Tagovailoa one of three Heisman Trophy finalists

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The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins are the finalists for the Heisman Trophy, ensuring a quarterback will win the award for the 16th time in the last 19 years.

The finalists were announced Monday, hours after the deadline for 928 voters, including former winners, to submit their ballots.

Tagovailoa has been the favorite for most of the season, but Murray and Haskins finished strong. Unlike most seasons, there should be some real drama Saturday when the Heisman is awarded in New York City.

Tagovailoa and Murray will also face off in the College Football Playoff, when No. 1 Alabama faces No. 4 Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl semifinal on Dec. 29.

The finalists are determined by the margin of votes received, starting with the third- and fourth-place finishers. At least three and as many as five finalists are invited to the presentation ceremony.

Tagovailoa’s Heisman campaign started the final game of last season, when he came off the bench as a freshman to lead Alabama to a comeback victory in the national championship game against Georgia. His first season as a starter has been as good as advertised, with 3,353 yards passing, 37 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. Tagovailoa would be the third Alabama player to win the Heisman since 2009, but the first quarterback, joining tailbacks Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry.

Tagovailoa would also be the second Saint Louis School graduate in five seasons to claim the Heisman, following Marcus Mariota of Oregon in 2014.

Murray replaced last year’s Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield, for the Sooners and has been just as good. The junior, who has already signed a $4.7 million deal to play baseball with the Oakland Athletics next year, has passed for 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns with seven interceptions.

Haskins, a third-year sophomore, shattered numerous Big Ten passing records this season, throwing for 4,580 yards and 47 touchdowns to lead the country in both categories. Haskins is the first Buckeyes finalist since Troy Smith won the Heisman in 2006.

Tagovailoa seemed like he would be a runaway Heisman winner heading into the final month of the season, but Murray closed the gap by continually bailing out Oklahoma’s faulty defense. Tagovailoa still seemed poised to head to New York as the favorite until last Saturday when he threw two interceptions and didn’t finish the Southeastern Conference championship game against Georgia because of a sprained ankle.

Murray and Haskins, meanwhile, both had huge games on championship Saturday, adding some suspense to the race, but also separating themselves from the rest of the contenders.