Week 7 was filled with surprises around the country, including for those in the running for the Heisman Trophy.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered an apparently minor knee injury and left the Crimson Tide’s win over Missouri in the third quarter, while UCF’s McKenzie Milton helped the Knights rally to avoid an upset from Memphis. Meanwhile, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins set a school record as Ohio State slowly pulled away from a game Minnesota teams. Other top candidates, such as West Virginia QB Will Grier, were not lucky enough to avoid an upset.
Here are the top five contenders for the Heisman Trophy coming out of Week 7:
1. Tua Tagovailoa, Sophomore, QB, Alabama
This week: 12 for 22, 265 yards, 3 TDs in win vs. Missouri
Season stats: 1,760 yards, 21 TDs, 0 INT
Despite spraining his knee in Week 6, Tua Tagovailoa looked sharp on Saturday night. On Alabama’s opening drive, Tagovailoa needed only 24 seconds to score, tossing a 81-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to give Alabama an early lead. The sophomore exited the game in the third quarter after injuring his knee when sliding. Tagovailoa left the field under his own power and then entered the team’s sideline injury tent, where he was joined by his parents. He eventually came back to the sideline but never re-entered the game. Head coach Nick Saban indicated after the game that Tagovailoa could have returned if the score indicated that he was needed. Tagovailoa has yet to throw a single pass during the fourth quarter of any game this season. If Alabama keeps winning and Tagovailoa returns to action immediately, the QB will continue to be a top Heisman contender.
2. Dwayne Haskins, Sophomore, QB, Ohio State
This week: 33 for 44, 412 yards, 3 TDs in win vs. Minnesota
Season stats: 2,331 yards, 28 TDs, 4 INT
Haskins had a huge day against Minnesota, becoming the first Buckeye quarterback to throw for 400 yards twice in his career. He recorded 412 yards on Saturday and 455 yards last week vs. Indiana. The sophomore nearly broke Art Schlichter’s single-game passing record last week. Schlichter threw for 458 yards against Florida State in 1981. Haskins also tied J.T. Barrett’s single-game completions record in back-to-back weeks with 33. Ohio State doesn’t face too many quality defenses in the remainder of the season, so Haskins will need to keep the gaudy numbers coming to impress pollsters.
3. Kyler Murray, Junior, QB, Oklahoma
This week: Bye
Season stats: 1,764 yards, 21 TDs, 3 INT
Even with Oklahoma off this week, Murray’s name remains near the top of the Heisman pecking order, as it has all season. After giving up two costly turnovers against Texas last week, Murray redeemed himself in the last six minutes of the game. Down by 21 points, Murray led three touchdown drives in a matter of six minutes, including a 19-yard touchdown pass, an electrifying 67-yard touchdown run and a 35-yard pass to set up a game-tying score.
4. McKenzie Milton, Junior, QB, UCF
This week: 17 for 29, 296 yards, 1 TDs in win vs. Memphis
Season stats: 1,797 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INT
Milton helped UCF avoid a near-upset by Memphis, running for the go-ahead touchdown from seven yards out with 12:14 to play, hurdling over Memphis defenders. The extra point gave the Knights the decisive margin in a 31–30 win that extended their winning streak to 19 games. Saturday’s game proved to be the toughest of the year for UCF, who beat its first five opponents by double-digits. Milton’s quick work to bring the Knights back from a 30–17 deficit at halftime added some drama to his case.
5. Jonathan Taylor, sophomore, RB, Wisconsin
This week: 17 carries, 101 yards in loss to Michigan
Season stats: 950 yards, eight rushing TDs
Taylor just barely extended his streak of games with at least 100 rushing yards to seven as the Badgers’ offense was otherwise stymied in Ann Arbor. Wisconsin’s style of play ensures that Taylor will continue to hover near the top of the FBS rushing leaderboards, but its flagging relevance in the Big Ten and national picture could drag down Taylor’s candidacy.
Almost famous: Travis Etienne, sophomore RB, Clemson; Laviska Shenault Jr., sophomore WR, Colorado; Justin Herbert, junior QB, Oregon; Will Grier, senior QB, West Virginia.