Commentary

Making the final case in the Heisman race

Updated: December 12, 2008, 5:37 PM ET
By ESPN.com

Heisman finalists Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow have the impressive numbers. Each produced a Heisman moment this season. Each elevated his team. Each is a talented quarterback and possesses the attributes of a Heisman winner. No wonder this figures to be one of the closest Heisman races in history.

But only one can walk off with the statue Saturday (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET). Should it be Bradford, McCoy or Tebow? Our experts make the case for each finalist:

Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma


By Ivan Maisel

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesSam Bradford has orchestrated the highest-scoring offense in FBS history this season.
Heisman attribute
He has the arm. He has the intellect. He has the numbers. But what separates Sam Bradford from his peers is his pulse rate, or lack thereof. He is cooler than Vince Chase. It's not that Bradford has shown the poise in a last-minute rally; Oklahoma hasn't needed one. It's that nothing rattles him. He slices up defenses with a surgeon's acumen. Like most patients, defenses can't do anything about it.

Heisman moment
The Leap. First of all, it was a mistake. Bradford should have slid or stepped out of bounds. Instead, he leaped for the end zone late in the third quarter of the Oklahoma State game, and a pair of Cowboys knocked him up and out of bounds. Bradford sailed wide of the mark as if he were a member of, oh, Iceland's Olympic team. But the athleticism and desire that leap showed captured who Bradford is. It captured the nation, too.

Why Bradford should win
There are two schools of thought in Heisman voting. Some people like to vote for the player who accumulates statistics by the shipload. Some people like to vote for the player who led his team to top of the rankings. With Bradford, one size fits all. He is on the verge of setting an NCAA FBS record for passing efficiency, and the Sooners are playing for the crystal football. The redshirt sophomore is the Heisman Everyman.

Colt McCoy, QB, Texas


By Pat Forde

[+] EnlargeColt McCoy
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireColt McCoy would be the first native Texan to win the Heisman since Ty Detmer in 1990.
Heisman attribute
You've heard endless hosannas to the leadership ability of defending Heisman winner and current Heisman finalist Tim Tebow -- and they're all deserved. But Colt McCoy is at least a comparable alpha male and clutch performer. He has won a school-record 31 games as a starter, more than even Vince Young, and he has another year of eligibility. He has led nine second-half comebacks to victory and came within a dropped interception of a 10th (and a subsequent unbeaten season and BCS Championship Game spot) against Texas Tech. Among those comebacks: the one against No. 1 Oklahoma and Sam Bradford in Dallas.

Heisman moment
In the old Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma, Oct. 11. Everyone remembers Jordan Shipley's 96-yard kickoff return, right? It wasn't the turning point most folks made it out to be. What most people don't remember is that Oklahoma came right back and scored to reclaim an 11-point lead. It was at that point, with the Sooners leading 21-10 in the second quarter, that McCoy became unstoppable in leading a memorable comeback. He completed 21 of his last 24 passes that day and contributed several key scrambles, guiding five scoring drives in a 45-35 victory.

Why McCoy should win
McCoy's all-around value to the team is unquestioned, after leading the Longhorns in rushing (576 yards, more on the ground than Tebow in one fewer game) and passing (3,445 yards, 32 touchdowns and only seven interceptions). Oh yeah, and he set the NCAA record for single-season accuracy at 77.6 percent. Lacking a reliable running back, McCoy had to tote the rock -- and paid dearly for it through the course of the season, taking hit after hit. Lacking Tebow's size -- he's 210 pounds, not 240 -- McCoy showed remarkable toughness to withstand the pounding and keep coming back.

Tim Tebow, QB, Florida


By Mark Schlabach

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Jim Brown/US PresswireTim Tebow has a chance to become the second two-time Heisman Trophy winner -- joining Ohio State RB Archie Griffin (1974-75).
Heisman attribute
Tebow is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner -- he became the first sophomore to win the award last year -- and is arguably the best college football player in the country. He could become the second two-time Heisman Trophy winner, joining former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, who won the award in 1974 and 1975. Tebow can beat opponents with his arm and legs. He is fifth in the nation in passer rating (176.7) with 28 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, and he has rushed for 564 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Heisman moment
After the Gators were stunned by unranked Ole Miss in The Swamp on Sept. 27, Tebow vowed Florida wouldn't lose again. "You have never seen any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of this season," Tebow said at the time. "And you'll never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of this season, and you'll never see a team play harder than we will the rest of this season." The junior was spectacular in the Gators' last nine games, throwing for 22 touchdowns with only two interceptions. He played his best in Florida's biggest games, throwing for three touchdowns in a 31-20 win over No. 1 Alabama in Saturday's SEC championship game.

Why Tebow should win
Tebow's statistics are overshadowed by those of more prolific Big 12 passers such as McCoy, Bradford and Texas Tech's Graham Harrell. But if the award were determined by strength of schedule, Tebow would be a landslide winner. In 13 games this season, Tebow faced eight of the country's top-30 defenses. In those eight games, Tebow completed 63 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and no interceptions. Nine of his 12 touchdown runs also came against top-30 defenses. Conversely, Bradford faced only two of the country's top-30 defenses, and nine that ranked 66th or worse. McCoy didn't face a defense ranked better than 65th and had his way with eight defenses ranked 86th or worse.