The two quarterbacks were named finalists for the 84th Heisman Trophy on Monday, along with Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins. The award for the most outstanding college football player will be given out Saturday and aired live on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET.
Murray and Tagovailoa both led their teams to the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 29, which will pit Murray's fourth-seeded Sooners against Tagovailoa and No. 1 Alabama.
The pair will come to Manhattan as the co-favorites after posting the two highest QBRs in the FBS going into bowl season since ESPN began tracking the data in 2004. Tagovailoa owns a QBR of 94.2, while Murray's is 96.0. Both quarterbacks are also on pace to shatter the FBS season passing efficiency record set by Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman winner Baker Mayfield last year.
In following Mayfield, Murray is attempting to give the Sooners the first back-to-back Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks of any school in the history of the award.
Other back-to-back winners from the same university include USC quarterback Matt Leinart (2004) and running back Reggie Bush (2005, though his award was later vacated), Army fullback Doc Blanchard (1945) and running back Glenn Davis (1946), and Yale tight end Larry Kelley (1936) and halfback Clinton Frank (1937).
Ohio State running back Archie Griffin remains the only individual two-time winner (1974-75).
Murray, who was picked ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in the summer's MLB draft, has said that he plans to give up football after this season to join the A's.
While Murray will hope to be Oklahoma's seventh Heisman winner, and fourth Sooners quarterback (Jason White, Sam Bradford and Mayfield) to win since 2003, Tagovailoa is attempting to become Alabama's first-ever Heisman-winning quarterback.
Having thrown 36 touchdowns with only two interceptions during the regular season, Tagovailoa had been the clear frontrunner to win the Heisman for much of the year, with the Crimson Tide defeating every opponent by 22 points. But in the SEC championship game, he struggled, then left with an ankle injury, and backup Jalen Hurts quarterbacked the Crimson Tide to a come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter over Georgia to clinch the top overall playoff spot.
Finishing No. 6 in the final CFP rankings, the Buckeyes just missed out on the playoff, despite defeating Northwestern in the Big Ten championship Saturday. In that game, Haskins passed for 499 yards and five touchdowns. The week before, he threw for 396 yards and six touchdowns against Michigan, which boasted the nation's No. 1 pass defense coming into Ohio Stadium. Haskins now leads the country with 47 touchdown passes and 4,580 yards.
With his late flurry, Haskins edged out all others for the last finalist spot, including West Virginia quarterback Will Grier and Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who did not make the cut despite strong seasons. Minshew led the country with 433 completions while connecting on 71 percent of his passes. Grier averaged 351 yards passing per game, trailing only Haskins and Minshew.