For the vast majority of the season, the Heisman Trophy seemed destined to leave New York and fly back to Tuscaloosa with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The Crimson Tide were dominating opponents and, for once, it was their offense, not defense, leading the way thanks to some insane numbers being put up by Tagovailoa (typically only playing two or three quarters).
However, steady production all season from Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and the Sooners rise to the Playoff tightened the race over the final weeks as Tagovailoa’s production was a bit more limited. Still, entering conference championship week, all signs pointed to a Tua win.
Murray had a great game in the Big 12 title game — as did other finalist Dwayne Haskins in the Big Ten game — while the SEC Championship game, Tagovailoa struggled against Georgia. His first bad outing of the season came in the Tide’s biggest game, and right as it appeared he was turning things around in the second half, he was forced to leave the game with a sprained ankle. In came Jalen Hurts, and in a poetic moment, he led the Tide to a comeback win over the Dawgs, just like Tua had done in the title game a year earlier.
That moment, proving Alabama could indeed succeed without Tagovailoa, coupled with Murray’s astronomic numbers — 70.9 completion percentage, 4,053 passing yards, 892 rushing yards, 51 total touchdowns and seven interceptions — was enough to shift the Heisman vote in favor of a Sooners quarterback for the second straight season. Murray edged out Tagovailoa by a slim margin, but earned himself a Heisman in his final year of college football (and maybe football in general if he chooses to play baseball as he’s said previously).
Murray received 517 first place votes, while Tagovailoa got 299, winning the race by nearly 300 points. It’s the first time since the 1940s that two different players from the same school have won in back-to-back years.
Murray and Tagovailoa will get a chance to meet in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29, in a rare matchup of the two Heisman frontrunners after the ceremony, with the winner moving on to the College Football Playoff title game. Tagovailoa is expected back from his ankle injury by then, and will have plenty of extra motivation to put on a show against a shaky Oklahoma defense.