Heisman Watch: Kyler Murray or Tua Tagovailoa — Who Should Win?

Athlon editors and contributors cast their vote for which quarterback they think should win the stiff-armed trophy

Whoever is announced as the recipient of this year's Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, this much is clear — it will be a quarterback. Unlike previous years, there is plenty of intrigue leading up to this year's ceremony (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN) with Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa as the finalists.

 

All three quarterbacks have put together impressive resumes to this point — both from a numbers standpoint and in regards to team accomplishments. Each has helped lead their team to a conference championship and either a spot in the College Football Playoff or a New Year's Six bowl. There's no argument that all three are worthy Heisman finalists.

 

But only one can win, so the question becomes if you had a Heisman Trophy vote who would you choose? While not official, Athlon Sports polled a group of editors and AthlonSports.com college football contributors to find out which quarterback would get their first-place vote.

 

Who Should Win the 2018 Heisman Trophy?

 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

This is a tough selection. All three players — Haskins, Tagovailoa and Murray — are certainly worthy of winning the award on Saturday night. While Haskins (deservedly so) is making the trip to New York, the winner on Saturday night will be Tagovailoa or Murray. In this two-man battle, my vote would go to Tua Tagovailoa. The sophomore was the best (and most outstanding) player I watched during the 2018 season. Tagovailoa’s development has transformed Alabama’s offense into one of the nation’s best and one of the most dynamic groups in college football. The Crimson Tide averaged 6.59 yards a play last fall but improved to 7.92 this season. Additionally, Alabama’s plays of 40-plus yards went from 18 in 2017 to 28 this year, and the offense is averaging 47.9 points a game (up from 37.1). Tagovailoa has been injured for a chunk of the season and it was evident against Georgia he was less than 100 percent. While Murray had to carry a team with a struggling defense to the CFB Playoff, I’d still give a slight edge to Tagovailoa.

 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

This is a really tough decision — maybe the most difficult Heisman choice in years. To me, it's a two-man race between Tua Tagaovailoa and Kyler Murray. Dwayne Haskins is great, but would be third on my ballot. I've been a Tua guy all season (and not just because we picked him to win the Heisman in our magazine in the spring). He is one of the most impressive offensive players I've seen in a long time. In the past few weeks, however, I've been mesmerized by Murray's play. He is an elite passer who also happens to be a really, really good running QB as well. He is the complete package. I know it's not an MVP award, but that was the tie-breaker to me. Tua is great, but Kyler Murray is more valuable to his team. That might not be fair to Tua, but that is why my vote would go to Oklahoma's quarterback.

 

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)

Each quarterback is worthy of being a finalist as some of the numbers they have already put up are hard to fathom. And each is extremely important to the success of his team. However, I just can't ignore the body of work that Kyler Murray has put together for Oklahoma, especially how his statistics compare to another Sooner who is familiar with the Heisman fraternity. As impressive as Tua Tagovailoa has been for Alabama, the Crimson Tide won the SEC Championship Game against Georgia without him for the most part. The Sooners most definitely would not have won the Big 12 title or be in the College Football Playoff if Murray was not leading this offense. Indispensable to his team with eye-popping numbers? My vote would be for Murray.

 

Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)

As good as the other two have been all season long, Kyler Murray has constantly been under pressure to produce on offense because his team needed him to. Murray delivers when Oklahoma needs it the most, which is why the Sooners are where they are this postseason. If there’s any QB I want driving my offense, it’s Murray.

 

Kyle Kensing (@kensing45)

Tua Tagovailoa is the choice for me. Rather than use this space to list off the many superlatives that make Tagovailoa worthy, I'd like to take this opportunity to lament that Memphis running back Darrell Henderson is not a finalist. The Heisman has increasingly become yet another stage for the football factories to monopolize, especially compared to the 1980s and '90s, when players like Marshall Faulk, Gordie Lockbaum, Andre Ware and Ty Detmer were finalists and winners. Henderson's the third Group of 5 player in the last four seasons (along with Keenan Reynolds in 2015 and Rashaad Penny a season ago) who deserved to be a finalist, but was snubbed.

 

Brandon Cavanaugh (@eightlaces)

Dwayne Haskins wasn’t a part of the debate for me. He has time to mature and no doubt will, but Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray are superior athletes as of today. The former truly blossomed in 2018 putting up gaudy numbers in the passing game with high accuracy. However, a scenario in which Alabama still reaches Atlanta and wins the SEC without him is believable. By contrast, not only was Murray more accurate and have even bigger numbers — admittedly helped by the offense he played in — but Oklahoma wouldn’t have bailed out their defense nearly as often leaving their playoff berth for someone else. Remove Tagovailoa and Alabama can survive. Remove Murray and Oklahoma crumbles.

