Heisman Trophy 2018: Ranking the Top 10 Candidates Ahead of Week 14
Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray are the clear front-runners for the 2018 Heisman Trophy. That's where every responsible discussion about the award begins.
But you already knew that, right? Tagovailoa has elevated Alabama's offense to an unparalleled level in program history, and Murray has diced every defense he's faced.
At this point, the bigger unknown is how the remainder of the rankings will turn out. Dwayne Haskins vaulted into the top-four conversation following Ohio State's dismantling of Michigan, and Washington State's loss to Washington dropped Gardner Minshew.
Conference championship week provides one final chance for Tagovailoa, Murray, Haskins and a few other players expected to appear on ballots to impress the voters.
10. Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis
Darrell Henderson ranks second nationally in yards from scrimmage, but he's poised to snatch that title in Week 14.
The junior running back has amassed 1,985 during the regular season and is only 64 yards behind Jonathan Taylor. Wisconsin, though, fell short of the Big Ten Championship Game. Memphis will face a familiar foe in UCF for the AAC title.
During the October matchup, Henderson posted a career-high 33 touches and collected 212 total yards in a 31-30 loss to the Knights. Win or lose, he should have another productive game.
Henderson—who leads the nation in explosive gains at every 10-yard increment from 20 to 60 yards—will receive a few Heisman votes.
9. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Trevor Lawrence will be a leading name on Heisman Trophy watch lists for 2019, and he should sneak in a top-10 finish before then.
Since replacing Kelly Bryant as the starting quarterback in Game 5, Lawrence has completed 66.5 percent of his passes and averaged 236 yards per contest. During this stretch, the true freshman has accounted for 14 touchdowns (one rushing) with only two interceptions.
Compared to top-tier Heisman candidates, Lawrence's stats are nowhere close to stunning. But he's a recognizable player who's played a significant role as Clemson vies for the ACC crown at 12-0.
That high-profile status combined with team success means Lawrence will find a third-place spot on a fair number of ballots.
8. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
After clipping Syracuse to end September, Clemson rattled off seven consecutive wins of 20-plus points. That was both a blessing and a curse for Travis Etienne's stat line.
The sophomore ranks 10th nationally with 1,307 rushing yards, and his 19 scores on the ground are tied for second. Among qualifying players, his 8.0-yard average is the seventh-best in the FBS.
Imagine what he'd have accomplished with 20 touches per game.
As with his teammate Trevor Lawrence, Etienne will receive a voting boost from Clemson's overall success. But his production is what it is. Given that he has 600 fewer scrimmage yards than Darrell Henderson and Jonathan Taylor, Etienne is a tier below the other running backs.
7. McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF
Last year, McKenzie Milton grabbed four first-place votes and finished eighth in Heisman Trophy voting. Prior to Week 13, he seemed headed for a higher finish.
But then it happened.
Milton suffered a horrific right leg injury that required immediate surgery. His season is over, so the AAC Championship Game won't be a resume-boosting opportunity.
Instead, the junior will present a final line of 2,663 yards at 9.2 per attempt (seventh in FBS) with 25 touchdowns to only six interceptions. He also scampered for 307 yards and nine scores.
Milton may end up getting passed by Lawrence and Etienne if the Clemson duo thrives in an ACC Championship Game win.
6. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Jonathan Taylor was a 100-yard machine during his true freshman campaign, which ended with a sixth-place Heisman finish, and he's already surpassed that production this year.
Entering bowl season, Taylor boasts an FBS-leading 1,989 yards with 15 touchdowns—also a career-high total. Beyond his FBS-best 2,049 scrimmage yards, Taylor ranks 19th at 7.1 yards per carry.
What drags down his candidacy is Wisconsin's uninspiring 7-5 record. Because of that, Taylor isn't a top-tier contender.
Still, a second straight top-10 finish would be impressive.
5. Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State
The Mustache had a good run.
Gardner Minshew arrived in the Apple Cup with top-three Heisman upside. He'd surpassed 300 passing yards in 11 straight games—with six 400-yarders mixed in—and racked up 36 touchdowns.
During a 28-15 loss to Washington, however, he trudged to 4.3 yards per throw. That was the lowest clip of his career in a game where he attempted more than four passes. Minshew also tossed two interceptions without a touchdown.
Nevertheless, his total production will demand votes. Minshew leads the FBS with 4,477 yards, and his 70.6 completion rate is third.
4. Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
That's the story of 2018 for both Will Grier and West Virginia, which dropped two straight games and lost a chance to secure a place in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Grier's individual numbers are impressive: He's amassed 3,864 yards (fourth in FBS) on 9.7 per attempt (third) with 37 touchdowns (T-second) and completed 67 percent of his passes. That's a relatively unique stat line for quarterbacks since 2000.
But the Mountaineers ended the regular season at 8-3, and the late-season slide will cause Grier to slip out of the top three.
3. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Ohio State has never enjoyed a passer of Dwayne Haskins' caliber. He has completely overtaken the school's record book.
The sophomore has already set program highs for single-season yards (4,081) and touchdowns (42), and those should only increase in the Big Ten Championship Game and bowl season. He's also evened the single-game touchdown mark (twice) and owns five of the six highest single-game yardage outputs.
In sum: very, very good.
Yes, Ohio State's offense encountered a rough stretch that Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa never allowed to inflict their respective teams. Haskins is leading the charge for third place.
That's still a fantastic accomplishment for a first-year starter.
2. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
Baker Mayfield set an Oklahoma record with 4,938 yards of total offense while winning the Heisman Trophy in 2017. Kyler Murray seems destined to snatch the crown from his predecessor.
Heading into the Big 12 Championship Game, the No. 9 overall pick of the 2018 MLB draft has obliterated defenses for 3,674 passing and 853 rushing yards. That total of 4,527 brings him within 411 of Mayfield, and Murray has two games remaining barring injury.
Plus, Murray could join Deshaun Watson as the only players in FBS history to throw for 4,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in a season.
All this from someone whose future is in a different sport.
1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Remove Tua Tagovailoa from the discussion, and no reasonable person would complain if Kyler Murray won the Heisman in 2018.
But reality has a different idea.
The hero of last season's national championship, Tagovailoa has taken command of an efficient offense and made it lethal. Alabama is on track to destroy program records in total offense and scoring thanks to the southpaw behind center.
At 3,189 yards, Tagovailoa is within 300 of breaking Alabama's single-season mark. He's already crushed the touchdown target of 30 with 36—and only has two interceptions in 269 attempts. The sophomore's 212.5 efficiency rating would be an FBS record.
Oh, and he's attempted three passes in the fourth quarter. Tagovailoa has shown off a special level of dominance.