As the College Football Playoff picture starts to come into focus, it's understandable that quarterbacks like Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Fields and Joe Burrow have become the faces of their team's playoff runs. But in four of the five College Football Playoffs, there has been at least one backup quarterback to supplant a starter prior to the playoffs or come on in relief during big playoff moments.
The names of those backups read now like an NFL Draft board: Jalen Hurts, Jake Fromm, Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence, Ian Book and Cardale Jones. Because history tells us that a backup quarterback will be in the field, it's worthwhile to examine who has the best backup quarterback on deck. Florida is already on quarterback No. 2 and thriving with Kyle Trask. Alabama has been forced into a quarterback stress test with an ankle injury to Tagovailoa. Who is next and can they weather the adversity? I have ranked the backup situations of the top 10 playoff contenders based on their ability to win a title without the starter.
1. Oklahoma, 7-1 (Rank: 10)
Backup QBs: Tanner Mordecai and Spencer Rattler
The Lincoln Riley magic has proven to be transferrable to whoever is under center in Norman. That's not to say the drop-off from Hurts to his backup isn't steep. But behind Hurts sits a former four-star in Mordecai and the flexibility for Riley to fire a second bullet if things don't click immediately with a true freshman in Rattler on standby as well. Rattler was the No. 1 overall quarterback in the class of 2019, a natural thrower, a smooth athlete and if you're looking for a potential breakout star from the backup ranks a la Tagovailoa or Lawrence, Rattler is your best bet.
2. Alabama, 8-0 (Rank: 2)
Backup QB: Mac Jones
Jones isn't Tua Tagovailoa, but he has once outplayed Jalen Hurts in a spring game and was ranked as the No. 11 pro-style quarterback in the nation coming out of high school. While the drop-off may be steep, Jones is still a competent option to fill in. Given Alabama's catch-and-run offense to a loaded wide receiver group, Jones' 67 career pass attempts offer up enough experience to give Alabama fans cautious optimism that they could find a win on the big stage.