|COLLEGE FB PACKAGE: Tebow? Ryan? Dixon? Hart? Heisman race hasn't been this muddled in years|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 24 October 2007 11:08|
Just past the midway point of the season, the Heisman Trophy race is cluttered with potential candidates and without a clear front-runner.
``My top three seems to change every week,'' ESPN analysts Kirk Herbstreit wrote in an e-mail this week. ``I've never seen a race this wide open so late in the year.''
It's a stark contrast to the last few seasons. At this time last year, the Heisman Trophy was already Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith's to lose.
The year before, Southern California's Reggie Bush and Texas' Vince Young had pulled way ahead of the field by now. In 2004, the big debate was if Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson could win the award as a freshman. USC's Matt Leinart ended up taking it going away.
Jason White wasn't talked about much before the '03 season, but by midseason most Heisman voters were relegated to searching for reasons not to vote for the Oklahoma quarterback.
This season the serious contenders are just starting to emerge, but no player is a given to get an invite to the award ceremony in New York on Dec. 8.
``The last time I can remember there being suspense for most of the season was 2002 when Carson Palmer won it,'' said SI.com's Stewart Mandel, a Heisman voter whose new book ``Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls'' has a chapter dedicated to Heisman history.
Last week may have represented a turning point in the Heisman race.
``Before last weekend it was very much a hodgepodge,'' Mandel said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The Florida-Kentucky game gave two of the best players in the country a chance to show their stuff and both came up huge.
Tebow passed for 256 yards and a career-high four touchdowns to lead Florida to a 45-37 victory. He also ran for a score as the sophomore continued to be a one-man wrecking crew for the defending national champions.
Meanwhile, Woodson, coming off the Wildcats' upset win over LSU, passed for a season-high 415 yards against Florida. The week before LSU, Woodson hurt his Heisman chances with a bad game in a nationally televised loss to South Carolina.
Tebow's latest brilliant performance seems to have made him the front-runner, at least for now.
In a poll of 23 Heisman voters conducted by The Associated Press this week, Tebow received 12 first-place votes and 47 1/2 points (based on a 3-2-1 system).
The burly left-hander leads the nation in passing efficiency with a 177.5 rating and is Florida's leading rusher with 578 yards and 10 touchdowns on 125 carries.
Ryan, the Boston College quarterback, came in second with 27 1/2 points, though his so-called Heisman candidacy could take a major turn in either direction Thursday night. The unbeaten and second-ranked Eagles (7-0) play at No. 8 Virginia Tech in their toughest game so far.
Woodson was third in the poll with 22 points. Michigan running back Mike Hart was fourth with 16. Hart was leading the nation in rushing before he was injured two weeks ago against Purdue. He played half that game and sat out Michigan's win against Illinois last week with a sore ankle.
Dixon, the Oregon quarterback, was fifth with 14 1/2 points. He has similar numbers to Tebow with a 165.8 rating, 416 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Tebow has thrown for 1,711 yards and 17 touchdowns. Dixon has 1,728 yards and 16 TDs.
Competing in the Northwest has forced Dixon to play catch-up for notoriety, but more people are starting to take notice of the guy who directs the Ducks' high-powered spread offense. A big game against USC on Saturday would do wonders for his Heisman chances as well as Oregon's national title hopes.
``(It's a) shame more people don't see Dixon play every week,'' Herbstreit wrote. ``He's having an amazing year.''
Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden, last year's runner-up and one of the favorites coming into the season, received four points and one first-place vote in the poll.
The junior is having another big year, he's sixth in the nation and tops in the Southeastern Conference in rushing at 133 yards per game, but the Razorbacks are 4-3 and only 1-3 in the SEC and that's damaged his chance to win the Heisman.
Others who received mention in the poll were Dixon's teammate, tailback Jonathan Stewart, Rutgers tailback Ray Rice, Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan and Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis.