Heisman watch Week Two: Hurts impresses, Etienne enters picture

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Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Although Week One mostly consisted of tuneup games for our early Heisman candidates, they hardly disappointed. All four candidates won their opening games, but this week’s slew of matchups places a pair of Watch members in the spotlight against top-15 teams.

Here’s what to watch for in Week Two:

Tua Tagovailoa — Quarterback, Alabama

After one quarter of competition Saturday, Alabama resumed their dominant ways against Duke with junior Tua Tagovailoa at the helm. Tagovailoa was as good as advertised, throwing for 336 passing yards and completing 26 of his 31 attempts. Tagovailoa did not play the fourth quarter as the Tide rolled past Duke 42-3.

Don’t expect Tagovailoa to see a more competitive defense this week as Alabama welcomes New Mexico State to Tuscaloosa — a program that won only three games last season and finished 126 out of 130 FBS teams in team defense. If Alabama dominates through three quarters as they did last week, the only thing slowing Tua’s Heisman candidacy will be head coach Nick Saban sitting him in the fourth quarter.

Travis Etienne — Running back, Clemson

After being overshadowed by teammate Trevor Lawrence in Heisman talks for the better part of the offseason, Etienne had his moment in the spotlight Thursday night against Georgia Tech. Clemson’s junior running back looked the part of a Heisman hopeful, finishing the night with 205 rushing yards on just 12 carries and surpassing sophomore quarterback Lawrence in all-purpose yards.

But Etienne and Clemson’s explosive offense has a much taller task ahead of them in Week Two as they host Texas A&M, a program with a newfound sense of energy since head coach Jimbo Fisher took over in 2018. Their top-15 matchup is set for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on ABC.

Jalen Hurts — Quarterback, Oklahoma

Any questions about the Alabama graduate transfer were answered with a 508 total yard offensive explosion against Houston. After a year of backing up Tagovailoa at Alabama, Hurts proved himself to be more than just a competent starter — he proved himself to be a Heisman front-runner.

Considering Trevor Lawrence’s subpar performance against Georgia Tech (168 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown pass), Hurts’ performance last week will only help his Heisman campaign while Lawrence slides down. Don’t be surprised to see a similar performance from Hurts this week when Oklahoma takes on the FCS South Dakota Coyotes in Norman.

Sam Ehlinger — Quarterback, Texas

For the first time since 2009, ESPN’s College GameDay is headed to Austin for the Longhorns’ primetime matchup against LSU in a top-10 clash. For junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, this is a golden opportunity to make a Heisman statement against a prominent SEC opponent.

But LSU’s defense is no joke. They harbor junior Grant Delpit, arguably the best safety in college football, along with a physical and aggressive front seven. After spending much of his first two seasons competing against almost whimsical Big 12 and Pac 12 defenses, this will be the biggest test of Ehlinger’s career thus far. And with Texas’ shallow running back situation, expect the offense to run through Ehlinger.