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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Jonathan Taylor looks to be the first running back since Derrick Henry won the award in 2015. 

Jonathan Taylor looks to be the first running back since Derrick Henry won the award in 2015. 

Heisman Watch: Jonathan Taylor separates quarterback contenders

Heisman Watch

Week four of the college football season has only intensified an already extremely close heisman race. Tua Tagovailoa remains the favorite, but the contenders behind him are certainly pushing to narrow the gap. Below are my top four contenders for the Heisman. 

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa 

This week: 17/21, 293 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs (vs. Southern Mississippi) 

Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide haven’t really been tested as of yet, but the junior quarterback has certainly gotten the job done against lesser competition, and the Tide cruised once again on offense last Saturday. Tagovailoa has put up video game numbers this season, and Saturday’s victory marked the third time in four games this season that he has thrown for four touchdowns in a game. Tagavailoa has thrown for 325 yards per game thus far and is one of just three quarterbacks to have thrown for over 1000 yards without an interception. More difficult tests are coming up, however, with a game at Texas A&M on October 12th and a home game against LSU on November 9th. If Tua can maintain his extraordinary level of play against that caliber of competition, there’s no reason he won’t be the first Alabama player since Derrick Henry to lift the Heisman trophy. 

LSU QB Joe Burrow 

This week: 25/34, 398 yards, 6TDs, 0 INTs (@Vanderbilt)

Nobody who watched Alabama defeat LSU 29-0 last November would expect Joe Burrow to be a legitimate Heisman contender, but the senior quarterback has completely reinvented himself following the hiring of new offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Last Saturday was proof of that for Burrow, who has thrown for an absurd 1520 yards through four games, second only to Washington State’s Anthony Gordon. What makes those numbers all the more impressive is the fact that Burrow has already played a top team in the Texas Longhorns. Texas claims to be “Defensive Back University,” but Burrow had no issue with the Longhorns secondary, throwing for 471 yards and four touchdowns in a Tigers victory. November 9th’s clash against Alabama will prove the ultimate litmus test for Burrow, and should the Tigers escape Tuscaloosa with a victory, Burrow is sure to be the favorite for the Heisman. 

Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts

This week: Idle

After another outstanding performance against UCLA in Week 3, Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts got some well deserved rest in Week 4. Oklahoma QBs Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray are the prior two Heisman winners, and there’s nothing so far to suggest that Hurts can’t be Lincoln Riley’s third winner in a row. Hurts has proven to be a true dual threat thus far, rushing for four touchdowns and well over a hundred yards a game in his first couple contests. That doesn’t detract from his passing numbers, however, which are superb. Hurts has completed over 80 percent of his passes and leads the nation in both yards per attempt (14.4) and passer rating (250.2). Much like Alabama, the Sooners haven’t really been tested thus far this season. October 12th’s Red River Rivalry game against Texas will give us a better indication of Hurts’s status as a Heisman contender. 

Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor

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This week: 23 carries, 203 yards, 8.8 ypc, 2 TDs

Taylor is perhaps at a disadvantage as a Heisman candidate as a running back, but it’s impossible to argue with his production so far this season. Saturday’s beatdown of Michigan was just more of the same for Taylor, whose 2 touchdowns improved his season total to 10, the most of any running back or wide receiver in college football. That number is all the more remarkable considering Taylor has only played in three games this season. A running back hasn’t won this award since Derrick Henry did so in the 2015 season, one where he rushed for 2,219 yards for the eventual national champions Alabama. If Taylor is to have a legitimate shot at winning, the Badgers must find a way to make the College Football Playoffs. That’s still a possibility, but the road to the playoffs in the Big 10 runs through Columbus, OH, and the Badgers must make a statement on the road against the Buckeyes on October 26th for Taylor to receive real Heisman consideration. 

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