Four finalists emerge from unpredictable Heisman race
In a year where the BCS race was chaotic, the Heisman Trophy chase was almost as unpredictable. In August, many were predicting John David Booty to be the latest Trojan horse ticketed for the stiff-arm trophy winner circle, but his hopes soon faded, as did those of Louisville gunslinger Brian Brohm and West Virginia speedster Steve Slaton, giving way to Dennis Dixon and Matt Ryan, among other upstarts. History could be made Saturday (ESPN, 8 ET) as we might have our first sophomore Heisman winner. Then again, if we've learned anything from the 2007 season, it's to never take anything for granted. Here's a quick look at the four finalists:
Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii, seniorOnce again, Brennan has put up eye-popping passing stats, completing 71 percent of his passes for 4,174 yards for the nation's top-ranked scoring offense (46 ppg). The 6-foot-3 senior is also second in total offense (to Texas Tech's Graham Harrell) and third in passing efficiency. Brennan's numbers actually are down a bit from last season, but his team is unbeaten and no other QB can make that claim.
Heisman moment: Brennan was on fire against Washington on national television last Saturday, completing 42 of 50 passes as he led UH back from a 21-point deficit, capped by his game-winning 5-yard slant pass to Ryan Grice-Mullen with 44 seconds left.
Why he will win the Heisman: In a year where everyone lost, Hawaii didn't, and without Brennan being nearly perfect last week, the Warriors surely would've stumbled, too.
Why he won't win the Heisman: Hawaii's schedule was incredibly soft. The team probably didn't play a top 75 caliber opponent until November. And, as great as Brennan's stats are, Texas Tech's Graham Harrell's are even better this season -- and his team did beat Oklahoma.
Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri, juniorMissouri made it to No. 1 thanks largely to the stocky Texan's expert handling of the spread offense. Daniel showed he was extremely accurate (70 percent passing), smart (33 TDs-10 INTs) and could do just enough in the run game to keep defenses on their heels (he had five carries of at least 20 yards) for the nation's No. 5 offense.
Heisman moment: With the entire country watching, Daniel carved up Kansas, going 40-49 with no interceptions in the 36-28 win. His crafty footwork may have been most evident when he evaded a rush on a third-and-11 and fired a strike to Danario Alexander falling into the corner of the end zone to cap a 98-yard TD drive, breaking the game open for Mizzou.
Why he will win the Heisman: Not only Daniel's grasp of the spread (an offense he'd been commanding since his high school days in the Dallas area) sparked this program, but so did his cocksure attitude, which has helped a perpetual underachiever make it onto the national radar.
Why he won't win the Heisman: Mizzou and Daniel had the country waiting with a Heisman and a national title game hanging in the balance when they got their rematch with Oklahoma. But the Sooners proved to be too much, smashing the Tigers 38-17 as Daniel failed to throw a TD pass in the game.
Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas, juniorLast season's Heisman runner-up is the do-everything guy for the Razorbacks. He runs. He throws. He catches the ball. He's also run for more yards and more touchdowns and caught more passes than he did in 2006. And the fact that he did that is even more impressive when you consider how one-dimensional the Arkansas offense was without star receiver Marcus Monk most of the year.
Heisman moment: With a national television audience watching, McFadden had LSU's then-No. 1 ranked defense on its heels all afternoon. His 73-yard touchdown burst (one of four TDs he contributed against the Tigers) made a fast defense look slow and helped spark the upset.
Why he will win the Heisman: Most, including many NFL scouts, believe he is the best player in the country, and McFadden has the stats to back it up (1,725 rushing yards to go with 21 receptions for another 164 yards and four TD passes on six attempts).
Why he won't win the Heisman: The Razorbacks lost four games, a lot for a Heisman winner not at a traditional Heisman school, and Auburn held him to 43 yards on 17 carries in a 9-7 Arkansas loss on prime-time national TV.
Tim Tebow, QB, Florida, sophomoreCollege football's resident folk hero actually exceeded the ridiculous expectations that many Gator fans had for him. Not only was Tebow nearly a sure thing running the football, but he was able to withstand dozens of big hits and make it through the season. Better still, his improved passing skills hushed a lot of skeptics. Save for June Jones.
Heisman moment: Before the rivalry game with Florida State, the Seminoles called Tebow out. It didn't matter. First, Tebow ducks out of a would-be sack on a third-and-14 and rumbles for 16 yards. Later in the drive, Tebow evades a kill-shot from a defensive lineman, sprints up field and barrels through a couple of DBs near the goal line for a 23-yard touchdown.
Why he will win the Heisman: Tebow had at least one rushing TD in every game and amassed a staggering 51 TDs (29 passing, 22 rushing). His 69 percent completion rate and 29-6 TD-INT ratio shows what kind of passer he is. Just what kind of force is he? In every game but one he had at least a 12-yard carry.
Why he won't win the Heisman: It seems silly that some voters might hold his age against him, but many Heisman voters are traditionalists and will do anything to avoid voting for an underclassman.
Bruce Feldman is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine. His new book, "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting," is on sale now.
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