Skip to comments.Heisman Trophy Trending Toward Oklahoma's Kyler Murray In Final Days
Posted on 12/06/2018 2:01:04 PM PST by blam
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will need to pull a slight upset to win the Heisman Trophy when voting gets announced Saturday. (AP Photo)
At times, the story of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's college career has approached folklore status.
If he played before the digital era, tales of his feats would present an American Samoan rival to Paul Bunyan, replete with a ukulele instead of an axe.
Alabama has signed five-star quarterbacks before. But Trent Dilfer compared high-school Tagovailoa favorably to college sophomore Aaron Rodgers.
As a true freshman, Tagovailoa did not play a snap of football with the outcome undetermined until leading a come-from-behind win in the second half and overtime of the national championship.
He started his first college game Sept. 1 against Louisville. Four weeks later, he became the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Weeks ago, oddsmakers gave him 1/10 odds to win the award.
He transformed the defending national champions into a pass-first offense that dominated to the extent that he's thrown just three fourth-quarter passes. Alabama is 13-0 entering the College Football Playoff.
Tagovailoa spawned dozens of additional comparisons to players like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. He's become "Tua" in national parlance, partially because some haven't learned to pronounce his last name. But single-name recognition as an athlete is a pantheon reserved for the special few.
Perhaps more remarkable than his play: his talent convinced Nick Saban to change his offensive approach 23 seasons into what is probably the best head coaching career in college football history.
However, there's a strong chance that Tagovailoa will not become the first Alabama quarterback ever to win the Heisman Trophy.
The worst game of his college career came against Georgia on Saturday. He completed just 40 percent of his passes and doubled his season interception total, exiting with Alabama trailing by a touchdown.
Yes, he incurred more injuries, including a high ankle sprain. Yes, Georgia's pass defense has been among the best in the country all year. But Heisman voters are human, not logic machines, and they place an inordinate emphasis on final impressions.
Oklahoma's Kyler Murray, expected to join the Oakland Athletics organization soon, accounted for 418 total yards and three touchdowns in the Big 12 championship game while avenging an earlier loss to Texas.
As of Thursday, Murray has leapfrogged Tagovailoa to become a small but clear favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Murray's odds hovered just below -200 at most sportsbooks. His implied odds of winning are better than 65 percent.
The Heisman Trophy is in some ways a bizarre award. It remains the most prestigious individual honor a college athlete can achieve. Regional voting, media politics and campaigning tend to decide the winner.
It is more of a beauty pageant for quarterbacks than it is a recognition of the best college football player.
Viewed as such, Murray's 4,053 passing yards, 892 rushing yards and 51 total touchdowns could be too much for Tagovailoa to overcome.
Alabama fans correctly argue that much of Murray's stats came against routinely disrespected Big 12 defenses.
Oklahoma fans counter that Murray dragged a rotten carcass of a defense to the College Football Playoff, landing haymaker after haymaker in the fourth quarter with everything at stake, while the Alabama defense ensured that Tagovailoa rarely played late in games.
We learned Saturday that about 10 percent of voters submitted their ballots before the conference championship games. Tagovailoa probably got the majority of first-place votes among those ballots, perhaps by a significant margin.
It's hard to find a historical comparison with these late-shifting odds. I was able to find Heisman Trophy odds in the final days before the announcement every year since 2008, and in every case, the final-week favorite won the award.
The closest vote in Heisman Trophy history took place in one of those years (2009), as Alabama running back Mark Ingram, a -250 favorite, edged out Stanford running back Toby Gerhart. Ingram got 1,304 voting points compared to 1,276 for Gerhart.
At somewhere around -190, coming from behind after 10 percent of the voters already turned in their ballots, oddsmakers would have you believe that Murray's lead, if in fact he has one, is smaller than Ingram's was in 2009.
Murray did edge past Tagovailoa in ESPN's Heisman Watch, which consists of just 10 writers. Murray also received 28 of 34 first-place votes in a straw poll conducted this week by The Athletic.
A total of 870 media members and 58 former winners vote on the award, so these polls are relatively small sample sizes compared to the total number of beauty pageant judges.
Anecdotally, media coverage this week has slanted heavily toward Murray, though Tagovailoa did own the headlines for a majority of the season.
It's hard to view and handicap the Heisman Trophy as a logical award, as each voter applies subjective criteria and regional bias to determine who is "most deserving."
I personally think Murray played a better overall season of offensive football, even accounting for opponent adjustments. And I believe Murray has been more valuable and important to his team, which could not come from behind to beat Georgia without him as Alabama did.
I'm also beyond fascinated that we've gotten an answer to the question posed for years: How good would Alabama be if Nick Saban had one of the nation's best quarterbacks?
I believe that fascination is Tagovailoa's best shot to win. Regardless of your rooting interests, or how tired some SEC fans are of seeing Crimson, it's been hard to turn away from the TV since Saban replaced Jalen Hurts with Tagovailoa to start the third quarter on Jan. 8.
My educated guess is that Murray will win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, by a close but not record-setting margin. Then Oklahoma and Alabama will play on the field, and the Tide will prove to be the better team.
And, whenever 2019 Heisman Trophy odds are released, Tagovailoa will assume favorite status once again.
Article: How dreamy is Tua Tagovailoa? Let me count the ways...
The best Player is Tua. The best QB is Haskins
Haskins is the best NFL QB prospect...
the best thrower is Murray...
the best QB is Tagovailoa
I never saw Tua except for the first half of the SEC Championship game with Georgia.
Tua looked average at best...and waaaay overhyped.
Haskins is impressive
Well he can kiss his NFL career goodbye if recent history is any guide.
That’s a great basis to make one’s decision on...
Are you saying I have lying eyes?
Tua demonstrated a lack of any exceptional athletic skills in addition to playing a piss-poor game.
Maybe off topic, but this discussion reminds me of discussions about baseball most valuable player criteria. There are ongoing debstes in baseball regarding whether the award should go to the best player, who had the best stats etc., Vs. a player who helped his team win a regular season playoff berth or division title.
You saw his, by far, worst game ever.
P.S. I’m a Gator and despise Alabama.
Tua will be ok no matter what. Hes a well grounded young man.
I wouldnt want to be Kyler Murray in a few weeks.
Of course, he won't be the first Heisman Trophy winner to play pro baseball; he won't even the best former Heisman Trophy winner to play baseball.
Georgia fans can take some comfort knowing we may have knocked Tua right out of the race.
This year's Heisman vote may bring back memories of 1982, when we saw probably the best group of Heisman finalists in my lifetime. Herschel Walker won the trophy, beating out John Elway and Eric Dickerson.
Why would that be comforting?
“I never saw Tua except for the first half of the SEC Championship game with Georgia.
Tua looked average at best...and waaaay overhyped.”
Nope, he is a combination of Kenny “the snake” Stabler and Michael Vick. Kid has some really nice skills. Just had a bad game.
That would be Bo Jackson.
Tua had a bum leg the last few weeks of the season.
Here goes Billy Sims yelling “BOOMER!” again.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.