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Handicapping the Heisman Trophy race

Heisman Trophy finalists from left, Stanford running back

Heisman Trophy finalists from left, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Nebraska defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh. (Dec. 10, 2009) Credit: AP Photo

ive finalists will be in New York for the announcement Saturday of the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner as college football's top player. That's the highest number of finalists since 2004, which is a strong indication of a tight race with no clear cut favorite.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Alabama running back Mark Ingram likely have the inside track because they are the best players on the teams that will meet for the BCS national title. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, the 2007 winner, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart and Nebraska defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh round out the field.

Here's a look at the resumes of the five finalists (in predicted order of finish):



The 2008 runner-up to Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford had a phenomenal game on Thanksgiving night with 479 yards of total offense in a 49-39 win over Texas A&M, but that might be offset by his three-interception performance in the Big 12 title game when he was sacked nine times by Nebraska. On the other hand, McCoy scored the Longhorns' only touchdown and moved the 13-0 Longhorns into position for the winning field goal in a 13-12 victory to reach the BCS title game. Faced with the challenge of guiding an offense with several new starters, McCoy started slowly but came on strong, completing 70.5 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards and 27 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions. He also was the 'Horns' second-leading rusher with 368 yards and two TDs. Most notable of all, McCoy is the winningest QB in NCAA history (45-7) and the first to win at least 10 games in four straight seasons.



Alabama RB

Ingram's campaign suffered a blow when he was stopped cold by Auburn, but he came up big when it counted in front of a much bigger audience in Bama's 32-13 SEC title win over Florida, carrying 28 times for 113 yards and three touchdowns and catching two passes for another 76 yards. For the season, Ingram rushed for 1,542 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He also caught 30 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns. In five of his last eight games, Ingram rushed for at least 140 yards. He had 269 yards of total offense against South Carolina and another 158 against LSU. Alabama never has had a Heisman winner, which might produce a sentimental vote in Ingram's favor, but as a sophomore, he will have other chances at the award while M will not.



Gerhart might be the stealth candidate who could sneak in and pull an upset. The senior finished as the second-leading rusher in the nation with 1,736 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and his 26 touchdowns ranked first. He reached the 200-yard rushing mark three times (200 vs. Washington, 223 vs. Oregon and 205 vs. Notre Dame) and scored at least three touchdowns four weeks in a row against the likes of Oregon, USC, Cal and Notre Dame. Gerhart's candidacy really took off after his eye-catching performance in a 55-21 rout of Southern Cal when he rushed for 178 yards and scored three touchdowns. The one negative is that the Cardinal lost four games, but that didn't matter to the voters who gave him the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back. Some also might be swayed to support Gerhart because he is an outstanding student at prestigious Stanford. TIM


Florida QB

If 2007 Heisman winner Tebow didn't match Ohio State RB Archie Griffin as a two-time winner after his 2008 season on the way to a national title, then, he's unlikely to repeat this year after a 32-13 loss to Alabama in the SEC title game. "It will be tough after losing the last game," Tebow admitted earlier this week. Tebow passed for 247 yards and a TD and rushed for 67 yards, but he threw a crucial end zone interception that negated a comeback against the Tide. Tebow still had an outstanding season, completing 65.2 percent of his passes for 2,413 yards and 18 touchdowns with a mere five interceptions. He led the Gators in rushing with 859 yards, a 4.2 average carry and 13 touchdowns. Tebow also surpassed Herschel Walker's SEC record for rushing touchdowns by seven, finishing with 56. Florida had a 22-game winning streak before the Alabama loss.



Nebraska DT

The only defensive player ever to win the Heisman was Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson, but Suh certainly would be a deserving second to win. While Woodson benefitted from season-long attention, Suh didn't really grab the attention of voters and solidify an invite to New York until the Cornhuskers' 13-12 Big 12 title loss to Texas when he was credited with 41/2 of Nebraska's nine sacks. That gave him 12 for the season to go with 82 tackles and one interception. Suh already has won the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski Awards as the nation's top defensive player and the Lombardi Award as the top lineman, an honor that usually goes to an offensive lineman. The Heisman is a notoriously bad predictor of professional success, so as the projected No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, Suh probably won't win the Heisman even if he is the best college player in NFL eyes.


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