Dec. 12, 2008

By Adam Caparell

The race for the 74th Heisman Trophy has been about as wide open as you can get.

Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow are all vying to win the most celebrated award in college sports and when the 25-pound trophy is handed out Saturday night in New York, the winner could easily be any of the three.

Some 925 voters across the country have cast their ballots – they were due Wednesday – and famed accounting firm Deloitte & Touche will tally the results. So who should be the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner? Based on their results and stats, it’s not easy coming to a consensus, but one thing seems to be abundantly sure: all three are more than worthy. 

Sam Bradford, So., Oklahoma4,464 Yds, 68.3 Pct, 48 TD, 6 INT, 186.29 Rat

Bradford’s been in the discussion for the Heisman all season. He was on all the preseason watch lists and certainly never played his way off anyone’s top 5 during an incredible regular season.

Why He Could Be The Winner: Statistically, no one can match the passing numbers he’s put up. Bradford has steered the most powerful offense in the country expertly to a Big 12 title and a spot in the BCS Championship game. Under his watch, Oklahoma became the highest scoring team in NCAA history, averaging a ridiculous 54 points per game that included a streak of five straight games with at least 60 points. Bradford just took home the Davey O'Brien Award, presented to the nation's best quarterback, and took All-Big 12 First Team honors over McCoy. 

Heisman Moment: Bradford doesn’t have a true signature play or moment this season like the two other candidates, but considering the numbers and the amount of exposure Bradford had this year, that isn’t going to hurt him one bit. He had the potential for his Heisman moment when his leap toward the end zone against Oklahoma State saw him get flipped over out of bounds. But he came up well short of the goal line.

Colt McCoy, Jr., Texas3,445 Yds, 77.6 Pct, 32 TD, 7 INT, 179.20 Rat, 576 Yds, 4.5 Avg, 10 TD

McCoy had himself a great freshman season, but suffered a sophomore slump last year and thus did not make too many Heisman watch lists. So much for those preseason predictions. The Longhorns’ leader had a season that compared with Vince Young’s last at Texas. And in many ways, it was even better.

Why He Could Be The Winner: Barring a horrendous performance in Texas Fiesta Bowl matchup with Ohio State, McCoy will shatter Daunte Culpepper’s NCAA record for completion percentage in a season. Culpepper finished 1998 with a 73.6 completion percentage. McCoy heads into Bowl season with a 77.6 register. Only once this season did McCoy fail to connect on more than nine of his passes. And it’s not like McCoy isn’t throwing the ball, either. He averages about 30 attempts per game. The fleet-footed quarterback led his team in rushing by 200 yards on his way to earning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year honors.

Heisman Moment: McCoy led then No. 1 Texas down the field on what looked to be a game-winning touchdown drive on the road against then No. 7 Texas Tech back in November. Before the Red Raiders completed a last-second touchdown pass for the win, McCoy had helped to bring the Longhorns back from a 29-13 hole in the third quarter to take a one point lead with 1:29 to play.

Tim Tebow, Jr., Florida2,515 Yds, 64.9 Pct, 28 TD 2 INT, 176.74 Rat, 564 Yds, 3.7 Avg, 12 TD

About a month and a half ago Tebow was an afterthought in the Heisman race, but a blistering month of November, capped off by a come-from-behind victory against Alabama in the SEC Championship, has Tebow right in the thick of the Heisman discussion.

Why He Could Be The Winner: Everyone knows Tebow won the Heisman last year as he’s vying to become just the second player ever to win two Heismans. Ohio State running back Archie Griffin did it back in 1974-75 and statistically speaking, Griffin’s second season paled in comparison to his first. Tebow’s in a similar boat as he’s going to finish with far less than the 55 combined touchdowns he scored last season. But Heisman voters really value a winner, and having watched Tebow guide the Gators into the BCS Championship game for the second time in the last three seasons you would think that would resonate highly with voters. And don’t forget, Bradford and McCoy could split votes in the Southwest and Midwest  voting regions, allowing Tebow to rack up more first place votes. Tebow just won the Maxwell Award, given to the best all-around player. He also won it last year, but that doesn’t necessarily constitute an omen: he became the first player this decade to win the Maxwell and the Heisman in the same year.

Heisman Moment: Tebow gave an impassioned speech following Florida’s disappointing home loss to Ole Miss in September, promising that no other quarterback would work as hard the rest of the season as he would. Tebow delivered on his promise, leading a Gators charge to another SEC title.