Our Heisman contenders didn’t exactly face challenging defenses in Week Three.
Last weekend. Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU and Texas had an unimpressive slate of matchups, the most competitive being Alabama’s 47-23 victory over South Carolina to kick off SEC play.
But with three of our four Heisman contenders kicking off conference play this weekend, the front-runners say goodbye to FCS and Group of Five tuneup games and welcome the gauntlet of conference competition.
Here’s who to watch in Week Four:
Tua Tagovailoa – Quarterback, Alabama
In three games, Alabama has outscored opponents by a whopping combined score of 151-36. Junior Tagovailoa has been nearly perfect, already surpassing the 1,000 passing yard mark for the season while completing nearly 78% of his passes to go along with 12 touchdowns.
But the most surprising stat? Tagovailoa has yet to play a full game.
The Tide’s prodigal son has made his Heisman case in the first three quarters of Alabama’s blowout games so far before sitting the final quarter. This week, don’t expect any different as Alabama takes on Southern Mississippi in what should be another resounding win for the Tide.
Jalen Hurts – Quarterback, Oklahoma
Statistically, graduate transfer Hurts is the most compelling Heisman contender.
Even compared to Tagovailoa’s domination through the first quarter of the regular season, Jalen Hurts is having one of the best seasons by a college quarterback since Vince Young.
Although Tagovailoa leads Hurts in passing by 127 yards, Hurts has amassed a staggering 373 rushing yards to go along with a completion rate over 80%, not to mention a 96.8 quarterback rating, the most efficient in college football.
Oklahoma’s Week Four matchup against a weak Texas Tech defense shouldn’t deter Hurts from his Heisman pace. Last season, the Red Raider defense allowed an average of 31.1 points per game, 86th in the FBS, including 51 to Oklahoma. Although Texas Tech’s defense appears to have improved through three games, they haven’t faced an opponent like Jalen Hurts.
Joe Burrow – Quarterback, LSU
Senior Joe Burrow is at the epicenter of a rejuvenated LSU offense.
In three games, Burrow has thrived in Ed Orgeron’s new offensive system modified by the hiring of former New Orleans Saints assistant Joe Brady as passing game coordinator. Burrow has over 1,100 passing yards with 11 touchdowns on a team that finished 32nd last season in points per game.
After LSU’s 65-14 win over Northwestern State, LSU’s offense climbed to 10th in total yardage out of 130 FBS teams.
Although Vanderbilt had two weeks to prepare for LSU, expect the Tiger offense to shred a Commodore defense which has allowed an average of 36 points per game.
Sam Ehlinger – Quarterback, Texas
Last, but certainly not least, stands junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, fresh off of a bounce-back win over Rice.
Even with Ehlinger’s emergence as an elite quarterback last season, the largest barrier to his Heisman contention was his lack of yardage due to an absence of big-play ability.
This year, Texas has solved that problem.
With another year of development under Tom Herman’s belt, Texas now has a mix of playmakers and offensive linemen unseen since 2009. Senior wideout Collin Johnson looks like an early-round draft pick. Senior receiver Devin Duvernay is yet to drop a pass. And freshman quarterback-turned-running back Roschon Johnson has filled in nicely to round out Ehlinger’s offense.
Texas begins conference play against Oklahoma State on Saturday. If Ehlinger plays anywhere near his level of conference play from the 2018 season, Texas could have their first Heisman finalist since Colt McCoy in 2009.