Kyler Murray Puts Tua Tagovailoa on Notice That Heisman Race Is Far from Over

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystNovember 24, 2018

Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray
Oklahoma QB Kyler MurrayJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

Kyler Murray deserves to win the Heisman Trophy.

Sorry, Tua Tagovailoa fans, but it's true.

This has been the case for a while now, but Friday night's performance in the Oklahoma Sooners' season-saving 59-56 shootout win at West Virginia drove the point home even further.

On just 27 pass attempts, Murray threw for 364 yards and three touchdowns (with one interception). He also rushed for 114 yards and another score. He now has more than 4,500 combined passing and rushing yards and 48 touchdowns.

In case you're wondering, at this point in Baker Mayfield's Heisman campaign last season, he was at 4,031 combined yards and 42 total touchdowns. And unless Tagovailoa accounts for 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns in the Iron Bowl, Murray is going to finish well ahead of Alabama's star in both categories.

This is the point in the program where Alabama fans yell that it's not fair to compare their stats that way. Tagovailoa has spent much less time on the field than Murray has because the Crimson Tide are usually ahead by about four touchdowns at the start of the fourth quarter.

But guess what?

That proves why the Oklahoma QB deserves the Heisman.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa
Alabama QB Tua TagovailoaGerald Herbert/Associated Press

Tagovailoa has been great. There's no denying that. Throwing for 31 touchdowns against just two interceptions? That's doggone impressive.

However, if Tagovailoa screws up, it's no big deal.

Alabama has won every game this season by at least a 22-point margin, thanks in large part to a defense that ranks third in the nation in points allowed per game. In each game this season, you could take one of Tagovailoa's touchdowns, turn it into a pick-six instead, and the Crimson Tide still would've won by at least a touchdown.

The two times that he did throw an interception, the defense forced a three-and-out. No harm, no foul.

That's a nice little safety net for the sophomore. It's a lot easier to play with confidence with that type of cushion.

Murray, though? He has to be on point each and every week because Oklahoma has one of the worst defenses in the nation.

The Sooners have now given up at least 40 points in four consecutive weeks. Alabama could give up 44 points in the Iron Bowl, and it will have still allowed fewer points in this entire season than Oklahoma has just in November.

And yet, the Sooners went 4-0 in those games and remain on the cusp of the College Football Playoff because Murray is just as much of a cheat code as Lamar Jackson ever was.

His combination of elusiveness and speed is just plain ridiculous, but he's smart in the pocket, too. Murray knows when to use those legs, andeven more importanthe knows when not to.

See: The most critical moment in the win over West Virginia.

It was 4th-and-5 at the WVU 40 with Oklahoma up three and a little over two minutes remaining. A first down would effectively seal the game, but a failed conversion almost certainly would have led to another West Virginia touchdown, given how easily Will Grier was picking apart that Sooners secondary.

The Mountaineers only rushed three, instead opting to sit back in zone with multiple spies near the first-down marker in case Murray decided to take off. He didn't run, and he didn't panic. He stayed calm, directed traffic and made about six reads before finding CeeDee Lamb for the first down.

In a season full of them, that may have been his top Heisman moment. That poise under pressure kept Oklahoma's playoff hopes alive.

Kyler Murray
Kyler MurrayJohn Weast/Getty Images

If you want to argue that it's unfair to penalize Tagovailoa for being on a team that actually plays defense, it's a decent point.

However, in addition to destroying Tagovailoa in volume stats, Murray is dead even with him in efficiency. Murray has completed 70.6 percent of his passes at a rate of 12.0 yards per attempt. Tagovailoa's numbers are 69.2 and 12.1, respectively.

Even in passer efficiency rating, Tagovailoa only has a slight lead of 212.2 to 206.8, but that deserves its own paragraph because of the absurdity of that race. Prior to this season, only three quarterbacks had ever posted a PER of 190 or higher: Mayfield in 2017 (198.9), Mayfield in 2016 (196.4) and Russell Wilson in 2011 (191.8). Yet, here these guys are, duking it out in the 200s.

You can disregard the whole "Tagovailoa has the luxury of a much better defense" argument—as well as the fact that Alabama has five future pros at wide receiver while Murray's third-best target is Grant Calcaterraand still appreciate that the two QBs are on an equal plane as far as passing stats are concerned.

The kicker is Murray's legs.

Tagovailoa doesn't run much. He's no statue in the pocket, but his 185 yards and four touchdowns pale in comparison to Murray's marks of 853 and 11.

We can argue for hours about whether Oklahoma and its dreadful defense should go to the playoff, but it's becoming abundantly clear that Murray is the best one-man show in the country and that he deserves the stiff-armed trophy.

           

Kerry Miller covers college football and men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.

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