Just a little over a month ago, neither Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins nor Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa had ever started a college football game. They each became heroes for leading their respective teams to comeback wins – Haskins helped the Buckeyes beat Michigan and Tagovailoa played the second half in the national championship win – but neither had any experience starting.
That hasn’t seemed to be much of an issue, if at all, thus far. Now, in the middle of October, the two first-year starting quarterbacks have found themselves pitted against each other in the midst of the Heisman Trophy race.
Both Haskins and Tagovailoa lead undefeated teams ranked in the top three and have put up video game numbers. Their teams will not play this season unless they’re matched up in a bowl game, but if they match up in December or January, bragging rights going beyond just a Heisman Trophy will be on the line.
Even so, they speak every single week, including this past weekend, as the two frontrunners have a relationship dating back before college.
“We sent each other scriptures before the game on Saturday, just send out blessings to each other,” Haskins said on Tuesday.
Haskins tied a single-game program record with six touchdowns against Indiana on Saturday and complete 33-of-44 passes for 455 yards, falling just three yards of Art Schlichter’s school passing yards record. It was just the second time an Ohio State player had ever thrown for 400-plus yards in a game.
Haskins’ performance didn’t impress himself on Saturday as much as Tagovailoa’s did, though.
In Alabama’s 65-31 dismantling of Arkansas, Tagovailoa went 10-of-13 for 334 yards, his second-highest passing yardage total of the year thus far. After seeing Tagovailoa’s stat line, Haskins had to reach out to his friend, questioning how that was even possible.
“I go, 'How did you go 10-for-13 for 300 yards?' He was like, 'I don't know,’” Haskins said. “That's pretty cool. I wish I could do that in one of these games this year.”
Haskins doesn’t view what he has with Tagovailoa as a competition, even a friendly competition.
In his mind, it’s just two friends, both of whom are likely to head to New York City in early December for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, quarterbacking their teams that both happen to be on track for potential berths in the College Football Playoff.
“He's an accurate guy,” Haskins said. “Brings a lot to his offense. Really upbeat, well-spirited guy. I admire his game.”
The two built a relationship after meeting at recruiting camps and spending time together at Elite 11, a quarterback competition among the top high school prospects in the country.
Haskins might not pit himself against Tagovailoa, but other people assuredly will – and already have. That happens when two friends find themselves in contention for the top award in college football.
The two have each posted gaudy numbers. Tagovailoa is 76-for-101 (75.2 percent) for 1,495 yards with 18 touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception and has been sacked just twice. Haskins is 142-for-198 (71.7 percent) for 1,919 yards with 25 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and West Virginia’s Will Grier join Tagovailoa and Haskins as the top midseason candidates to be this year's Heisman Trophy winner.
“It's just a blessing to be considered with those guys,” Haskins said. “Those are great quarterbacks and we all are pretty cool with each other. So, we're competing every week.”