Sunday Pulpit: Hurts vs. Stidham Iron Bowl could be a must-see matchup

Tony Tsoukalas, Staff
Tide Sports

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Store this one away in the way-too-early file.

Easter is hardly a time to speculate about a college football game seven months away, especially before the hand and footprints of last season’s captains have made their mark in front of Denny Chimes.

But if you find yourself daydreaming between plates of ham and potato casserole today, allow your mind to indulge in this thought: How fun could an Iron Bowl featuring quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Jarrett Stidham be next season?

* Sunday Pulpit: What to make of the enigma that is Jalen Hurts

Before we get ahead of ourselves, which I realize at this point is too late, it’s worth noting that Alabama’s A-Day game will be on Saturday. The Crimson Tide has played in two scrimmages so far this spring, with Hurts reportedly performing well in both. But, until Alabama fans see their starter’s improvement with their own eyes, many will feel those reports are merely hype and hearsay.

A solid performance Saturday should erase all doubt.

That was certainly the case on the other side of the state earlier this month. Stidham starred during Auburn’s A-Day game, completing 16 of 20 passes for 267 yards. Although the Baylor transfer was throwing against the Tigers’ second-team defense, he looked impressive nonetheless. Stidham hit on passes of 50, 46, 34 and 33 yards and by the end of the scrimmage had already generated Heisman talk.

While Hurts draws the more challenging task of going up against Alabama’s first-team secondary this Saturday, here’s hoping the sophomore puts up similar sterling numbers — if only for the impending media storm that would follow.

* Things are slowing down for fast-learning Jalen Hurts at Alabama

After all, it’s about time college football’s biggest game offers two of its best quarterbacks.

Both Alabama and Auburn have had their share of elite passers over the years, although rarely at the same time. Cam Newton’s 2010 Auburn team faced a good but game-managing Greg McElroy. AJ McCarron’s three seasons as the starter at Alabama included snoozers against Clint Mosley and Jonathan Wallace before an instant classic against Nick Marshall in 2013. Last season, Hurts squared up against third-string Jeremy Johnson.

Perhaps the closest we’ve come to having two primetime quarterbacks in the Iron Bowl recently was in 2014 when Blake Sims led Alabama to a 55-44 victory over Marshall in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

If we are in store for a replica of that game this season in Jordan-Hare Stadium, sign me up. Given the talent possessed by both quarterbacks, the thought isn’t entirely impossible either.

Hurts returns as the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year after passing for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns with nine interceptions while rushing for 954 yards and a team-high 13 more scores on the ground. Stidham, a former four-star recruit, sat out last season but completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns with two interceptions during his freshman season at Baylor in 2015.

It’s too early in either quarterback’s career to anoint them as elite passers. However, glimpses such as the one Stidham provided earlier this month prove that time might be closer than we think.

So, as you polish off that sweet tea and slice of lemon icebox pie while enjoying the spring weather this afternoon, make sure to save some room for a hefty helping of hype.

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