The Heisman race this season has been clear cut between three top candidates, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, and Louisiana State University’s Joe Burrow. Additionally, candidates such as Ohio State’s quarterback Justin Fields and Wisconsin’s running back Johnathan Taylor.
In week eight’s matchup between Alabama and Texas, Tagovailoa, Alabama’s quarterback, exited the game with an injury after starting the game 11/12 with 155 yards. The only incompletion was an interception. Tagovailoa has been near perfect for the Crimson tide this season, completing almost 75% of his passes with 2166 yards, 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions on the season for the country’s first-place team. Head coach Nick Saban says there is not a definite timetable for the projected number one pick in this year’s NFL draft to return.
This week, Alabama faces 2-5 Arkansas which should be a layup for them, despite Tagovailoa’s absence. The following week is a bye week before Alabama will face off against No. 2 LSU and Burrow. Saban and the rest of the country will hope Tagovailoa can return for this clash, which will likely be the best game of this college football regular season. LSU’s offense has been the second-best in the country this year, averaging 50.1 points per game, behind Burrow, who only needed seven games to set the school’s single-season record for touchdown passes when he tossed his 29th in last Saturday’s win over Mississippi State. LSU will be busy this week when they take on ninth-ranked Auburn, who they are favored to beat; this would essentially eliminate Auburn from college football playoff contention.
The highly anticipated matchup between Alabama and LSU will certainly be a shootout to the very end, similar to the matchup we saw in 2016 when Oklahoma and Texas Tech clashed and then future NFL quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield combined for 1,279 passing yards and nine touchdowns. Mayfield was the Heisman winner the following year in 2017, and his successor, Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback Kyler Murray, won it last year, giving Oklahoma back-to-back Heisman winners. Oklahoma could potentially have a Heisman quarterback for three consecutive years as former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts has been dominant this year, leading Oklahoma to a 7-0 record, and giving them a clear path to winning their fifth consecutive Big 12 championship. Oklahoma is currently ranked fifth in the country. If they are able to remain undefeated and win the Big 12, they would almost certainly land a spot in the top four and give the Sooners’ their fourth appearance in the sixth year of the new college football playoff format.
Oklahoma is 0-3 overall in the college football playoffs, failing to make the national championship in each of their three appearances. This year could be different when you consider that Hurts wants revenge on the school that benched him in the 2017 national championship against Georgia in favor of Tagovailoa, who took over and commanded the Crimson Tide to the title. Hurts took the backseat to Tagovailoa for most of last season before transferring to Oklahoma where he has thrived in head coach Lincoln Riley’s system, similar to Mayfield.
Another name to look at is Ohio State’s Fields, who transferred over from Georgia after last season. Fields took over the starting job left by Washington Redskins’ quarterback Dwayne Haskins and lead Ohio State to a third-place ranking in the country, leapfrogging the defending champions in Clemson. Fields has thrown for 22 touchdowns and rushed for eight as well. His next test will be a matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers, who were ranked sixth last week before being stunned by unranked Illinois, but they’ve since fallen to the 13th seed in the country.
This game is huge for Wisconsin and Taylor, who hope to remain in college football playoff contention, as a second loss would likely put them too far out. Taylor rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown against Illinois, which is certainly a great game stat line, but they were below his season averages in both categories. Taylor also coughed up the ball in a crucial fourth-quarter situation that essentially put Wisconsin out of the game and hurt their chances for the school’s first college football playoff appearance. A win this weekend over Ohio State could put the Badgers back in the conversation, but Wisconsin has not defeated the Buckeyes since 2010.