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Bush, Leinart, Young only three Heisman invitees

NEW YORK -- The Heisman Trophy competition is a three-man
race -- just as it's been all season.

Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart of Southern California will be back
in New York on Saturday, along with Texas quarterback Vince Young,
when the Heisman Trophy is awarded to the nation's best college
football player.

The Downtown Athletic Club, which hands out the sport's most
prestigious individual award, invited Wednesday only those three
players to the presentation ceremony.

Last season, five players attended the Heisman ceremony and
Leinart won it. Since 1999, either four or five finalists have been
invited to New York.

Bush, Leinart and Young have been the front-runners since the
preseason, and they've been jockeying for position all year.

The two USC stars said they were proud to be returning to the
ceremony.

"It was a a great experience last year, seeing Matt win it,"
said Bush, who finished fifth in the 2004 voting.

Leinart said, "It's a great honor to be invited as a Heisman
finalist again. I look forward to returning to New York with
Reggie, and congratulations to Vince Young as well."

Bush emerged as the favorite in the past three weeks with two
enormous games. The 200-pound speedster had 513 all-purpose yards
in a 50-42 victory over Fresno State and he rushed for 260 yards
and two touchdowns in a 66-19 victory over UCLA, which completed a
perfect regular season for the Trojans (12-0).

Bush, who finished fifth in the Heisman voting last season to
earn a trip to Manhattan, has rushed for a career-high 1,658 yards,
averaging 8.9 per carry, and scored 18 touchdowns.

The junior would be the first running back to win the award
since Ron Dayne in 1999. The last five winners have been
quarterbacks.

Leinart is having an even better season this year than last,
when he became the sixth USC player to win the Heisman, and second
Trojans quarterback in three years.

Carson Palmer won as a senior in 2002. Four USC tailbacks have
won the Heisman -- Mike Garrett (1965), O.J. Simpson ('68), Charles
White ('79) and Marcus Allen ('81).

Leinart passed up a chance to become the No. 1 pick in the NFL
draft to return to USC for his senior year, and threw for 3,450
yards and 27 touchdowns. His most memorable moments came at the end
of one of his most inconsistent games.

With USC trailing at Notre Dame 31-28 and 1:32 left in the game,
Leinart audibled to a risky fade pattern on fourth-and-9 from his
own 26 and threw a perfect pass to Dwayne Jarrett. The completion
covered 61 yards.

Soon after, Leinart spun into the end zone with help from a Bush
push to score the winning touchdown with 3 seconds left.

The left-hander is 37-1 in three years as a starter and could
become the second player to win two Heismans, joining Ohio State
running back Archie Griffin, who won in 1974 and '75.

Young, the best running quarterback in the country, became an
effective passer this season, throwing for 2,769 yards and 26
touchdowns. He's led the Longhorns (12-0) to a perfect regular
season and Big 12 title.

The junior vaulted to the front of the Heisman race just two
weeks into the season, when he led Texas to a 25-22 victory at Ohio
State, tossing the winning score with less than three minutes left.

About a month later, Texas found itself trailing at halftime
28-9 to Oklahoma State when Young took over. His 80-yard touchdown
run sparked a comeback and was part of a record-setting game for
Young.

He piled up 506 total yards, a Texas record, and became just the
second QB in major college history to run and pass for more than
230 in the same game.

Young would be Texas' third Heisman winner, joining running
backs Ricky Williams ('98) and Earl Campbell ('77).

The three finalists will meet in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4 with
the national title on the line.

Last season, four of the five finalists played in the Bowl
Championship Series national title game when USC defeated Oklahoma
for the Trojans' second straight crown.

Sooners tailback Adrian Peterson was the runner-up to Leinart
last season, and 2003 Heisman winner Jason White of Oklahoma was
third.