Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Showcase Game in Heisman Race; Last Chance for Players to Influence Award Voters

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Showcase Game in Heisman Race; Last Chance for Players to Influence Award Voters

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

GAINESVILLE - The BCS national championship game matchup isn't the only thing that will be determined on Saturday. College football's most prestigious award is on the line, too.

Whether Tim Tebow wins a second Heisman Trophy likely depends on whether top-ranked Florida beats No. 2 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game and wins the program's ninth league title.

Whether Mark Ingram becomes the first Alabama player to win a Heisman likely depends on whether the Crimson Tide can win their 22nd league title.

Halfway across the country, there's another game that will impact the race, too: The Big 12 title game between Texas and Heisman candidate Colt McCoy and Nebraska.

Sometimes, it's the last impression that means the most, and that might be especially true this year. Heisman Trophy ballots are due Monday night, so Saturday's games will be the last chance to influence voters and create some separation in a race that has been clogged with candidates.

"I do think it's a showcase for both of them, and it'll be a showcase for McCoy against Nebraska on Saturday night," said Verne Lundquist, who handles play-by-play on college football broadcasts for CBS. "The odd man out, I think, is probably [Stanford running back Toby] Gerhart, simply because he doesn't get the exposure this weekend, and it's the weekend before everybody should vote."

A month ago, Tebow was the favorite. Two weeks ago, it was Ingram. Now it appears to be McCoy, but Gerhart's candidacy is gathering momentum. The race remains too close to call - until after Saturday.

"I think each player has a reason where the voter would want to vote for him," CBS college football analyst Gary Danielson said. "I think there's a lot of voters who want to vote for Colt McCoy because of his three-year run and his excellence for three years, and Tebow's already won it. I think there's a lot of people that would like a reason to vote for Mark Ingram. He's not a quarterback, and he plays for Alabama, a team that's never had a Heisman Trophy winner. There's a lot of voters that would like to vote for someone other than a quarterback.

"And then, of course, the polarizing figure of Tim Tebow. ... But I think Verne's got it right. They all have a platform. They all play for very good teams. And they're all going to play on national television."

Tebow's passing numbers aren't as good as they were in 2007, when he became the first sophomore to win the award, but he is fifth in the nation and first in the SEC in passing efficiency. He also is 99 yards shy of the career-high 895 yards he rushed for in '07.

Becoming the second player to win multiple Heismans isn't something he's even considering this week.

"It's special. I don't want to put that down at all because that is a very prestigious award, and it means a lot, and it would mean a lot to win it, but that's kind of totally out of my mind frame," he said. "It's something that I'm not even thinking about or worried about, because our goal is to win the SEC championship, and that's our focus. Winning a Heisman Trophy would be special. It was special, and it does mean a lot, but not compared with winning an SEC title."

Ingram was probably the front-runner heading into Thanksgiving weekend, but a big performance by McCoy against Texas A&M (475 total yards and five touchdowns) and Ingram's less-than-normal numbers against Auburn - 30 yards on 16 carries and three catches for 21 yards - returned Ingram to the pack.

The sophomore's season stats are impressive. He leads the SEC with 1,429 yards and 12 touchdowns and is fourth in all-purpose yards (1,675 yards). …

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