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  • Which five players lead the Heisman race through six weeks of the 2018 season?
By Scooby Axson
October 07, 2018

The quarterback position has dominated the Heisman Trophy this decade, the exception being Alabama running back Derrick Henry breaking the mold in 2015. Through the first month of the 2018 campaign, nothing has changed, as the signal-callers are lighting up defenses at unprecedented rates, making sure that stranglehold on the award is maintained.

Here are the top five contenders for the Heisman Trophy through Week 6.

1. Tua Tagovailoa, sophomore, QB, Alabama

This week: 10 for 13, 334 yards, four touchdowns in win vs. Arkansas

Season stats: 75%, 1,495 yards, 18 touchdowns, 0 interceptions

Tagovailoa has not thrown one single pass in the fourth quarter this season, but that shouldn’t take away his ability to win the award if the Crimson Tide continue to keep winning. It’s not his fault (well, partly it is) that he is sitting on the sidelines during the second half of games—Tagovailoa has been that good. He has scored a touchdown on 31 of his 44 drives, and Nick Saban has no qualms with running up the score at every turn. The impressive thing is Tagovailoa's ability in getting the ball downfield. On 10 throws against Arkansas targeting receivers 10 or more yards down the field, he completed eight for 231 yards and three touchdowns.

2. Kyler Murray, junior, QB, Oklahoma

This week: 19 for 26, 304 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT in loss vs. Texas

Season stats: 71%, 21 total TDs, 3 INT; 377 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs

Sometimes, winning the Heisman is dependent on not just what you do but also what your team does on the other side of the ball. Unfortunately, Murray doesn’t play defense. The Sooners are making Murray’s candidacy easy because he is given plenty of opportunities to produce, but that's because the defense can’t keep teams off the field.

Murray had another good day against Texas, but had two costly turnovers that led directly to 10 Texas points. But the last six minutes of the game are what sticks in voter’s minds. 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.

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3. Will Grier, senior, QB, West Virginia

This week: 28 for 41, 332 yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions in win vs. Kansas

Season stats: 71%, 1,819 yards, 21 TDs, 6 INT

If wins and losses are among the things that matter to Heisman voters, then Grier should be firmly entrenched as a Heisman finalist. But he can’t have too many games like he had against Kansas if he expects to be a true candidate much longer. While 332 yards and four touchdowns look good, Grier threw three red-zone interceptions, leaving scoring opportunities on the field that could come back to bite the Mountaineers against better teams. Grier has an opportunity to make a statement, but that won’t come for another month when West Virginia closes the season with Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.

4. Dwayne Haskins, sophomore QB, Ohio State

This week: 31 for 42, 434 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT in win vs. Indiana

Season stats: 73%, 1,919 yards, 25 TDs, 4 INT

Haskins had a huge day against the Hoosiers, setting career highs with 33 completions, six passing touchdowns (tying a school record) and 455 passing yards. Haskins, for now, leads the nation with 25 touchdown passes. It helps when you have a bevy of receivers to throw to. Haskins completed passes to nine different receivers, sometimes running scot free through the Indiana secondary. While the victory against Penn State helped his cause, there aren’t too many quality opponents left on the Buckeyes' schedule to impress pollsters, so Haskins will need to keep the 400-yard games coming from here on out.

5. Laviska Shenault Jr., sophomore, WR, Colorado

This week: 13 receptions, 127 yards, 2 TDs in win vs. Arizona State
Season stats: 51 receptions, 708 yards, 6 receiving TDs, 4 rushing TDs

Shenault is a touchdown waiting to happen and he accounted for each of Colorado’s four scores against the Sun Devils, adding two short TDs on the ground to go along with his two receiving ones. The nation’s leading receiver needs to keep up his prolific production and the Buffaloes need to keep piling up wins if he wants to become the first finalist at the position since Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook in 2016. Every defense knows that Shenault is getting the ball and they still can’t stop him, especially on third down, when he averages more than 30 yards a catch.

Almost famous: Justin Herbert, junior QB, Oregon; Benny Snell Jr., junior RB, Kentucky; Travis Etienne, sophomore, RB, Clemson; McKenzie Milton, junior, QB, UCF; Ed Oliver, junior, DE, Houston

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