With the college football regular season now in the books, fans now anxiously await to see who will be crowned as this year’s brightest star.
The 2018 Heisman Memorial Trophy presentation is scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. EST (3 p.m. HST) in New York. The ceremony will be broadcast on ESPN.
In the running are three finalists, all quarterbacks — Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.
Though there are three finalists, I believe this is a two-headed race between Tagovailoa and Murray — not because of merit as Haskins has an impressive stat sheet himself, but because of an ugly loss to Purdue earlier in the year and OSU ending the season on the outside of the College Football Playoff top-four.
So, let’s talk about Tagovailoa and Murray here.
2018 has been the Tua show.
Since his introduction to the college football world coming off the bench in last year’s national championship game, Tagovailoa has lived up to lofty expectations after getting the starting job outright.
The Saint Louis School alumnus this year totaled 3,353 yards passing for 37 touchdowns and just four interceptions. His completion percentage is 67.7.
But then came the SEC Championship last weekend. Against then No. 4 Georgia, Tagovailoa was just 10-25 for 164 yards, one TD and two interceptions before going down to injury.
Alabama turned to the man who Tagovailoa beat out for the starting job, Jalen Hurts. In the final quarter, Hurts accounted for two TDs to clinch Alabama the SEC title.
Since the beginning, with one great performance after another, it was assumed by many pundits that Tagovailoa was a lock for the Heisman.
But with being taken out of the fourth quarter in several games because of winning by wide margins and then a not-so-stellar performance on the biggest stage, Tagovailoa is left without a season-defining moment that would sway the voters.
Is it, though, still enough for Tagovailoa to win the Heisman?
Murray, too, has lived up to expectations which were sky-high having to follow former Oklahoma QB and Heisman-winner Baker Mayfield.
Fuel was added to the fire when news circulated before the season started that Murray opted to play football for Oklahoma after he was drafted ninth overall by the Oakland A’s in the 2018 MLB Draft as an outfielder.
In the year, Murray has totaled 4,053 yards passing, 40 TDs and seven interceptions on a 70.9 completion percentage.
After losing to Red River rival Texas earlier in the season, Oklahoma got its revenge in the Big 12 Championship game against the Longhorns.
In the conference title game, Murray was 25-34 for 379 yards and three TDs to lead the Sooners to the Big 12 championship and clinch the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff.
With his latest performance, has Murray leaped over Tagovailoa as the Heisman favorite?
All eyes will be on the finalists in New York this weekend, and I’m sure a lot of football fans in the state will be pulling for their local boy.
If Tagovailoa wins, he will be the second Hawaii-born player to win the award. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won it in 2014.
He would also be the first quarterback in Alabama’s history to win the award if his name is called on Saturday.
For what it’s worth, OddsShark has Murray now the favorite to win the Heisman. The odds as of Tuesday are Murray at -190, Tagovailoa at +150 and Haskins is at +6,000.
Best of luck to the finalists this weekend.
Statistics from ESPN.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.