Heisman Finalists 2018: Predictions for Candidates' Order of Finish in the Race

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2018

Kyler Murray has exceptional numbers as he contends for the 2018 Heisman Trophy.
Kyler Murray has exceptional numbers as he contends for the 2018 Heisman Trophy.Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

Three brilliant quarterbacks are in New York City as Heisman Trophy finalists.

Dwayne Haskins led the Ohio State attack this season and did his best work in the final two games of the year as he threw 11 TD passes in victories over the Michigan and Northwestern.

Tua Tagovailoa was the favorite throughout the majority of the college football season with his tremendous arm strength, accuracy and touch as he led the Alabama Crimson Tide to a 13-0 season. He struggled after getting hurt in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, but the rest of his season was exceptional.

Kyler Murray could give Oklahoma its second straight Heisman winner after Baker Mayfield came away with the honor last year. Murray has been getting better each game, and he has the most outstanding statistics of the three candidates.

Murray is also the betting favorite to win the award with odds of -190, per OddsShark. Tagovailoa is the second choice at +150 and Haskins is the outsider at +6000. A bet on Murray would require a risk of $190 to earn a profit of $100.

In addition to the top three, quarterbacks Will Grier of West Virginia and Gardner Minshew of Washington State could finish in the top five. If that happens, the top five finishers would be quarterbacks for the second time in the history of the award. The top six vote-getters were quarterbacks in 2001, and Eric Crouch of Nebraska won the award that year.

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

Haskins has been instrumental in Ohio State's 12-1 record this year. The Buckeyes defense has struggled quite a bit this season, and that unit was shaky in a midseason loss to Purdue, and it also had problems in wins over Nebraska and Maryland. 

That unit also got hit pretty hard in the season-defining 62-39 win over Michigan. The Buckeyes were able to survive these games because Haskins has been so effective.

Haskins has completed 348 of 496 passes and has thrown for 4,580 yards with an explosive 47-8 TD-interception ratio. Haskins threw six scoring passes against the Wolverines, and he followed up by throwing five more TD passes in the Big Ten title game against Northwestern.

Haskins rarely ran with the ball this year, and his season total includes 122 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He did run with some effectiveness against Maryland, and he also can move around in the pocket to get away from the rush.

     

Kyler Murray, Oklahoma

Murray inherited the QB1 position at Oklahoma after Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy a year ago and was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft.

While Murray has exceptional athletic skill, the expectations for his performance were nowhere near the levels he has reached this season. Murray has completed 241 of 340 passes for 4,053 yards with 40 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Murray has a 205.7 passer rating and has a mark of 11.92 yards per pass attempt.

In addition to those passing numbers, Murray is the best of the three finalists when it comes to running with the ball. He has 892 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, and he has an excellent sense of when to take off and when to stay behind the line and wait for one of his receivers to get open. 

Murray has been a dynamic star this season, but his College Football Playoff semifinal performance against Alabama is likely to be his last football game. He was a first-round draft choice of the Oakland A's in baseball, and he signed a $4.66 million contract.

He has faced several questions this week about his ability to play two sports. ‘"My future's already kind of been decided as of right now," Murray said, per Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press (h/t Boston Globe). "I would love to do be able to do both if that was possible. I don't know how possible that is."

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Tagovailoa was inserted into the lineup during last year's national championship game against Georgia, and he threw the championship-clinching TD pass in overtime.

Tagovailoa has had a sensational season, and he has shown off arm strength, accuracy and touch. He has helped make Alabama a powerful team all season, as they won every game prior to last week's SEC Conference Championship victory over Georgia by 22 points or more.

Tagovailoa has had tremendous statistical success, completing 199 of 294 passes for 3,353 yards with 37 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has a 202.3 passer rating and he is averaging 11.41 yards per pass.

Tagovailoa moves well in the pocket, but he does not run as well or as frequently as Murray. He has 190 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Tagovailoa injured his ankle in last week's win over Georgia, and Nick Saban pulled him in the second half because the injury was clearly impacting his effectiveness.

He had a surgical procedure this week, but Saban said he should be able to return to action when the team starts its most significant preparations for the national semifinal game against the Sooners.

"I think Tua is right on schedule," Saban said, per Terrin Waack of the Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News. "The procedure they did usually takes two weeks for a guy to be able to have any explosive movement, and then they go from there. So we'll see how he progresses from there. But we're pleased with the progress he's made to this point."

     

Prediction

Tagovailoa was the favorite to win the Heisman throughout the majority of the season, but Murray appears to have caught and passed him from a statistical perspective.

The key question is whether Murray has made up enough ground on his rival to earn the iconic trophy.

The belief here is that Murray will give Oklahoma back-to-back Heisman winners, and Tagovailoa will be a close second. Haskins will finish third, but he will be well behind the top two.

     

Heisman finish

1. Kyle Murray, Oklahoma

2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

3. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

4. Gardner Minshew, Washington State

5. Will Grier, West Virginia

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