Considering the Final Four field of quarterbacks, how do you feel about your freshman, Georgia people?
You should be pretty darn comfortable. Not exactly feet-up-on-the-coffee-table at ease. Nobody can afford to be that relaxed over this next month. And, besides, your wife gets really angry when you do that.
But at least you should be able to picture Jake Fromm in the crucible of New Years Day without scrambling to call your therapist.
Of all the concerns that may travel with the Bulldogs to their next game, Fromm just doesn’t seem to be among the most obvious.
And that is rather remarkable, because by all rights he should be. Especially given the field of quarterbacks still standing, all of whom are older or more experienced than Fromm. That’s just one of Fromm’s unquantifiable gifts: The ability at such a tender age to instill belief that no matter what problems the playoffs may present, he’ll figure it out.
More than any doubts about his ability to master the complexities of his position this year has been the question of Fromm’s ability to utter a complete sentence. That because of Kirby Smart’s maddening policy of denying interview access to freshmen, regardless of whether they occupy the most important position on the field and undertake a hundred responsibilities more difficult than publicly answering to his performance.
Fromm took care of all that Saturday, both settling the score with Auburn most efficiently and managing to do his first collegiate post-game interview without tripping over his tongue.
Facing Georgia next, of course, is the presumptive Heisman Trophy winner and occasional knucklehead, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.
Those who would insist upon ranking the quarterbacks still standing for a championship will give Mayfield a clear edge over Fromm. But Fromm has several weeks more to work on his slightly obscene gestures in order to catch up with the competition.
Statistically, Mayfield is the NCAA’s career efficiency leader. He has attempted roughly twice the number of passes this season as has Fromm, and produced roughly twice the yardage and number of touchdowns. And he plays in a conference that seems to encourage PlayStation kind of numbers (like the 598 yards Mayfield hung on Oklahoma State this season).
And yet for all that – and maybe it’s just over-valuing Fromm’s considerable edge in maturity and clear-headedness – I can’t say that Oklahoma is destined to win because Mayfield will be the one who rises to the moment when one throw might make a difference.
On the other side of the bracket lives Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, whose experience going to the championship game last season is not exactly a good thing. He reserved some of his most questionable performances for that stage, struggling with his passing accuracy (20 of 45 in two games) while still doing some good work with his legs. This season has been much quieter for him than was his freshman year.
Clemson’s Kelly Bryant is an interesting case, a player who has flourished amid the pressure of replacing Deshaun Watson. Bryant has been more than an adequate caretaker of the Tigers championship. And Saturday in the ACC Championship against Miami, all he did was complete his first 15 passes on his way to throwing for 252 yards and a touchdown.
There are reasons these four are the playoff teams, beyond just the whims of a selection committee. Quarterback play is high on that list. And Georgia has zero reason feel under-represented on that account.