There's owning September in the Heisman Trophy race, and then there's taking all the fun out of the proceedings in the first month for the nation's runaway team.
We've seen the likes of Denard Robinson, Geno Smith and Leonard Fournette emerge as the top contender as the calendar turns to October, only to be end up being denied the hardware come December. Tua Tagovailoa isn't just out in front right now, but as the star of an Alabama team that is steamrolling the opposition, the quarterback stands in position to do the same thing to the trophy chase.
Tagovailoa has challengers, a list of realistic winners -- if history is our guide -- that now seems to be limited to Oklahoma's Tyler Murray, Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins and West Virginia's Will Grier.
It feels like before we've even hit the halfway point of the season, the award is Tagovailoa's to lose -- and maybe it always was. He was penciled in as the betting co-favorite with last year's runner up, Stanford's Bryce Love, and has transformed the Crimson Tide offense into a juggernaut that leads the nation in scoring (54.2 per game) and is top five in total offense (553.2), while standing as FBS' most efficient passer (238.3).
Oh, and he's done that without attempting a single pass in the fourth quarter.
That hasn't led to off-the-charts statistics, with the sophomore ranking 50th in the nation at 255.2 yards of offense per game and 46 more players have thrown for more yards than Tagovailoa's 232.2 per. Should Alabama reach the SEC Championship Game, that puts him on pace for 3,018 yards and 36 touchdowns, which yardage-wise would be off the 3,900-plus the last seven Heisman-winning QBs have produced.
Again, he has yet to throw a pass in the fourth quarter, and with matchups still ahead against No. 5 LSU (Nov. 3) and No. 8 Auburn (Nov. 24), plus that potential title game, he's going to get plenty of chances in the spotlight. Plus, Tagovailoa's narrative isn't just about where he ranks among those former Heisman QBs, it's also the impact he's had on a Crimson Tide offense that, under Nick Saban, has never ranked higher than 15th in total offense (2014 and '17) and 12th in scoring (2012).
That's the demoralizing thing for those of us who devote ourselves to covering the Heisman race: Tagovailoa is already the leader before we've even reached the meat of Alabama's schedule.
He's in control heading into the first games of October, and barring a major setback, that isn't likely to change any time soon.
Before we look at the players who are poised to rise and fall in the race this week, here's who's currently behind the Alabama QB on this voter's real-time ballot.
1. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB 2. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State QB 3. Will Grier, West Virginia QB
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ON THE RISE: Kyler Murray, Oklahoma QB
After capping the first month with a season-high 432 yards on just 21 passes against Baylor, Murray now gets his first start in a Red River Showdown opposite. The Longhorns have rebounded nicely after the opening loss to Maryland, taking down No. 22 USC and No. 17 TCU in back-to-back games and and made this first the rivals' first matchup with both in the Top 25 since 2012. Sitting 63rd vs. the pass (218.2 ypg), Texas has yet to face a QB in the top 50 in pass efficiency; Murray is second in that department (231.6).
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ON THE RISE: Ian Book, Notre Dame QB
Not playing in the first two games of the season keeps Book from being a legitimate threat to win, but he's impressed in hitting on 74.3 percent of passes with seven TDs and zero interceptions. His number of supporters should grow if the Fighting Irish stay unbeaten after Saturday's trip to Lane Stadium to face No. 24 Virginia Tech in prime time.
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ON THE RISE: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB
The nation's leader with 157 rushing yards per game, Taylor is the running back position's best hope, though as previously mentioned, history makes it seem unlikely after that September loss to unranked BYU. Nonetheless, Taylor is on pace for a 2,000-yard season should the Badgers earn a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game. He should pick up a nice chunk of yardage on Saturday against winless Nebraska, which is allowing 165 ypg on the ground (80th in FBS).
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FALL GUYS: Benny Snell, Kentucky RB
The Wildcats have been one of the best stories of the season's first month, sitting at No. 13 after taking down No. 25 Florida on the road, along with No. 14 Mississippi State and South Carolina in Lexington. Snell has been their poster boy, racking up 639 yards, which is fourth in the nation. This week, though, Snell and Co. are facing Texas A&M -- which is an SEC-best sixth vs. the rush (85) and allowed just 109 to top-ranked Alabama -- on the road. It's not a favorable matchup for the Kentucky RB.
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FALL GUYS: Justin Herbert, Oregon QB
Herbert threw for a pedestrian 225 yards last week in the Ducks' rebound rout of the-No. 24 Cal, which didn't exactly rekindle his campaign, but now the level of difficulty is about to increase. He's facing a top-10 pass defense in Washington that's yielding just 155.2 ypg and has allowed the fewest points of any FBS defense at 11.6 pg. The Pac-12's top contender going int into the season, Stanford's Bryce Love, is all but out after a bad opener and missing a game, and the 10th-ranked Huskies D is poised to completely take the conference out of the mix should it bottle up Herbert.
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FALL GUYS: Drew Lock, Missouri QB
Lock has had his way with South Carolina, throwing for 683 yards and four touchdowns against them, and made his first start vs. the Gamecocks on Oct. 3, 2015. But he's also gone 1-2 in those matchups, and while South Carolina is sitting at 2-2 with losses to No. 3 Georgia and the aforementioned Snell and Kentucky, this remains a strong Gamecocks D vs. the pass. They're second-best in the SEC, and 11th nationally, in allowing 159.5 ypg.