NCAAF News

Tagovailoa and Hurts Continue to Lead Heisman Chase in College Football

Tua and Hurts are the Front Runners in This Year’s Heisman Trophy Battle

In some ways, it is completely unsurprising the two quarterbacks who were once teammates are now the top two competitors for college football’s biggest individual award. 

Both Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts have lived up to the high expectations and hype that came with the pressure of leading Alabama and Oklahoma, respectively, back to the College Football Playoff. As reigning champion Clemson – while still unbeaten – has not looked like the offensive juggernaut that vaulted quarterback Trevor Lawrence and tailback Travis Etienne into national prominence, Tagovailoa and Hurts have more than delivered the gaudy statistics voters come to expect when filling out their ballots. 

There are others who have begun to round out the edges of the finalists who will make the trip to the Downtown Athletic Club in New York for the award presentation, and there could still be a darkhorse candidate ready to pip both quarterbacks. All odds are courtesy FanDuel Sports Book. 

 The Favorites for the Heisman Trophy

Hurts (+430) has not made a misstep since arriving on the Oklahoma campus from Tuscaloosa, proving himself worthy of helping the Sooners become the first program in college football history to produce three consecutive Heisman Trophy winners after Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018). 

 Hurts has thrown for 1,523 yards and 14 touchdowns while adding another 499 rushing yards and seven scores. He is averaging 8.8 yards per carry and putting up comparable numbers to both Mayfield and Murray as Oklahoma leads the country in total offense with 643.8 yards per game and is second in scoring at 53.4 points per game. 

 The Sooners quarterback will get his first high-profile game Saturday with Oklahoma’s annual Red River Shootout against Texas, which features a Heisman darkhorse of its own in quarterback Sam Ehlinger (+4,900). Ehlinger used last year’s contest in the Cotton Bowl as his national coming out party, throwing for 314 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Texas’ 48-45 win while Murray accounted for 396 total yards and five TDs. 

 Hurts’ individual numbers in this game may not matter as much as the win given Oklahoma will likely face Texas again in the Big 12 title game for the second straight year. 

 While Hurts found a comfortable landing spot in Oklahoma, Tagovailoa (+140) has emerged as the favorite by showing his breakout 2018 season was no fluke. The junior has completed an eye-popping 76.4 percent of his passes – good for fourth, just ahead of Hurts – while racking up 1,718 yards and an FBS-best 23 touchdown passes without an interception in 148 attempts.  

 Tagovailoa has thrown at least three scoring passes in all five games and is averaging 11.61 yards per attempt as wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Devonta Smith are two pro-caliber targets who have combined for 69 catches, 1,025 yards and 14 TDs. Alabama gets an interesting challenge this weekend at Texas A&M, and should the Tide roll through that, their next big game will be at home versus LSU on Nov. 9. 

The Upstarts in the Heisman Trophy Race 

Keeping with Alabama’s division rival in Baton Rouge, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (+500) has burst onto the national scene to potentially join Billy Cannon (1959) as the only Heisman winners in school history. Burrow, though, also has given Tigers fans hope they can finally take down former coach Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide empire. 

Burrow leads the nation in completion percentage (78.4) and is tied for second with 22 TD passes while throwing for 1,864 yards. The Ohio State transfer, though, will have a make-or-break four-game gauntlet starting with Saturday’s showdown versus Florida. Burrow will also face Auburn and the Crimson Tide in back-to-back games Oct. 26 and Nov. 9, and how he fares in those games will determine whether he gets an invite to the DAC.  

Burrow’s departure barely registered a blip at Ohio State, first because of eventual first-round pick Dwayne Haskins last year, and now due to Justin Fields (+850)First-year Buckeyes coach Ryan Day had no hesitation in handing the reins to the offense to Fields, and he has rewarded his coach’s faith by accounting for 26 touchdowns passing and rushing while racking up 1,581 yards in Ohio State’s 6-0 start.  

Fields has shown a dual-threat capability similar to Hurts and Tagovailoa, accounting for 26 total touchdowns and 1,581 total yards in powering Ohio State to a 6-0 start. Fields has helped the Buckeyes roll up 500 yards or more in all but one of their games and averaged 49.3 points. The road gets significantly tougher late in the season with current unbeatens Wisconsin and Penn State in addition to their annual grudge match versus Michigan. 

And OYeah, the Lone Running Back in the Heisman Race

Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (+950) continues to be the clear-cut favorite at the running back position and is tied for third in the nation with 745 yards through five games to go with 12 touchdowns. He has rushed for 100 yards in all five games, extending his streak to 10 dating back to last season. 

Taylor needs 84 yards this weekend versus Michigan State to become the third player in school history to reach 5,000 and 22nd in FBS history. As long as the Badgers stay unbeaten – a stern challenge considering they travel to Ohio State on Oct. 26 – Taylor will continue to stay in the national spotlight while piling up yards.