Heisman watch Week Nine: Tua Tagovailoa set back by injury

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Photo Credit: Rocky Higine | Daily Texan Staff

Now nine weeks into the college season, our front-runners are gaining separation from the rest of the herd. With the competition narrowed down to the quarterback position, it’s time to see which of these dynamic athletes can lead their explosive offenses through the final stretch of the season.

Here’s who to watch for in Week Nine:

Tua Tagovailoa — Quarterback, Alabama

Our Heisman favorite was hit with a major setback this week when he suffered an ankle injury in Alabama’s 35-13 win over Tennessee. Before going down in the second quarter, junior Tagovailoa completed 11 of his 12 passes, but threw an interception, allowing an underachieving Tennessee squad to stick around.

Tagovailoa underwent “a successful tight-rope procedure on his right ankle” Sunday morning, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said in a statement. He has not established a timetable for his return. The good news for Alabama fans? The Tide plays Arkansas this week, a program that hasn’t beaten an SEC opponent since 2017.

Jalen Hurts — Quarterback, Oklahoma

Although his passing attempts were limited, Hurts strung together an efficient performance against West Virginia. The graduate transfer completed 16 of his 17 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns to close the gap on his former rival Tagovailoa.

With Tagovailoa sidelined indefinitely, Oklahoma’s next few games – particularly against Kansas State this weekend – stand as a golden opportunity for Hurts to climb to the top of Heisman contention.

Joe Burrow — Quarterback, LSU

Quietly stepping out of the shadow of Tagovailoa’s SEC reign is Joe Burrow, LSU’s gunslinging quarterback leading a revamped Tiger offense. Along with nearly 2,500 passing yards, the emerging superstar is averaging almost 10 touchdowns for every interception thrown.

But it’s not just the staggering touchdown to interception ratio or Burrow’s incredulous passing efficiency that’s earned him a place on this list — it’s that he continues to pass every test the SEC throws at him.

This week will be no different, as the Tigers welcome No. 9 Auburn to Death Valley to showdown with the most talented and disciplined defense they’ve faced yet before squaring off with (likely) No. 1 Alabama in two weeks.

Buckle up, folks. It’s the wild, wild (SEC) West.

Justin Fields — Quarterback, Ohio State

While our watchlist is comprised of quarterbacks from the SEC, Big 12 and Big 10, they all have one thing in common: they all played in the SEC.

If this statistic isn’t a testament to the SEC’s dominance, what is?

Sophomore Georgia transfer Justin Fields is another example of the SEC’s dominance even at Ohio State. Since Fields left Georgia following the 2019 season, the first-year starter has been on an absolute tear with the Buckeyes. Although he hasn’t thrown for 2000-plus yards like the rest of the quartet, Fields’ efficiency ratings and impact on his team is undeniable.

Ohio State is yet to score less than 34 points in a game this season, although that could change against a Wisconsin team hungry to prove itself after a major upset against Illinois.