OU's Murray officially a Heisman finalist

Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray celebrates with an OU flag last weekend after the Sooners won the Big 12 Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Murray is one of three finalists for the 2018 Heisman Trophy.

NORMAN — Kyler Murray learned he was officially a Heisman Trophy finalist while getting a massage Monday. And soon after came a text from his dad, Kevin.

“It had a lot of emojis,” Murray said laughing.

There was little doubt but still much joy when Murray learned he’ll join Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins in New York on Saturday, where one will be honored with college football’s top honor.

More than ever, Murray looks to be the favorite. His chances hinged on what took place conference championship weekend and things turned his way Saturday.

Tagovailoa has been considered a heavy favorite for months, but Murray threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns in OU’s 39-27 win over Texas in the Big 12 championship. Tagovailoa misfired on 15 passes, tossed two interceptions and suffered a high-ankle sprain in Alabama’s 35-28 SEC title win over Georgia.

Murray’s efficiency rating (205.72), total QBR (96.1), completion percentage (70.9 percent), total offense per game (380.4), passing yards per game (311.8) are all superior to Tagovailoa’s numbers.

As a result, he pulled ahead Tagovailloa in several Heisman polls by Monday morning, including ESPN and The Athletic.

Murray, who is OU’s 10th finalist all-time and is trying to become the school’s seventh winner, has a 46-44 edge in ESPN’s poll over Tagovailoa. The margin is even wider at 96-71 in The Athletic’s projection.

Murray has the best odds at 1/2, according to Bovada, while Tagovailoa dropped to 3/2.

“For me, I’m just going into it grateful for the opportunity to be there,” Murray said. “Obviously, Dwayne’s having a great season, Tua’s having a great season … I’m not going into thinking, ‘Oh yeah, it’s mine.’ I’m going into it with clear eyes, open-minded and just having fun.”

OU coach Lincoln Riley had high praise on national radio for his quarterback Monday morning during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show.

“He’s the best athlete on the field,” Riley said, “and the smartest player on the field at the same time. A rare combination of elite athleticism, great mind of the game, competitive spirit, very confident and just a rare thrower ... You’re not gonna see many like this, ever.”

Should Murray claim the Heisman, OU would be the first school to produce back-to-back quarterback winners. Not since Army’s Doc Blanchard (1945) and Glenn Davis (1946) has a school produced consecutive different winners.

OU’s Baker Mayfield won the 2017 award, and sitting behind him was valuable to getting where he is today, Murray acknowledged.

His efficiency rating, passing yards per attempt (11.9) and percentage of passes for touchdowns (11.8) are all on pace to break NCAA records. He is the first player in FBS history to enter bowl season averaging at least 300 passing yards and 60 rushing yards per game.

“I’ve never seen anyone like him,” OU right tackle Cody Ford said. “He does things out of the ordinary … Honestly, just staying poised through a lot of tough moments. He’s a little guy, but he takes some hits. You never see him on the ground for too long. He’s always right back up.”