Last year around this time, Jalen Hurts was still basking in the glory of his performance off the bench that helped rally Alabama to a comeback victory over Georgia in the 2018 SEC Championship.
That feeling was cut short, however, as the Crimson Tide were defeated in the National Championship 44-16, with Hurts seeing minimal game time as Nick Saban continued to go with Tua Tagovailoa as his quarterback.
After transferring to Oklahoma, catapuling back to stardom, and watching his former teammate go down at the worst possible time, Hurts now has a clear opportunity to cap off Nick Saban and Alabama's disastrous season by earning a CFP berth of his own alongside Lincoln Riley.
If Hurts can lead the No. 6 Sooners to a convincing win over No. 7 Baylor today in the Big 12 Championship, there might be a shot that Oklahoma jumps two spots up to clinch the last CFB playoff spot. A loss by No. 5 Utah last night makes their path even clearer, as long as LSU captures the SEC title, a game Bama won't be sniffing.
Not only are they going up against a stout Baylor defense, but they also need No. 2 LSU to demolish No. 4 Georgia badly enough to warrant the playoff selection committee to drop Georgia in favor of Oklahoma. If Georgia pulls out a victory, their berth is all but sealed.
If Jalen Hurts and Joe Burrow both have the all-star performances everyone knows they're capable of, we might just see that scenario play out.
Nonetheless, this must be quite bittersweet for Nick Saban and Alabama to be watching. While the breakup last offseason between Saban and Hurts seemed amicable, one can't help but wonder how Saban's feeling from his lowly No. 12 ranking, far from the throes of a playoff berth.
After Tua Tagovailoa's season-ending injury, Saban had to turn to Mac Jones as his quarterback. While Jones did a decent job filling in for Alabama, he's no Jalen Hurts, and he couldn't prevent an Alabama loss against Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
You can bet that at least a couple of Hurts' former Alabama teammates are pulling for him to help Oklahoma earn a playoff spot. After all, an Oklahoma playoff berth would most likely mean that a 'Bama SEC rival would be missing out, too. But watching someone who could've saved them yet again in 2019 waltz to victory elsewhere has to sting for Tuscaloosa's many rabid fans who feel firmly left out.