Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa is the best player on the best team in the nation. The south paw has mesmerized crowds with precision passing that helped Alabama put every game of the year away in the first three quarters except for one. Unfortunately for Tagovailoa, that one game was the biggest of the year and when he left the game with an injury, his team was behind.
The backup quarterback, Jalen Hurts, came in to win the game for the Crimson Tide.
Kyler Murray hasn’t had a bad game all season. Even in their lone loss to Texas (which they avenged in the Big 12 Championship Game), Oklahoma’s offense wasn’t questioned. Their defense is horrible, but Murray has overcome his teams inability to stop the other team by scoring more than they could regardless of the defense he faced.
Between the two, Murray deserves the Heisman Award. Here’s why:
Stepping up in close games
If Georgia hadn’t come close to beating Alabama, this would be a moot point. You cannot penalize someone for not being challenged; Tagovailoa had thrown just three passes in the fourth quarter all season. But he did get challenged. He faced a tough Georgia defense. He finished 10 for 25 with 164 yards, a touchdown, and two costly interceptions. What’s worse is his statistics for the game look better than he actually performed. One throw accounted for nearly 1/3rd of his total yards and the lone touchdown. That throw was a 4-yard crossing pattern that Jaylen Waddle broke for a 51-yard score.
Murray found himself in close games all season thanks to his defense. In a four-game stretch, Oklahoma’s opponents scored 46, 47, 40, and 56 points… and Oklahoma won all of them thanks to heroics in the air and on the ground by Murray. Even in their loss to Texas, he threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns while running for 92 yards and another touchdown.
Murray is ahead of Tagovailoa in completion percentage, yards, touchdowns, and QB rating. Tagovailoa had three fewer interceptions. It’s close until you look at the rushing statistics as well.
Murray ran for 892 yards and 11 scores. Tagovailoa had five touchdowns and 190 yards rushing.
Last year, Baker Mayfield broke his own record for the best passing efficiency rating in a single season. This year, both Tagovailoa and Murray will break that record, but Murray’s will be higher.
Importance to team
Another negative for Tagolaivoa from the Georgia game is that when Hurts came in to lead Alabama to the win, he reminded everyone that the “backup” quarterback is a former SEC Player of the Year. We shouldn’t take away from Tagolaivoa’s accomplishments because he has an exceptional backup, but we should note the supporting cast on both sides of the ball favor him. Obviously, his defense is worlds better than OU’s, but it can be argued that his offensive weapons are better as well. Other than the offensive line, which is close, Tagolaivoa’s offensive teammates are slightly better than Murray’s.
Without Tagolaivoa, Alabama likely finishes the season undefeated.
Oklahoma is in a completely different situation. They have one of the best offensive lines in college football and two strong receivers, but their running backs are good while looking great behind that big offensive line. But it’s Murray’s ability to make each of his teammates better with good decisions and improvised plays that separates this Sooner’s offense.
Without Murray, OU could have been 6-6 with potential losses to Texas, Army, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, West Virginia, and Iowa State. Even Kansas scored 40 against them.
Tua Tagolaivoa had arguably the second best season for a quarterback in college football history. It’s a shame that he had it in the same year Kyler Murray had the best one. Murray should win the Heisman.