Peterson, Leinart, Bush also Orange Bowl-bound
NEW YORK -- Jason White has a chance to join Archie Griffin as a two-time Heisman Trophy winner.
White, the Oklahoma quarterback who won last year's Heisman, was chosen Wednesday as one of five finalists for college football's most prestigious individual title.
It's the first time teammates from two schools were selected as finalists for the award.
Benson missed the cut, despite rushing for 1,764 yards this season. His best season capped a career that has seen him climb as high as No. 6 in NCAA record book.
Peterson's season -- or specifically one game -- may have been the most damaging to Benson's chances of joining Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams as Texas Heisman winners.
Peterson ran for 225 yards in Oklahoma's 12-0 win over Texas on Oct. 9, while Benson rushed for 92.
Griffin, Ohio State's great running back, won the Heisman in 1974 and 1975 and is the only two-time winner.
White was the favorite for last year's Heisman and beat out Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning. This time, the race appears too close to call. White and Leinart, USC's quarterback, have put up similar numbers while leading their teams to 12-0 records and a matchup in the Orange Bowl for the national championship.
White comes to town after passing for 2,961 yards and 33 touchdown, and in a much better mood than last year. A week before the '03 Heisman ceremony, the Sooners were upset by Kansas State 35-7 in the Big 12 title game and White had his worst game of the season.
This season, White threw three touchdown passes in Oklahoma's 42-3 rout of Colorado in the league title game.
The presence of Peterson, a freshman, helped White produce another fine season but may hinder the quarterback's chances of matching Griffin's two Heismans. Peterson ran for 1,843 yards and 15 touchdowns, and produced his best games against the Sooners' toughest opponents.
No freshman has ever won the Heisman.
White, a sixth-year senior, has a Heisman vote and said he planned to pick Peterson No. 1 on his ballot.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops can't decide between the two either.
"These guys are tremendous. You see it every week. They complement each other with great running and passing _ and it's made a major difference this year, the fact that we're strong in both," Stoops said.
"But a lot of these guys have helped them. So I wouldn't be the one to choose. It wouldn't be fair."
USC has a similar situation with Leinart and Bush. They complement each other, but also could draw attention away from each other when it comes to the voting.
Leinart has thrown for 2,990 yards and 28 touchdowns, with only six interceptions. He is the Trojans' steady leader.
The versatile Bush is their spectacular home-run hitting running back.
Bush's 15 touchdowns have come running, receiving and on returns. He has also thrown a TD pass.
"I think I might have shaken up the votes a little bit," he said after running for 204 yards, including TD runs of 81 and 65 yards, in USC's 29-24 season-finale win at UCLA.
Led by Smith, Utah became the first team from a mid-major conference to reach the BCS this season. The versatile junior has passed for 2,624 yards and 28 TDs and run for 563 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Utes will play Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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