No shortage of comparisons between UF's Kyle Trask, Alabama's Mac Jones
There’s no shortage of valuable players on each team, but the SEC Championship Game between No. 7 Florida and No. 1 Alabama will be defined by the battle between the top quarterbacks in the nation more than anything else.
UF quarterback Kyle Trask and the Crimson Tide's Mac Jones arrive in Atlanta with identical expectations: leading their respective teams to victory, which almost guarantees each program a place in the College Football Playoff, while subsequently making a final case for the Heisman Trophy.
Trask leads the nation in passing yards with 3,717 and passing touchdowns with 40, staggering statistics for 10 conference games. Jones has similar passing numbers while leading in passing efficiency, and the Crimson Tide also have a running back with 22 touchdowns in senior Najee Harris.
With Alabama ahead of the pack, Jones is the betting favorite heading into the game to win the Heisman, although Trask is right behind him — a victory for either team could flip the script, or lead to a race too close to call.
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It’s not just the viewing public and media weighing up the two quarterbacks — even the head coaches are doing it.
“He's a guy that has had a great year,” Mullen said of Jones. “Very similar to Kyle. Does a great job managing their offense, distributing the ball to all the different play-makers, getting them in the right plays at the right time, taking what the defense gives him. He's had a great season.”
Saban: Trask, Jones had 'tough road'
Alabama coach Nick Saban went a step further and compared their paths to current success.
“Well, I know he's had a tough road coming up, just like kind of Mac has. But I have a lot of respect for guys that stick with it, persevere, come through a lot of adversity, go through growing pains,” Saban said of Trask. “When they get an opportunity, they take advantage of it, do it extremely well. Kyle certainly has done that. Has had as fine a season as any quarterback in the country. I can't say enough positive things about him. But I do have a lot of respect for guys that come up the hard way that way. It's good to see that there are guys that play the game that still do that. It's good to see them have success after they go through those ups and downs and adversities.”
Some in Tuscaloosa took Mullen’s comments about Jones to be an understatement of the quarterback’s ability, citing Mullen’s comment that Jones “manages their offense” as evidence of disrespect. But Saban used similar terminology when referring to Trask’s ability, which begs the question: isn’t successfully managing the offensive game one of the finest compliments a quarterback could receive?
Hence why it would be one of the first aspects pointed out by each of the SEC’s longest-tenured head coaches — while each team has weapons on offense and varying levels of defensive success, Saturday’s game may be decided by which quarterback most effectively manages the offensive game plan.
“Well, I think he does a really good job of getting the ball in the right place relative to reading the defense and knowing the offense like he does,” Saban said of Trask. “He's very accurate with the ball. I think those two things are probably the most important things. Makes a lot of good decisions that gets the ball in the hands of the play-makers. They certainly made their share of explosive plays this year, that's for sure.”
Trask also pointed out Jones’ efficiency when it comes to running the Crimson Tide’s offense, adding each quarterback’s season has led to this moment.
And he sees the comparisons between the two as well.
Saturday’s showdown will finally separate the two signal-callers from each other.
“I know he’s a very talented player for them, he gets the job done pretty well. It's going to be fun to get to play against another top QB, not only in this conference but in the country,” Trask said of Jones. “I know he's a great quarterback on and off the field. We've had to overcome some obstacles throughout our careers. We both came to big-time football schools. Now we're having the opportunity to play against each other, which is really cool.
“We both earned the right to be here with our play this season.”
What: SEC Championship Game
Who: No. 1 Alabama (10-0) vs. No. 7 Florida (8-2)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850