Heisman Watch Week 8: Welcome to the party, Rondale Moore

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.

Previously: Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7

In terms of the Heisman Trophy race, things have been pretty consistent this year. The top three contenders — Tua Tagovailoa, Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins — are clear. But there’s still time for other candidates to break into the competition.

Enter Rondale Moore. We saw Moore’s immense talent when Purdue got the primetime Thursday night treatment against Northwestern in Week 1. He dazzled that night in his college debut with a program-record 313 all-purpose yards, including 11 catches for 109 yards and a 76-yard rushing touchdown. But Purdue started 0-3 and Moore faded from the spotlight — until Saturday night.

The Boilermakers trounced No. 2 Ohio State and Moore was in the middle of it all. Purdue has now won four in a row and is in the thick of things in the Big Ten West race. If Purdue makes a run, maybe Moore can become a serious contender for the Heisman.

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

1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Another week, another awesome performance from Tua Tagovailoa. In Alabama’s 58-21 win over Tennessee, Tagovailoa couldn’t be stopped. He completed 19 of his 29 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns, including a beautiful 77-yarder to Jaylen Waddle. He’s up to 25 touchdown passes on the year without tossing a single interception.

Tagovailoa is still on a record-setting pace for efficiency. Through eight starts, his rating is a ridiculous 238.8, nearly 40 points higher than the record Baker Mayfield set for Oklahoma (en route to a Heisman) in 2017. Oh, and he still hasn’t played in a fourth quarter all year. Perhaps when the top-ranked Crimson Tide travel to No. 4 LSU after its bye, Tagovailoa’s services will finally be needed for a full game.

(Last week: 1)

2. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Oklahoma rebounded from its first loss of the season by beating TCU 52-27 in Fort Worth. Kyler Murray played a big part in the victory with 213 yards and four touchdown passes. He completed 19 of his 24 passing attempts in the win, increasing his completion percentage on the year to 72.3 percent. That’s fourth-best in the country.

And if Tagovailoa wasn’t having as incredible of a season, Murray’s efficiency when compared to his predecessor, Mayfield, would be getting a lot more publicity. Like Tagovailoa, Murray (224.9) is well ahead of Mayfield’s record for QB rating in a season (198.9). Murray is tied with Tagovailoa for No. 3 nationally with 25 touchdown passes. His 428 rushing yards are 13th-most among QBs.

(Last week: 3)

3. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Dwayne Haskins completed 49 passes for 470 yards on Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough for No. 2 Ohio State to get past Purdue. The Buckeyes’ flaws, especially their inability to run the football in any capacity, were exposed in a 49-20 loss. Other than a bad interception, it was to no fault of Haskins, who set OSU records for completions and passing yards while surpassing 400 yards for the third straight game.

Haskins threw the ball a ridiculous 73 times. Yes, 73 times. He led OSU into the red zone five times and the Buckeyes came away with just six points to show for it. His two touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter with Purdue maintaining a comfortable advantage. Those two scores gave him 30 for the season. That total, like his 2,801 yards, is No. 1 in the country. His 71.1 completion percentage (on 315 attempts), ranks sixth.

Haskins has a bye week to regroup before attempting to lead his team back into the CFP picture over the final four weeks of the season, capped off with Michigan’s trip to Ohio Stadium.

(Last week: 2)

4. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

If you didn’t already know the name Rondale Moore, you learned it on Saturday night. Moore, Purdue’s electric freshman receiver, was making plays left and right in the Boilermakers’ triumphant upset of Ohio State. Moore finished the game with 12 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns, often looking like the best player on the field.

Moore’s first touchdown came late in the first half on the heels of a fake field goal, giving Purdue a 14-3 lead at halftime. His second put the game to rest. He took a quick pass from David Blough, sprinted past two OSU defenders and then barreled through a host of others. Once in the open field, OSU had no chance to bring him down. Moore now leads the Big Ten in catches (57) and receiving yards (728) and is tied for second with seven TD catches.

Rondale Moore’s 43-yard touchdown catch sealed Purdue’s win over Ohio State. (via ABC)
Rondale Moore’s 43-yard touchdown catch sealed Purdue’s win over Ohio State. (via ABC)

(Last week: Unranked)

5. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

After four games in a row with at least 122 yards, Travis Etienne was largely bottled up in Saturday’s win over NC State. Except for in the red zone, that is. Etienne had just 39 yards on 15 carries, but added three more rushing touchdowns. Etienne has rushed for three scores in three consecutive games and is up to 14 for the season. That total is tied with Florida Atlantic’s Devin Singletary for best in the country.

For the season, Etienne has 800 yards on 98 carries — an 8.2-yard average that’s third-best in the nation. His rushing yardage ranks 10th.

(Last week: 5)

Also considered:

Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis: Henderson was injured in the first quarter against on Saturday Missouri and did not return. Before exiting, he had 15 yards on four carries and a 20-yard reception. With 1,148 yards on 114 carries, Henderson still leads the country in rushing yards and average per carry (10.1).

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: With two losses, Wisconsin has fallen out of the national spotlight, but Taylor continues to chip away week after week. After a 159-yard outing in Saturday’s 49-20 win over Illinois, the sophomore has 1,109 yards and is nipping at Henderson’s heels for the national rushing lead.

Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State: Minshew, a graduate transfer from East Carolina, has proven to be a perfect fit for Washington State. In the big win over Oregon, Minshew threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns, meaning he has thrown for at least 300 yards in all seven of his games in a WSU uniform. He is second in the country with 2,745 yards while completing 69.8 percent of his passes. He’ll have plenty more chances to boost his Heisman candidacy as the season progresses.

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