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Heisman ‘two-way race’; Alabama favorite for national title

A year after a University of Oklahoma quarterback took home the Heisman Trophy and Alabama University won another NCAA football championship, many experts think fans are in for the same outcomes this year. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, is among those, although he feels more strongly about Alabama’s odds at repeating the national championship than he does about the Heisman race. 

“I think it’s really going to be a two-way race,” he said Tuesday, referring to Heisman finalists Kyler Murray, quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners, and Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide. “I think it’ll be pretty close between them.”  

Looney, who has memorized every winner of the Heisman Memorial Trophy since University of Chicago running back Jay Berwanger won the first one in 1935, joined the “Morning Record” to talk about this year’s race. 

This year’s winner will be announced Saturday evening at The Downtown Club in New York City. Ohio State University quarterback Dwayne Haskins is the third finalist for the award. 

Tagovailoa had been the front-runner for much of the season, but oddsmaker Bovada made Murray a slight favorite after his performance in the Big XII conference championship game Saturday to help the Sooners make the playoffs. 

Looney felt Murray’s performance, compared to Tagovailoa’s struggle and early exit in the SEC conference championship due to injury, could have sealed the award, but admits its too close to be certain. 

“I think Murray may have done enough — I wouldn’t place on which one it would be because I do expect it to be very close,” Looney said. Looney correctly predicted that Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield would win the award last year. 

Looney noted the list of finalists ensures another quarterback will take home the award — six of the last seven winners have been quarterbacks, and only the halfback/running back position accounts for more winners overall. 

While many great running backs have won the award, Looney noted quarterbacks who take home the Heisman have rarely gone onto professional success.

“One of the other things I find interesting is that so many major universities in big time power conferences have never had a Heisman winner,” he said. 

He quickly rattled of a list of names from Bart Starr to Joe Namath, Dan Marino, and Joe Kelly to more current stars, like Peyton and Eli Manning and Tom Brady, who never won the award. 

Looney noted that quarterbacks Eric Crouch, who won in 2001, and Jason White, 2003, never played in the National Football League.  

He also pointed that out some big time programs haven’t produced a Heisman winner, while schools have seen a player win it. 

Michigan State, which has claimed at least a share of six national titles, Purdue, one national title, and Maryland, two titles, have all produced no Heisman winners. Oregon and Oregon State, meanwhile, have each had a player win the award, he noted; neither program has won a national title, however. 

Murray and Tagovailoa will meet again Dec. 29 in one of the two national semifinal games, and Looney expects that Alabama will advance. 

Notre Dame and Clemson will meet in the other semifinal, but Looney, a lifelong fan Notre Dame fan, isn’t optimistic about his Fighting Irish. 

 “I see another Alabama-Clemson final, with Alabama probably prevailing,” Looney said.

An Alabama victory would give coach Nick Saban more national titles than fellow Crimson Tide legend Bear Bryant — the two are currently tied at six apiece. 

Looney, though, said he already considers Saban a better coach than Bryant, who racked up his titles in an era when the champion was decided solely by a poll and not by any type of playoff format. 

Saban has won two titles since the NCAA switched to the current playoff in 2014, while his other four came under the Bowl Championship Series that pitted the top two teams against each other annually.

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