Heisman Watch: Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa is the leader of the pack

Yahoo Sports

Each week through the rest of the season, we will highlight the five players we think are the top Heisman Trophy contenders. The list will likely change often before the true candidates separate themselves from the pack.

We’re a quarter of the way through the season and the crop of Heisman candidates is beginning to form into shape. Well, sort of.

At this time last year, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley was the runaway favorite for college football’s most coveted award. By the time the finalists were announced Barkley hadn’t earned enough votes to make it to the ceremony in New York. A lot can change between now and December.

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Tagovailoa picked up right where he left off in the College Football Playoff title game. His heroics lifted Alabama to a national championship and his play so far this year has the top-ranked Tide looking primed to repeat. Through four games, the 6-foot-1 lefty has thrown for 1,033 yards and 12 touchdowns without an interception. He has completed 72.5 percent of his passes while also rushing for 103 yards and two scores.

Tagovailoa has been remarkably efficient, especially on third down. Before Saturday’s win over Texas A&M — in which he threw for 387 yards and had five total TDs — Tagovailoa hadn’t thrown a single incompletion on third down. He was 13-of-13 on the year to that point. Now he’s 17-of-20. If the season ended today, it’d be hard to pick anybody other than Tagovailoa for the Heisman.

2. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

The transition from J.T. Barrett to Dwayne Haskins, despite the three-game absence of Urban Meyer, has been seamless at Ohio State. The redshirt sophomore has already thrown for 1,194 yards and 16 touchdowns with just one interception. His 16 TDs are second-most in the country, so is his 75.7 completion percentage.

Haskins only played in the first half of Saturday’s 49-6 win over Tulane and still was 21-of-24 for 304 yards and five scores. He’ll face much stiffer competition on the horizon with the No. 4 Buckeyes traveling to Happy Valley to face No. 9 Penn State in a primetime matchup. Not only is that a big game for OSU’s Playoff chances, it’s a big chance for Haskins’ Heisman candidacy.

3. Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

Will Grier is lighting up Big 12 defenses yet again. Through three games (West Virginia had one canceled by Hurricane Florence), Grier has 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns and is completing 74.7 percent of his passes.

In the opener against Tennessee, he went off for 429 yards and five scores. He nearly matched that with 356 yards and five scores in a dominant win over Kansas State over the weekend. Expect more eye-popping stats against Texas Tech on Saturday and more Heisman hype if Grier and WVU can keep pace with Oklahoma in the Big 12.

4. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Murray has been up to the task of replacing Heisman winner Baker Mayfield so far. Murray, a first-round MLB draft choice, has shown electric speed and equally impressive passing skills through four games with 1,028 yards and 11 touchdowns passing along with 240 yards and three scores on the ground. His best performance came in OU’s Week 3 win over Iowa State: 21/29 for 348 yards and 3 TDs with 77 yards rushing.

5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Taylor is the second in the nation in rushing with 628 yards on 102 carries — a 6.2-yard average. He has topped 100 yards in all four Wisconsin games so far and is 110 yards ahead of his pace in 2017 when he ended up with 1,977 yards as a true freshman. His best performance of the year came against New Mexico in Week 2. In a 45-14 win, he put up 253 yards and three scores.

Also considered:

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon: Against Stanford, Herbert was 25-of-27 for 331 yards in regulation, but his tremendous showing was overshadowed by the way Oregon ultimately lost in overtime. The NFL hype is real for the junior.

McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF: Fresh off his breakout in 2017, Milton is off to a great start in 2018. Last week against FAU, he threw for 306 yards, ran for 81 yards and had six total TDs.

Benny Snell, RB, Kentucky: Snell was one of the better backs in the SEC last year, but he’s getting more recognition with UK off to such a strong start. He has 540 yards and seven TDs, including four in the big win over Mississippi State.

Bryce Love, RB, Stanford: Love, last year’s Heisman runner-up, is nowhere near the pace he had in 2017, but he can make a move this weekend against No. 8 Notre Dame.

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