 

Josh Webb (@FightOnTwist)

Lots of attention on Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray this year, and it makes sense, but Dwayne Haskins has quietly had a tremendous year. Haskins has been the driving force for Ohio State this year. Without him, it's hard to see Ohio State winning the Big Ten. He opened up the Buckeye offense and is probably the most efficient passer they've had. His performances in the Big Game and Big Ten Championship Game showed he was capable of taking a game over and running roughshod over his opponents.

 

J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott)

I vote Kyler Murray. He's the only player on the list who I honestly believe single-handedly made his team a contender. The other two could have gone down for the year and their teams would be right where they are now. Not the case for Oklahoma and Murray.

 

Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)

In the biggest games, Kyler Murray was the best player on the field, including the 364-yard, four total touchdown performance against West Virginia and his 379-yard, three-touchdown Big 12 Championship Game win against Texas. Plus, while Tua Tagovailoa is certainly a mobile quarterback, Murray is a much more electric ball carrier.

 

Finally, I realize that the Heisman is a most outstanding player award, not the most valuable player award. But there's a good chance that Alabama would still be in the College Football Playoff without their quarterback. Without Murray, it's hard to imagine Oklahoma being in this position. While Tagovailoa is certainly a special player, my vote would go to Murray.

 

Elton Hayes (@EHDC12)

My vote would go to Oklahoma's Kyler Murray. Not only has he thrown for 4,053 yards but he’s also run for 892 yards while accounting for a total of 51 touchdowns. Big 12 or not, those are impressive numbers that deserve recognition. His 71 percent completion rate and 11.92 yards per completion are highest among the three Heisman finalists, as is his 205.7 QB rating.

 

Aaron Tallent (@AaronTallent)

Kyler Murray has nearly 5,000 all-purpose yards and has not had one bad game all season. Even in Oklahoma's lone 48-45 loss to Texas, he completed 73 percent of his passes and accounted for five touchdowns, while only throwing one interception.

 

Gabe Salgado (@GabeSalgado82)

Despite being undersized (5-10, 195) for the quarterback position in today’s game, Kyler Murray let his play do the talking in 2018. He made Oklahoma’s transition from Baker Mayfield a seamless one as he ran the Big 12 champion Sooners' offense with the same amount of efficiency, and even more athleticism. He has already thrown for 4,053 yards, while running for another 892, and accounting for 51 total touchdowns. He’s had such an outstanding season that NFL scouts really wish he hadn't already signed his contract after being taken ninth overall in this year's MLB draft by the Oakland A's and instead stuck with football.

 

Murray nine 300-yard passing games, was the team's leading rusher in three of the first six games and paced the Big 12 in numerous categories. Murray is the conductor of the nation's most productive (No. 1 in total and scoring offense) offense for a team that needed every point it could muster considering the Sooners gave up 47.3 per game in November.

 

Juan Jose Rodriguez (@JuanJoseRG02)

Simply put, Kyler Murray has been one of the most electrifying quarterbacks — nay, players — in college football this year. He stands atop the national leaderboards in a number of statistical categories, including passing yards per attempt (11.9), passing efficiency (205.9), total yards (4945) and total touchdowns (51 - tied with Dwayne Haskins). He also significantly helped his cause in the Big 12 Championship Game, avenging the Sooners' only loss during the regular season to clinch the conference title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. In a year when so few Heisman voters had cast their votes before Championship Weekend, I have to imagine voters were just as impressed as I was with Murray's performance on Saturday to make him the front-runner above Tua Tagovailoa.

 

Nicholas Ian Allen (@NicholasIAllen)

Dwayne Haskins has been terrific this year, but this is a two-player race between Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray. And when comparing the two, the question I keep asking myself is: where would these teams be right now without its quarterback? Tua is amazing, but this Alabama squad has played like an all-timer, and given its all-around strength, it’s difficult to imagine the Crimson Tide being anything but 13-0 SEC champions if they had to rely on Jalen Hurts instead. But Oklahoma is a very different story; it’s difficult to imagine the Sooners winning the Big 12 and making the College Football Playoff without Murray. Furthermore, Murray is a great passer and he’s also one of the fastest players in college football, which makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the field. He’s racked up huge numbers, and he is the most valuable player on a national championship-contending team. If I had a vote, Murray would get it, with Tagovailoa No. 2 and Haskins third.

 

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