurts was nearly perfect: 332 yards and three touchdowns on 20-of-23 passing to go with 176 yards rushing on 16 carries with three more scores. Hurts’ Sooners beat Houston 49-31 on Saturday night in Norman, Okla. 

Hurts’ former coach, Nick Saban, praised him after the performance. 

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“I didn’t see the game last night — we work on Sunday nights,” Saban said, according to Sports Illustrated. “But I hear he played extremely well, did an outstanding job, and that doesn’t surprise me in the least bit. We’re really happy for him, not only in the way that he handled himself throughout this entire process but now that he’s having success as well.” 

In his two seasons as a starter for Saban, Hurts led Alabama to two SEC titles and two appearances in the College Football Playoff title game. But after Tagovailoa’s rise from unknown to championship hero to Heisman frontrunner, Hurts decided to move on. 

Hurts is the third straight transfer to start at quarterback for the Sooners. The previous two — Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray — were both Heisman Trophy winners who were selected first overall in the past two NFL drafts. 

As with college basketball, the NCAA’s relaxed rules on the eligibility of transfers is having a big impact on the field. 

Ohio State’s Justin Fields, who transferred from Georgia, guided the Buckeyes to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter of their 45-21 win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday. Fields finished with 234 yards and four touchdowns through the air and 91 yards and another score on the ground. 

Fields, a sophomore, received in February an NCAA waiver that allowed him to avoid the usual one-year waiting period. Fields was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, but he didn’t get on the field much behind starter Jake Fromm. 

The NCAA, after amending its transfer rules in 2018, allows student-athletes who can show “documented mitigation circumstances” in their decision to move to be eligible to play immediately.  

Fields wasn’t the only former Georgia quarterback to put up big numbers with a new team on Saturday. 

Jacob Eason set a Washington record for passing yards in a debut (349) in the Huskies’ 47-14 win over Eastern Washington. 

The 6-foot-6, 225-pound junior, was 27-for-36 passing with four touchdowns and no turnovers. Eason, a five-star recruit from Lake Stevens, Wash., was starting his first game in two years after sitting out the 2018 season. 

Three years passed between his first college start and his return home, 

“That was so long ago. I was in a different place,” Eason told The Seattle Times. “I don’t like to make comparisons here or there, but obviously being home in front of the family and in front of the home state … that meant a lot to me. 

“It was just awesome to get out there and do what I do and have fun doing it.” 

When coaches leave for better offers and bigger schools, they don’t enter a “transfer portal.” The NCAA’s easing of its out-of-date rules was a step in the right direction. College players are restricted from profiting on their college performances. They should at least be able to decide where they play.

Saturday

Syracuse -1 at Maryland: Thanks to Maryland’s 79-0 win over Howard, this game moved from Syracuse -5 to Maryland being favored by 1 or 1.5.

But we’ve seen this from the Terrapins before. Last season, they upset No. 23 Texas and blew out Bowling Green in their first two games. They followed those wins with a 35-14 home loss to Temple en route to a 5-7 finish. 

Syracuse’s offense was uninspiring in a 24-0 win over Liberty. But the Orange defense sacked Flames quarterback eight times and forced four Liberty turnovers. Not buying Maryland. ­SYRACUSE 

Northern Illinois at Utah -22: The Utes, a popular sleeper pick for the College Football Playoff, was efficient on offense and forced three BYU turnovers in a 30-12 road win on Thursday. 

That’s not good news for the Huskies, who beat FCS Illinois State 24-10 on Saturday. Northern Illinois, which was tied with the Redbirds at 10 entering the first quarter, was stout on run defense. But now the Huskies will have to contend with Utah’s Zack Moss, who had 187 yards and a touchdown against BYU. UTAH 

San Diego State at UCLA -7: Year 2 under Chip Kelly started the same way Year 1 did: with a loss to Cincinnati — not what Bruins faithful were expecting. 

Sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was just 8-of-26, and the Bruins had just 62 yards on the ground. 

But the Bruins return home and face an Aztecs team that managed just a pair of field goals in a 6-0 win over FCS Weber State. UCLA 

Last week: 2-2

Season: 2-2

 

About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at ESPN.com, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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