There's just one aspect of Tua Tagovailoa running away with the Heisman Trophy that's truly surprising.
It isn't the fact that the Alabama quarterback is in the position he's in after basically being in the national spotlight for all of two quarters last season. It isn't that he's leading FBS with a 238.8 passer efficiency or that he's in the top five in passing yards (2,066), while leading the most explosive offense of Nick Saban's tenure in Tuscaloosa at 54.1 points and 564.3 yards per game.
What's stunning about Tagovailoa's candidacy, is that he's dominating this race despite not having played in a fourth quarter. Let's repeat that with some emphasis. He's dominating this race despite not having played in a fourth quarter, and it's unprecedented at this stage among recent players to hoist the trophy.
Since 2000, not a single one has yet to play in the final quarter going into the final weekend of October. Not just the 15 quarterbacks, but the running backs too.
Now, plenty have missed the fourth quarter in early season, especially when a non-conference slate leads to blowouts where putting them at risk when it's not necessary. Only four have sat out just three games at this point in the season, Derrick Henry (2015), Jameis Winston (2013) Johnny Manziel (2012), Mark Ingram (2009), Reggie Bush (in his since vacated 2005 win) and Matt Leinart (2004) ... but to have never played at all with the calendar about to turn to November?
Tagovailoa's case is certainly helped by the Crimson Tide blowing away their competition by an average of 38 points per game, including 36 through the first five games of the SEC season. Subsequently, the sophomore is on pace for 3,300 passing yards and 40 touchdowns -- should Alabama continue its path toward the conference championship game -- a drop from the 3,900 the last seven Heisman-winning QBs have produced, but given that he's missed 120 potential minutes of play so far, the totals shouldn't matter.
It's unlikely that, with Alabama going to No. 4 LSU the next time it takes the field on Nov. 3 that this streak of Tagovailoa-less fourth quarters continues. But with The Citadel sandwiched between Mississippi State and Auburn, it's likely the QB will miss at least another final quarter.
Regardless, Alabama's overall dominance has clear favorite Tagovailoa in a class all of his own when stacked up against recent Heisman winners at this stage in the game.
Before we dive into the players who are rising and falling in the race, here's a look at the Forecaster's virtual ballot heading into Week 9.
Murray's status took a hit with the Sooners' loss to Texas, but now it's Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins that is falling back in the race -- more on that later -- and that slide is to Murray's benefit. He's now the chief challenger to Tagovailoa, though the gap between the Alabama QB and everyone else remains sizable, and while Murray isn't exactly aided by a schedule with just one remaining Top 25 opponent (No. 13 West Virginia on Nov. 23), he's second to Tagovailoa in pass efficiency at 224.9 and fourth in total offense at 357.1 ypg. As we enter the final weekend before Halloween, Murray seems as good as bet to reach New York as anyone not named Tua.
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ON THE RISE: Gardner Minshew, Washington State QB
Now the nation's leading passer at 392.1 ypg, no one has more completions of 15-plus yards than Minshew's 64 and he's in the top five in TD strikes with 23 at the helm of Mike Leach's offense, which has seen the senior generate more attempts (364) and completions (254) than any other FBS passer. The win over then-No. 12 Oregon helped add legitimacy to Minshew's pursuit as he racked up 323 yards and four scores -- to go along with a pair of interceptions -- in outdueling the Ducks' Justin Herbert, who was considered the Pac-12's top candidate. This week should present another prime chance to increase his profile with the 14th-ranked Cougars on the road at No. 24 Stanford, which allowed 278 yards and four TDs to Notre Dame's Ian Book and 346 yards to the aforementioned Herbert.
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ON THE RISE: Shea Patterson, Michigan QB
Has Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins been displaced as the Big Ten's top candidate? Not exactly, as Patterson has just four games of more than 196 yards passing on the season, but his last two weeks have included 90 yards rushing in the win over Wisconsin and he loomed large against Michigan State with the third-quarter TD pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones and set up Ben Mason's insurance score in converting on fourth-and-2 in the fourth quarter. Keeping the Wolverines in the College Football Playoff hunt, as he did in those wins over back-to-back Top-25 opponents will keep Patterson in the hunt, and he take another step in that direction when Michigan returns on Nov. 3 vs. No. 17 Penn State.
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FALL GUYS: Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State QB
If last season taught us anything, it's that Buckeyes' CFP hopes aren't completely dead after their stunning loss at Purdue, and it's still well within the realm of reason to believe that Haskins could still find his way to New York as a finalist. After all, he still threw for a season-high 470 yards against the Boilermakers. Winning, though, seems like a far off prospect now. The last trophy recipient to take as bad of a loss as what Haskins and Co. suffered in falling 49-20 in West Lafayette was Baylor's Robert Griffin III, who was hit with a 25-point defeat in 2011, but that was against a third-ranked Oklahoma State squad. Haskins falling to not just an unranked Purdue team, but one that lost its first three games.
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FALL GUYS: Justin Herbert, Oregon QB
Held to a season-low 115.9 passer rating by Washington State as the Ducks had just 39 yards of offense and three first downs in the first half, he did finish with 270 yards. But with Oregon now needing help just to get into the Pac-12 North race, it's unlikely that Herbert can work his way back into the conversation for the Heisman. On a positive note, though, it's being reported that Herbert is going to return to Eugene for his final season despite his being talked about being the No. 1 pick in the spring's NFL draft.
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FALL GUYS: Will Grier, West Virginia QB
In all likelihood, with Grier coming off an abysmal performance against Iowa State -- which held him to 100 passing yards -- he will have a bounce-back game vs. Baylor. But will it be close to what Murray was able to do to this Bears defense, torching it for 432 yards and six touchdowns? Granted, Grier has a head-to-head matchup with Murray and the Sooners looming, and it seems unfair as he plays catchup, but the Oklahoma QB remains the measuring stick for Grier in Big 12 land, especially after suffering a setback vs. the Cyclones.