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#pounditFriday, October 30, 2020

Ranking the top 10 Heisman Trophy contenders

Tua Tagovailoa

We’re starting to get into the business end of the college football season, with conference championship games a little more than a month away. That means it’s not too early to start thinking of awards, including the Heisman Trophy, the sport’s most prestigious.

Even in late October, we have a pretty solid idea of who has a good chance of being invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony and ultimately winning the trophy. Here are the ten leading candidates as things stand.

10) Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemsom

Lawrence doesn’t quite have the elite stat line you look for in a Heisman contender, but he has a pretty favorable schedule coming up and a very real opportunity to lead the Tigers to an unbeaten record headed into bowl season. Those two factors alone mean his performances are worth watching. The freshman has thrown for 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions and looks like a budding star. Even if 2018 proves too soon for Lawrence, it’s easy to see him seriously contending for the Heisman in a year or two.

9) Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

Purdue’s star freshman wide receiver may pop up on this list plenty in future seasons, even as he’s unlikely to actually win the award in 2018. His emphatic performance against Ohio State put him on the map, with 170 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He’s quietly been doing it all season, though, as that was his his fifth 100-yard game of 2018. Moore looks to be headed for stardom. And while this year is probably too soon for real Heisman contention, the fact that he’s already generated some chatter is all the proof you need that he’s going to be talked about for the award in years to come.

8) Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Taylor is essentially replicating his freshman season so far in year two at Wisconsin. He has eight rushing touchdowns and 1,109 rushing yards, and his yards per carry are roughly on par with what they were when he went for 1,977 rushing yards as a freshman. He’s having an excellent season, but Heisman voters would probably want to see a few more touchdowns out of him, and it doesn’t help that Wisconsin is out of the playoff race for all intents and purposes.

7) Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

As expected, Grier is putting up big-time numbers in the pass-happy West Virginia offense. He’s completing over 70 percent of his passes, has 22 touchdowns to just seven interceptions, and is almost certainly headed for a second consecutive 3,000-yard passing season. His campaign may ultimately be marred by inconsistency. He was picked off three times by a bad Kansas team and threw for just 100 yards in a loss at Iowa State. It’s hard to square a performance like that with Heisman contention.

6) Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State

Minshew delivered something of a breakout performance in Washington State’s win over Oregon, though the two interceptions don’t look great. Ignore it and look at the four touchdowns and 323 yards, the latest in a string of excellent performances by Minshew. He’s already thrown for 2,745 yards and 23 touchdowns to only six interceptions, and it’s far to say he has more big performances to come. The Cougars are on the rise, and Minshew is too.

5) Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

Etienne has quietly become the heartbeat of the Clemson offense. While he lacks the yardage of Jonathan Taylor, the other running back with a realistic chance of the award, he makes up for it by scoring a ton of touchdowns — 14 through seven games, to be exact. And while he lacks the yardage, he has 801 yards on just 98 carries, good for 8.2 yards per rush. Etienne should have ample opportunity to continue adding to these numbers, and Heisman consideration will likely follow.

4) Ed Oliver, DL, Houston

Oliver is the only defensive player with a serious chance at the award, but it’s richly deserved consideration. He only has three sacks, but he’s collected 13.5 tackles for loss. Part of Oliver’s problem, if you can call it that, is that he’s getting double-teamed pretty much every time he steps on the field, yet he’s still putting up numbers and causing havoc. He’s going to be a top NFL draft pick, and he’ll merit Heisman consideration before he gets that far.

3) Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Haskins’ candidacy took a hit when Ohio State was blown out by Purdue, even if that defeat wasn’t really his fault. He did, after all, throw for 470 yards and a pair of touchdowns while turning the ball over just once. Subsequently, the loss shouldn’t hurt him too much, especially when you look at his statistical profile. He has 2,801 passing yards and 30 touchdowns to just five interceptions, which are easily Heisman-worthy numbers. The Buckeyes still have a chance at the playoff if they win out, so Haskins is far from out of this, and may still be on pace to be a finalist as long as he doesn’t fade late.

2) Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Murray looked like he was going to make a stronger run at the Heisman before the Sooners lost to Texas thanks in part to a high-profile mistake on his part. Still, you can’t ignore the 25 touchdown passes and three interceptions, nor can you put aside the fact that he has 428 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns, making him the nation’s best dual-threat quarterback. He, too, should get an invite to the ceremony as long as he doesn’t get hurt or turn in bad performances down the stretch.

1) Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

At this point, it would be a surprise if anyone other than Tagovailoa won the Heisman. At one point, the guy had nearly as many touchdown passes on the season as he had incompletions. He completes 70 percent of his passes and has connected for 25 touchdown passes without throwing a single interception. He and the Alabama offense have both been so dominant that he has yet to play in the fourth quarter this season. That could well change when he takes on LSU in what will be a major test, but Tagovailoa has met every one so far. He’s the runaway favorite at this point.

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