A typical fall Sunday for top college football coaches ties them firmly to video review from the previous day's game, and tackling the task of cleaning up the team's mistakes as quickly as possible before turning attention to the next opponent. But with Oklahoma's bowl opponent temporarily unclear following this Saturday's Big 12 Championship Game against Iowa State, forgive Sooners coach Lincoln Riley if his mind wanders to the Arizona Cardinals' home game against the Philadelphia Eagles (4:05 p.m. ET on FOX).
"It's going to be exciting to watch those two go at it," Riley said via Zoom this week. "I can't lose. That's a good feeling (to have). It will definitely be mixed emotions watching them go at it, but really, really cool to see them get that chance."
Both Murray and Hurts led the Sooners to Big 12 titles and appearances in the College Football Playoffs, as did Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield a year before them, sustaining a level of success that makes Riley a perpetually hot name for NFL head-coaching vacancies. Most recently, the Dallas Cowboys gauged Riley's interest before hiring Mike McCarthy 11 months ago. Sunday, Riley will get to see two of his Oklahoma quarterbacks compete head-to-head for just the second time. Last season, the Cardinals hosted the Browns, and Murray's 275 total yards (219 passing, 56 rushing) helped beat the Mayfield-led Browns 38-24.
Murray, drafted No. 1 overall by Arizona in 2019, has flourished in his second year. He's on pace to threaten 4,000 passing yards for the regular season and his 712 rushing yards are second only to Lamar Jackson among quarterbacks. He'll be making his 30th career start against Philadelphia, while Hurts will be making only his second.
The Eagles turned to Hurts, a rookie second-round draft choice, to relieve an ineffective Carson Wentz last week against the New Orleans Saints. He provided enough of a spark to lead a 24-21 win, joining Lamar Jackson as the only quarterbacks since 1950 to rush for 100-plus yards in a starting debut. He lost a fourth-quarter fumble that led to a late Saints touchdown, but in leading Philadelphia to just its fourth win of the season, he did more than enough to earn another start in Sunday's clash against Arizona. Riley knows both Hurts and Murray to carry a certain poise that helped both become rookie NFL starters.
"They're both confident guys in who they are, and able to go into any situation and lead, and play well, play at a high level. They both have that," Riley said. "They're two very skilled football players, and I think it helps that they've been in a program like this with the amount of eyes on it. They can (handle) the expectations of playing great competition from playing in the biggest and best games in college football, which is kind of the norm here. I think the experience of not only playing quarterback at an elite Division I university and football program, but more than that, playing quarterback at Oklahoma is a little different."