A Quarterback Will Win the Heisman. But Which One?

For the previous a number of years, the Heisman Trophy race has not been significantly shut in its ultimate week. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was thought of a sure winner final yr, a lot as Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was the yr earlier than.

This yr is totally different. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a sophomore and the front-runner for a lot of the season, has slipped to second place behind Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, a redshirt junior, if the Bovada betting odds are to be believed.

Two elements make this such a confounding guessing recreation.

One is that these two typically related gamers have some statistics which might be strikingly disparate. Oklahoma’s offense — the identical Air Raid variant that noticed Mayfield win final yr below Coach Lincoln Riley — had Murray throwing early and infrequently, whereas the Alabama offense nonetheless relied closely on the run, as is the custom for Nick Saban-coached groups. (The dominant Crimson Tide additionally sat Tagovailoa throughout many fourth quarters.)

In consequence, Murray threw for 700 extra yards than Tagovailoa, though he additionally did it on 46 extra makes an attempt. Certainly, Murray averaged simply Zero.5 yards extra per try than Tagovailoa, and their yards-per-attempt figures topped the Soccer Bowl Subdivision.

The opposite fly within the ointment is what occurred final weekend. Murray turned in one other spectacular recreation — 379 yards, three touchdowns — within the high-stakes Massive 12 championship recreation versus Texas. Tagovailoa, restricted by an damage on the primary drive of the Southeastern Convention title recreation in opposition to Georgia, threw two interceptions (the identical quantity he had thrown over the prior 12 video games) and left within the fourth quarter with Alabama trailing by 7 factors, solely to observe his backup, Jalen Hurts, lead the Tide to victory. Tagovailoa underwent ankle surgical procedure final Sunday and is anticipated again in a few weeks, in time for the school playoff video games.

So how will voters make sense of that late flip of occasions, which got here within the ultimate weekend of balloting? We are going to discover out Saturday night time.

One factor we do know is that the winner can be a quarterback — the 16th signal-caller to be honored within the final 19 seasons. That’s as a result of the third finalist, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, a sophomore, can be a quarterback (one whose season ought to stand out greater than it has in opposition to these two different skills). It’s the first time that every one the Heisman finalists are quarterbacks of coloration.

If Murray wins, he’ll possible be the primary Heisman winner to go on to play a distinct sport professionally since Florida State’s Charlie Ward received in 1993 after which entered the N.B.A. Murray was drafted by the Oakland Athletics and has stated his plan is to report back to spring coaching subsequent February.

Here’s a take a look at the three high candidates.

His case by the numbers: Murray led the F.B.S. in yards per try (11.9) and ESPN’s passer effectivity ranking. He was second in completion proportion (70.9 %) and in passing touchdowns (40), including 11 on the bottom. He had an excellent 65-yard run on the primary drive of Oklahoma’s penultimate recreation versus West Virginia. The Sooners went 12-1, once more, and received the Massive 12, once more, and can go to the playoff, once more.

Scouting report: May these “agains” damage Murray’s case? That is similar to what Mayfield did at Oklahoma a yr in the past. After all, Mayfield went on to be the No. 1 total draft choose and is now beginning within the N.F.L. However one may foresee some voters arguing that Murray merely thrived in a system designed to spice up quarterback statistics. Don’t imagine it, although. Once you cease for a second and take into account the place Oklahoma, with its 108th-ranked protection, would have been this yr with a merely good quarterback, Murray’s case as school soccer’s exemplary participant this season turns into a lot clearer.

His case by the numbers: Second in passer effectivity and yards per try. Third in touchdowns — he threw 37 landing passes in opposition to 4 interceptions, which is the form of factor Tom Brady does. Though his Alabama coaches possible lived in fixed concern that he would get injured, he nonetheless managed 5 touchdowns on the bottom. Different necessary numbers are 13 and Zero — as in, Alabama went 13-Zero.

Scouting report: Keep in mind final season’s nationwide title recreation and the 41-yard vertical move Tagovailoa hurled to finish it in Alabama’s favor? He has been doing that very same play all season, deep vertical routes to speedy receivers that blow video games open for the Tide. It has produced exceptionally thrilling offense at a program and for a coach not identified for it. Tagovailoa would grow to be the primary Alabama quarterback and the primary Nick Saban quarterback to win the Heisman. That speaks loads to his distinctiveness. And Hurts’s capability to defeat Georgia final Saturday ought not diminish Tagovailoa’s achievement, as Hurts is not any slouch, what with the 2 nationwide championship video games he led Alabama to in 2016 and 2017.

His case by the numbers: By far essentially the most touchdowns within the F.B.S., with 47 (subsequent is Murray, with 40), and that isn’t counting 4 extra on the bottom. Certainly one of simply six eligible quarterbacks with a completion fee above 70 %. Like Oklahoma, Ohio State went 12-1 and received its convention. Haskins’s signature recreation got here within the season’s most necessary, the 62-39 win over Michigan — in opposition to whose unbelievable protection Haskins threw for 396 yards, 6 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Scouting report: It’s shocking that Haskins will not be extra central to the Heisman dialog. Whereas quarterbacks within the offenses of departing Ohio State coach City Meyer usually thrive — see: Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, J.T. Barrett — none did so whereas working the ball as sometimes as Haskins did. So why did he by no means actually catch on within the Heisman race? Ohio State had a foul loss, at Purdue, although Haskins’s worst recreation got here later, versus Nebraska. Extra broadly, he arguably peaked too late within the season, throwing for 11 touchdowns in his ultimate two video games. With quarterbacks coach Ryan Day ascending to Ohio State’s high job and Haskins nonetheless having two extra years of collegiate eligibility, right here is one thing else that might be shocking: if Haskins will not be again in Manhattan one of many subsequent two Decembers.

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