For the fourth year in a row I was fortunate enough to represent the Capital Region in New York as a voter for college football's Heisman Memorial Trophy. Below was the official ballot I cast for this year's award. Three things are important to remember 1) Official voters can only cast a ballot for three players.(3 points for first place, 2 points for second, 1 point for third place) 2) My voting process follows that of which is required by each Heisman voter. The award asks voters to cast their ballots to the most outstanding players in college football in the United States whose performances best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. 3) Every single college football player in the country is eligible for the award, regardless of the level of play. Below is my official and reasoning for my votes. **Let me also add that of the four years I have voted, this year was the most difficult to cast a ballot for. Many candidates had impressive seasons that deserved recognition.

#1 Alabama Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa

Each year my criteria when comparing Heisman Trophy candidates comes down to three big factors. 1) How did the individual perform against the best competition on their respective schedule? 2) How important was the individual's performances to his team's success? 3) How did the individual perform statistically/efficiently for their team?

Tagovailoa and the below candidate were close in each category. In the end Tagovailoa exceeded these factors more than any other player in the country. In three of his team's four big games this season, his individual stats were: 1006 passing touchdowns eleven passing touchdowns three rushing touchdowns and one interception.. Historically, Heisman Trophy candidates that did win the award either 1) suffered an injury 2) had a poor performance in a big game, 3) played at a non power five school that may have hurt their national candidacy. .Tagovailoa's lone bad (and that's a stretch) performance was last week in the SEC title game against Georgia. However, it is important to remember he was injured in the second half of the game and not benched in the game. Plus in those Heisman candidacy's hurt by injury, it almost always happens during early/mid-season, not in the conference title game. I'm surprised by how many media members/fans swayed their opinion on Tagovailoa's season following a Crismon Tide win. It is hard to figure out how voters would have responded if Alabama lost. Would that have actually helped Tagovailoa's candidacy? Tua Tagovailoa 's competition this season also gave him an edge over the below candidate.Seven teams in the SEC had a top-25 defense this year. The Big 12 had zero.

#2 Oklahoma Quarterback Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray posted a great resume for this year's award. Murray's Oklahoma Sooners qualified for the college football playoff along with winning a Big 12 championship.  Murray lead the nation in total yards, points responsible for, passing efficiency rating (FBS record) yards per pass attempt (11.9; FBS record)  and yards per completion (16.8) He also ranks second in completion percentage. So why did he receive the second place vote rather than the first? One of those reasons is listed above (competition faced). The second is his performance in the biggest games on his team's schedule. In the first edition of Texas vs Oklahoma, Murray's turnovers proved to be costly in the Sooners' lone loss of the season. In comparison to Tagovailoa's resume, I don't have any games where I can pinpoint to say his performance hurt his team's chances to win. Would Tagovailoa have continued to struggle  if he continued to play against Georgia? It is possible but I can't project "what ifs" That's how close this year's race was between Tagovailoa and Murray. One game, one performance and one what if.

#3 Ohio State Quarterback Dwayne Haskins

As you will read below, Haskins beat out two other very deserving candidates for the third place vote and it was very close. In the two biggest games of the season for Ohio State (Michigan and the Big Ten title game), Haskins was incredible. The combined stats for both games were 895 yards passing, eleven touchdowns, one interception and two victories. Plus Haskins' season performances included setting four new Big Ten conference records (total yards, touchdowns and more). In comparison to the candidates below, Haskins' worst performance was far better than others. In fact, it is tough to find a game where Haskins was not good. Maybe the blow out loss to Purdue? Haskins still threw for 470 yards and two touchdowns. Although it is fair to argue those stats were helped by the Buckeyes trailing for much of the game. You can argue his worst individual performance  was against Penn State.  (270 yards and three touchdowns). However the Buckeyes won that game as well thanks to Haskins' efforts. The late push by Haskins and the overall consistent games were the reasons why Haskins deserved the third place vote.

Why no love for West Virginia's Will Grier or Washington State's Gardner Minshew?

Trust me I really liked both of these guys. I update my personal Heisman standings each week and as recent as less than a month ago, both were in my top three.

Will Grier was locked in as my #3 vote going into the conference title game weekend. At that point, it felt very unlikely Haskins could leap frog him in my rankings. I was so close to voting Grier for #3 I had his name typed and ready to hit send on my ballot. However I took a second look at Grier vs Haskins. Grier was very good against the best competition on his schedule (Texas, Oklahoma- 7 TDs no interceptions and 900 yards passing). The Mountaineers finished 1-1 in those games and Grier's two point conversion run play was the deciding play in the victory over the Longhorns. However look at Haskins' stats above.. They are better in big games. His team WON each of those big games. Unfortuantely for Grier, his bad game against Iowa State was a huge issue for his candidacy in comparsion to Haskins' worst games. In the end, I could not make an argument as to why Grier was a better candidate than Haskins.

The difference for Minshew is how poorly he played in the rivalry game against Washington. I understand above I noted how a bad performance can actually help a Heisman campaign, however the field Minshew was competing against did not offer any chance to hold steady. Statistically Tagovailoa, Murray and Haskins were better. All three above played against better competition, played well in big games and helped their teams to more success compared to the Cougars. In most seasons Minshew and Grier are nominees. 2018 unfortunately for them was different.

Do you agree or disagree with my ballot? If so, why? Let me know below.