On Saturday 8th December the invited finalists for the 2018 Heisman Trophy will gather at the currently unfortunately named Playstation Theatre in New York. Andy Turner gives us the lowdown on the contenders…
This year the three finalists are all Quarterbacks. Nothing unusual in that per se rather some of the players heavily touted as contenders coming into this season haven’t made it.
Bryce Love RB, Stanford, was expected to be the centrepiece to Stanford’s March to the Pac 12 that never materialised.
Khalill Tate, QB, Arizona was touted as the next Lamar Jackson coming into the season, but under a new Head Coach Tate has seemed strangely subdued.
Other highly touted players who will not be going include Quarterbacks who will surely be on NFL Rosters when they leave college:
Will Grier, West Virginia
Jake Browning, Washington
Drew Lock, Missouri
So the three finalist are headed by
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Tua was the presumptive favourite from week one, highly touted through grabbing the spotlight by coming off the bench to lead Alabama in a comeback victory over Georgia in the 2017 National Championship game.
As the season played out he led the Crimson death star in its inexorable march through the collegiate galaxy. He threw for 37 TD’s and only 4 INTs as Bama went unbeaten, in fact through the early part of the season it wasn’t looking as if it would even be a competition simply a coronation.
However here’s the thing, he spent many 4th quarters sat on the bench as Alabama stomped out matched opponents, plus he suffered some niggling injuries and still Alabama won. In the final weekend of the regular season, the SEC Championship Game, a national championship rematch with Georgia, the Crimson Tide fell behind by up 14 points.
Pretty much the only time they had been challenged, Tua time you might think, except he limped off with what proved to be a high ankle strange and off the bench came last year’s starter Jalen Hurts to lead the Tide to an SEC title and No. 1 ranking going into the College Football Playoff. Lustre well and truly diminished.
QB, Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
Murray was Oklahoma’s rental solution, he has a $4 million signing bonus from baseballs Oakland Athletics, to replace graduated Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield. He had originally been highly touted as the next Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, but transferred after a lacklustre first season.
Replacing Baker Mayfield on the field and in the hearts and minds of the Sooner faithful was never going to be an easy task. Murray did both, impressively. My opinion was always that he was on a hiding to nothing and if he just put up impressive numbers he would seem like a system quarterback in Oklahoma’s high octane offence.
The thing was the Sooners defence was bad, almost historically so, yet despite a defence that saw it’s coordinator sacked midway through the season, the Oklahoma Sooners finished 12-1, the 1 a loss to arch-rival Texas which was avenged in the Big 12 championship game.
Murray put up scary numbers, his passer rating (the collegiate passer rating is different to the NFL) of 205.7 was a record, 7 points higher than the FBS record set the year before by Baker Mayfield. His 4945 yards of total offence beat the Oklahoma record set 1 year before by of course Baker Mayfield.
He became the first player in FBS history who averaged over 300 yds passing and 60 yds rushing per game.
What finally pushed him into being a live contender was the Big 12 championship game, he looks every bit the field general and led the Sooners back from trailing early to finally put away the Longhorns. I’ve seen him a few times and I have to say he has way exceeded any expectations I had of him, I don’t think he can lead Oklahoma past Alabama and I don’t think he should try the NFL, he is diminutive, but this year he may just have been the best player in college football.
QB, Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Often there is a contender with super outrageous stats, normally from a smaller college, who works their way in to the Heisman reckoning. Dwayne Haskins is this year’s example with one glaring difference, he plays for Ohio State. This year’s Ohio State have not been the usual balanced Alabama of the north, their defence has had some bad days which has seen them involved in Big 12 like shootouts.
Haskins has been a star for them, a less than dominant running game has seen Haskins put up passing stats in excess of either of the other two contenders.
Haskins passed for 4580 yds and threw for 47 TD’s, but while he had some amazing days I cannot see him lifting the Heisman trophy, either of the other two would be worthy winners, Haskins not so much.