Most observers have all but handed the 2018 Heisman Trophy to Tua Tagovailoa, but Kyler Murray‘s going to at least make voters think long and hard when filling out their ballots next month.
As expected, No. 8 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1) had little problem dispatching Kansas State (3-5, 1-4) in a 51-14 win Saturday afternoon. The Sooners jumped out to a 34-7 halftime lead in Norman and then cruised over the remaining two quarters to pull to within a half-game of Big 12 leader Texas (at 4-0, the Longhorns, on their off weekend, also own the head-to-head tiebreaker over their rivals).
Leading the way yet again for an offense that put 702 yards was Murray, the soon-to-be professional baseball player who threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns on a highly-efficient 19-of-24 passing day. For good measure, the mobile Murray added another 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
And, it should be noted, he did all of that damage in less than three full quarters worth of work.
Last year’s starter, Baker Mayfield, was very familiar with doing similar damage in Lincoln Riley‘s offense and laid claim to the 2017 Heisman. Through eight games, Murray’s numbers compare very favorably to Mayfield’s through the same number of games a year ago:
- Mayfield: 2,628 yards, 23 touchdowns, three interceptions, 72.5 completion percentage (171-236); 52 carries, 190 yards, four touchdowns, 3.7 ypc
- Murray: 2,329 yards, 28 touchdowns, three interceptions, 73.2 completion percentage (134-183); 71 carries, 474 yards, six touchdowns, 6.7 ypc
While Murray’s passing yards lag behind Mayfield’s, so do his pass attempts. That leads to arguably the most impressive statistical edge he holds over his predecessor:
- Mayfield: 11.1 yards per attempt
- Murray: 12.7 yards per attempt
The biggest edge Mayfield holds over Murray when comparing seasons? The No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft had no one even remotely compared to Tagovailoa as part of the competition.
At various times last season, Mayfield was behind or around the likes of Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, Stanford running back Bryce Love and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 winner. By early November, though, Mayfield was a sizable favorite; by mid-November, some sportsbooks were pulling the odds as the Sooners signal-caller was too big of a favorite.
Tagovailoa, meanwhile, is simply in another stratosphere both statistically and as the quarterback of the unquestioned No. 1 team in the nation, although he has come back towards earth a bit — a very little bit — the past couple of weeks thanks in large part to a nagging knee issue.
Regardless of whether Murray can seriously challenge Tagovailoa — the Alabama quarterback was a decided 4/11 favorite in Bovada‘s most recent odds, with Murray next at 7/2 — it’s all but certain that the redshirt junior will earn a well-deserved December trip to New York City as a Heisman finalist.