Oklahoma could potentially be on the verge of accomplishing an unprecedented feat in the history of college football: producing back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners who play the same position.
Yes, we know Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been outstanding this season, but Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray has arguably been the most impressive offensive player this season not named Tua.
Former Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft who’s now playing for the Cleveland Browns, won the Heisman Trophy last season and now his replacement, Murray, is one of the leading contenders for the award this year.
Before we dive into the stats, let’s add some historical context for how rare it would be for a school to produce consecutive Heisman Trophy winners at the same position for the first time since the trophy was first awarded in 1935.
Here’s the closest the sport has come to having two players who play the same position winning the Heisman in consecutive seasons:
- Army fullback Doc Blanchard won in 1945, followed by Army halfback Glenn Davis in 1946
- USC running backs Charles White (1979) and Marcus Allen (1981) both won the award in a three-year span
- Yale end Larry Kelley and quarterback Clint Frank won in 1936 and 1937, respectively
- USC produced back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners in quarterback Matt Leinart (2004) and running back Reggie Bush (2005, which was later vacated). A Trojan won the award three times in four years, including two USC quarterbacks in three seasons, with former USC quarterback Carson Palmer winning in 2002.
Keeping that in mind, here’s the side-by-side comparison of Kyler Murray’s stats through eight games this season to Baker Mayfield’s stats through Oklahoma’s first eight games last season:
|Player||Season||Passing Yards||Completion Percentage||Y/A||TD||INT||Ru. Attempts||Ru. Yards||Ru. Avg.||Ru. TD|
As a true dual-threat quarterback, Murray obviously has better rushing stats than Mayfield, but you can make the case that even his passing numbers are better than those of his predecessor. While Mayfield averaged almost 40 more passing yards per game than Murray’s pace this season, the latter has completed a higher percent of his passes for more yards per attempt and five more touchdowns through eight games.
Here’s how Oklahoma’s current offense as a whole (through eight games) compares to its offense in 14 games last season:
|School||Season||Scoring Offense||Passing Offense||Rushing Offense||First Downs/Game||Third Down Conversions||Red Zone Conversions||TD Conversions in Red Zone||10+ Yard Scrimmage Plays/Game|
|Oklahoma||2018||48.9 (4th)||311 (13th)||237 (13th)||24.6 (13th)||48.7% (10th)||93.9% (10th)||69.7% (34th)||19.6|
|Oklahoma||2017||45.1 (3rd)||361 (3rd)||217 (27th)||25.8 (4th)||42.6% (42nd)||90.3% (19th)||70.8% (19th)||20.1|
The Sooners’ offense this fall is very comparable to its offense last season, especially when you consider Oklahoma’s 2017 stats listed above included games against a top-15 TCU team in the Big 12 Championship and national runner-up Georgia in the College Football Playoff Semifinal.
Oklahoma is currently scoring at a slightly higher rate, rushing for more yards, converting more often on third down and scoring at a higher rate in the red zone than last year’s team, but the 2017 Sooners threw for more yards per game and they averaged more first downs and 10-yard plays from scrimmage per game.
Even with those insane stats, Murray isn’t the Heisman Trophy frontrunner entering November.
That distinction likely goes to Tagovailoa, whose Crimson Tide team is off to a blazing start with an 8-0 record, the No. 1 ranking in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the year and the nation’s highest-scoring offense at 54 points per game. Tagovailoa has thrown 25 touchdowns without throwing a single interception and hasn’t attempted a single pass in the fourth quarter all season because Alabama has built such sizable leads.
But if Tagovailoa and Alabama slip up in either – let alone both – of their next two games against LSU and Mississippi State, both of whom have a top-10 defense in terms of points allowed per game, then Murray and Oklahoma could make history.
*Stats courtesy of cfbstats.com