NEW YORK (AP) — Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins are the finalists for the Heisman Trophy, ensuring a quarterback will win the award for the 16th time in the last 19 years.
The finalists were announced Monday, hours after the deadline for 928 voters, including former winners, to submit their ballots.
Tagovailoa has been the favorite for most of the season, but Murray and Haskins finished strong. Unlike most seasons, there should be some real drama Saturday night when the Heisman is awarded in New York City.
Tagovailoa and Murray will also face off in the College Football Playoff, when No. 1 Alabama faces No. 4 Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl semifinal on Dec. 29.
The finalists are determined by the margin of votes received, starting with the third- and fourth-place finishers. At least three and as many as five finalists are invited to presentation ceremony.
The last time three quarterbacks were the only finalists was 2008, when Sam Bradford of Oklahoma won over Colt McCoy of Texas and Tim Tebow of Florida.
Tagovailoa’s Heisman campaign started the final game of last season, when he came off the bench as a freshman to lead Alabama to a comeback victory in the national championship game against Georgia. His first season as a starter has been as good as advertised, with 3,353 yards passing, 37 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. Tagovailoa would be the third Alabama player to win the Heisman since 2009, but the first quarterback, joining tailbacks Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry.
Murray replaced last year’s Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield, for the Sooners and has been just as good. The junior, who has already signed a $4.7 million deal to play baseball with the Oakland Athletics next year, has passed for 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Oklahoma would become the fourth school, joining Yale, Army and Southern California, to have Heisman winners in consecutive seasons, but the first to have quarterbacks win it in back-to-back years.
Haskins, a third-year sophomore, shattered numerous Big Ten passing records this season, throwing for 4,580 yards and 47 touchdowns to lead the country in both categories. Haskins is the first Buckeyes’ finalists since Troy Smith won the Heisman in 2006.
Ohio State, Southern California and Notre Dame have won the most Heisman’s with seven. Oklahoma has six.
The Heisman has been dominated by quarterbacks over the last two decades. The last two winners have been QBs, and since USC’s Reggie Bush won the Heisman in 2005, 10 quarterbacks have won it.
Tagovailoa seemed like he would be a runaway Heisman winner heading into the final month of the season, but Murray closed the gap by continually bailing out Oklahoma’s faulty defense. Tagovailoa still seemed poised to head to New York as the favorite until last Saturday when he threw two interceptions and didn’t finish the Southeastern Conference championship game against Georgia because of a sprained ankle.
Murray and Haskins, meanwhile, both had huge games on championship Saturday, adding some suspense to the race, but also separating themselves from the rest of the contenders.
Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew II and West Virginia quarterback Will Grier had been in the Heisman mix for much of the season and put up numbers to rival Tagovailoa, Murray and Haskins, but both fell short of leading their teams to conference championship games.
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor leads the nation in rushing, with 1,989 yards, but the Badgers struggling to a 7-5 season, he didn’t make the Heisman cut.