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  • Associated Press West Virginia quarterback Will Grier scores the game-winning, two-point conversion Saturday against Texas, his “Heisman Moment.”

Friday, November 09, 2018 1:00 am

Mountaineers QB joins Heisman race

The Heisman Trophy race gained some clarity this week thanks to Alabama's dominant 29-0 victory over No. 3 LSU in Baton Rouge. Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains the front-runner and it's beginning to seem as though presumptive No. 2 Kyler Murray will need to do something outrageous to catch up.

Last week's No. 3 candidate, Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew, was solid if unspectacular in a closer-than-it-should-have-been matchup against Cal. Purdue's Rondale Moore was relatively bottled up for the second consecutive week, likely pushing the award out of reach for him, despite a thrilling 38-36 Purdue win over Iowa.

Here are my top 3 Heisman Trophy contenders following Week 10.

1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

The biggest knock on Tagovailoa's candidacy as of last week was that the Crimson Tide quarterback lacked a defining “Heisman Moment.” That was mostly because Alabama wins every game by so much that there aren't many tense moments for the quarterback to shine. Against LSU, the Tide won easily again, and Tagovailoa might have found that special moment when he sprinted 44 yards for a clinching touchdown in the third quarter. 

It's ironic that the best quarterback in the country could have a run be his most electrifying play, but Tagovailoa was great throwing the ball against the terrific LSU defense, as well. He threw for 295 yards and a pair of touchdown passes and posted a QBR above 90 for the eighth time in nine games. He also threw his first interception of the season, but 27 touchdowns against one pick is still incredible. 

2. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Murray continues to light up Big 12 defenses, accounting for 460 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-46 win over an improved Texas Tech team on Saturday. The Sooners have scored at least 45 points in four straight games and remain alive in the College Football Playoff hunt thanks in large part to Murray's brilliance. 

Murray and Tagovailoa are in a statistical dead heat in several categories. Their QBRs are identical at 96.8 and Murray averages 12.34 yards per attempt, while Alabama's quarterback averages 12.17. Nobody else is particularly close in either category. Meanwhile, Murray has faced three defenses ranked in the top 28 in yards given up, while Tagovailoa has only seen one (No. 21 Texas A&M). The case for Murray isn't hard to make, but Alabama's dominance tips the scales toward the Tide's quarterback.

3. Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

Grier gets the No. 3 spot this week over Minshew after throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in a spectacular 42-41 road victory over No. 17 Texas on Saturday. The former Florida quarterback threw a 33-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left and then converted a winning 2-point conversion to keep the ninth-ranked Mountaineers in the hunt for a CFP spot. That's a Heisman moment.

Grier has been consistently excellent all season, throwing for 300 yards or more seven times in eight games and averaging more than 10 yards per attempt. He's thrown 28 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, while three of those picks came in one game against Kansas. We'll know a lot more about Tagovailoa's closest challenger for the Heisman when Grier and Murray face off in Morgantown on Nov. 23.

Dylan Sinn, who has a Heisman vote, covers Notre Dame football for The Journal Gazette. He may be reached by phone at 461-8223, via email at dsinn@jg.net or follow him on Twitter@DylanSinn.