The main thing to keep in mind about Kyler Murray is that his passing stats are the best in the country. He is also a dazzling runner, but considering he’s a quarterback, and this is not the 1940s, the important thing is that his passing numbers are even better than Tua Tagovailoa’s, who is considered the Heisman favorite.
Signs and wonders.
Entering Saturday, these were the numbers:
Tagovailoa: 67.9 percent completions, 2,525 yards, 11.7 yards per attempt, 28 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, quarterback rating 207.7
Murray: 70.9 percent completions, 3,038 yards, 12.3 yards per attempt, 32 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, quarterback rating 212.9.
Murray also has 640 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns at a rate of 6.7 yards per run. Quarterbacks have dominated college football this year, and one of them will certainly win the Heisman. Murray is the most efficient, exciting and unstoppable of the bunch, and therefore should win the award unless something unexpected happens, which is rare in sports.
There are only seven players in FBS with more passing yards than Murray, and only two who are leading Top 10 teams.
One of them is No. 3 Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, who had thrown for 3,280 yards, 33 touchdowns and six interceptions going into Saturday. There was a time when a season like that would make a guy the obvious choice for the Heisman, but Murray’s quarterback rating is 47 points higher than Haskins, mainly because of a huge difference in yards per attempt.
Haskins: 68.9 percent completions, 3,280 yards, 8.5 yards per attempt, 33 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, quarterback rating 165.4.
The other is No. 8 Washington State’s Gardner Minshew, who is the nation’s leading passer, as Mike Leach quarterbacks often are. But as with Haskins, he’s playing a volume game.
Minshew: 69.6 percent completions, 3,852 yards, 7.4 yards per attempt, 29 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, quarterback rating 147.1.
There’s also No. 9 West Virginia’s Will Grier hanging around. He entered Saturday within 80 yards of Murray, and that’s the way his numbers look across the board — similar to Murray’s, but not quite as good.
Grier: 69 percent completions, 2,961 yards, 9.9 yards per attempt, 31 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, quarterback rating 180.7.
Patterson’s passing numbers aren’t even in the same realm as the other guys. He’s on this list because he’s having a good season as the quarterback of a team that might play for the national title. And I think that’s the only reason Tagovailoa is favored over Murray.
I consider this an error.
To take nothing away from Tagovailoa’s excellent season, Murray is the most efficient and impactful quarterback in the country. Passing numbers have exploded this year, but none have been more explosive than Murray, who is having a better season (barely) than Baker Mayfield had when he won the Heisman last year.
Murray’s one blemish is a 48-45 loss to No. 15 Texas on a neutral field. He threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 92 yards and a touchdown that day.
That was a “bad” day for him.
The popular analysis of the Heisman race is giving Tagovailoa a little bit too much credit for being undefeated. I think if Tagovailoa was on Oklahoma and Murray was on Alabama, those teams would have the same records they do now.
Murray’s case as the most effective quarterback in the country is clear, and he also happens to be the most exciting one, which ought to count for something, given that sports are built around the idea of joy and fun in the first place.
It’s a close race, but it’s also a clear one, and if Oklahoma and Alabama win out until the postseason, Murray should be the man to beat.