Heisman Trophy: Which of the finalists will win?

There’s no telling who could win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night. With Tua Tagovailoa taking home the Maxwell Award (player of the year) and Kyler Murray winning the Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback), it’s clear that college football observers can’t come to a consensus on who the best player in college football is in 2018.

What will the Heisman voters decide? We’ll find out after 8 p.m. ET on Saturday night. As we wait for the Heisman ceremony, here are the cases for each of the three finalists for the 2018 Heisman Trophy.

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

348-of-496 passing, 4,580 yards, 47 touchdowns, eight interceptions

Haskins was by far Ohio State’s most important player. As he went, so did the Buckeyes. And he was really good at the end of the season. Haskins threw for 1,300 yards over Ohio State’s final three games of the season and tossed six touchdowns to no interceptions in OSU’s 62-39 win over Michigan.

He broke a ton of records in his first season as a starter and had just three games with fewer than 300 yards through the air and through for more than 400 yards on five occasions. Ohio State quarterbacks now have six 400-yard passing games in school history.

No Big Ten quarterback has thrown for more yards or more touchdowns in a single season. In any other season Haskins would be a rock-solid choice for the Heisman. But he enters Saturday night as the clear No. 3 in the race. He wasn’t nominated for either the Maxwell Award (player of the year) or Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback). Haskins is also the only player of the three finalists whose team is not playing in the College Football Playoff.

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

241-of-340 passing, 4,053 yards, 40 touchdowns, seven interceptions
123 carries for 892 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns

Where would Oklahoma be without Murray? With him the team has the best offense in college football history and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Without him, the Sooners could be 9-3 or 8-4 and staring at a berth in the Camping World Bowl.

Murray is college football’s transcendent two-sport star as he’s already signed a contract to play for the Oakland Athletics and will report to spring training in February. He’s showed off his great speed and throwing arm on innumerable occasions as the Sooners have averaged 8.8 yards per play and scored 49.5 points per game, the most of any team.

Murray’s 51 total touchdowns are tied with Haskins for the most of any player in college football and he does what Haskins and Tagovailoa don’t by being a rushing threat. His 7.3 yards per carry is remarkable, especially when you consider that sacks count against rushing yards in college football.

Oh, Murray had a fantastic Big 12 Championship Game too. Recency bias is real and Murray was 25-of-34 passing for 379 yards and three touchdowns (and 39 rushing yards) in Oklahoma’s win over Texas. He’s now the betting favorite to take home the trophy. Murray won the Davey O’Brien Award on Thursday night.

If Murray wins he’ll be the second-straight Oklahoma QB to win the award and the fourth Oklahoma QB to win in the last 16 years.

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

199-of-294 passing, 3,353 yards, 37 touchdowns, four interceptions

While Murray may be the betting favorite, you can’t count out Tagovailoa. It’s going to be a close race.

Tagovailoa threw just two interceptions to 36 touchdowns in Alabama’s first 12 games of the season. The Tide became the first team in over a century to go through the regular season undefeated with all of its wins over 20 points.

The sophomore was a huge part of that, though he played a lot more in the first half than he did in the second. Tagovailoa wasn’t needed late in games because Alabama blew teams out on a regular basis. Had he played as many snaps as Haskins and Murray, his counting stats would be even better. But even without a lot of fourth quarters on the field, Tagovailoa’s completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio compares favorably to the other two.

No Alabama quarterback has ever won the Heisman Trophy and that could also be a point in Tagovailoa’s favor. He’s had the best season of any quarterback to wear an Alabama jersey as Alabama has had the best regular season of any team in modern college football history. The best player on the best team tends to win the Heisman on a regular basis. Tagovailoa won the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Award on Thursday.

If Tagovailoa doesn’t win the Heisman you can thank his performance in the SEC Championship Game. Yes, he dealt with a tweaked right ankle and a sprained left ankle — that paved the way for Jalen Hurts to lead Alabama’s incredible comeback — but he had his worst game of the season by far. Tagovailoa was just 10-of-25 passing for 164 yards. And he threw just one touchdown to two interceptions. Hurts’ comeback showed that Alabama can win without Tagovailoa; something that can’t be said for Ohio State and Haskins and Oklahoma and Murray.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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