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College Football Spotlight

Heisman Watch

November 30, 2003|Jim Rhode, Jim Barrero, Jay Christensen

With The Times' college football columnist, Chris Dufresne, taking care of the Big Picture -- the BCS standings and how some of Friday's and Saturday's results affected them -- elsewhere in the section, this space will be devoted today to an expanded Heisman Watch. Staff writers Jim Rhode, Jim Barrero and Jay Christensen, contributors to The Great Debate on this page, give their top three "type" and "hype" selections. None has a vote in the Heisman Trophy balloting, which closes Dec. 10. The winner will be announced Dec. 13 in New York.

THE TYPE

*--* 1. Jason White Oklahoma Quarterback 2. Mike Williams USC Receiver 3. Larry Fitzgerald Pittsburgh Receiver

*--*

* Unless White stoops in the Big 12 championship game to the performance level of boomeranged quarterbacks Jake Sills and Justin Fuente of the dreadful John Blake-coached Sooners (1996-98), the Heisman Trophy will be passed to a quarterback for the fourth consecutive year. White has been almost perfect for the unbeaten Sooners with 40 touchdown passes and only six interceptions, and a season passing rating that could wind up being second to none in NCAA Division I history.

* USC's beach-boy quarterback Matt Leinart will deservedly get Heisman mention, but the Trojans generally feed off the good vibrations from Williams, a you've-met-your-match answer to any defensive scheme. Williams helped make Carson Palmer a Heisman winner last season, so maybe next year's trophy is his for the taking.

* The Eastern bloc is in disagreement with the Western bloc on who is the best receiver in college football, Fitzgerald or Williams. Some of Fitzgerald's statistics would seem to bury those of Williams, but remember what side emerged as winner after the Cold War.

THE HYPE

*--* 1. Carnell Williams Auburn Tailback 2. Chris Perry Michigan Tailback 3. Kellen Winslow Jr. Miami Tight end

*--*

* "Cadillac" Williams was supposed to conjure up memories of Bo Jackson with a coup-de-thrill season. Well, Cadillac was lowjacked in the season opener by USC, rushing for only 40 yards in a 23-0 loss at Auburn's Jordan-Hare showroom, and averaged only 48 yards a game in road tests against Georgia Tech, LSU and Georgia.

* Perry was the Heisman flavor of the week after he rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-21 victory over Ohio State on Nov. 22. But Perry's Heisman hope and Michigan's MacArthur Bowl dreams melted on a dark September day in Eugene, Ore. Perry couldn't swoosh through the Nike yellow and green of Oregon, rushing for only 26 yards.

* Winslow had made perhaps the season's most memorable catch before that of P.K. Sam Saturday -- a one-handed grab on fourth-and-13 that helped bail out Miami against West Virginia. That's the stuff Heisman Trophy winners are made of. What they're not made of is the tirade he went on after a 10-6 loss to Tennessee. Next season, he should take the Vols of silence -- and drop the Desmond Howard-Heisman-pose shtick.

Jim Rhode

*

THE TYPE

*--* 1. Jason White Oklahoma Quarterback 2. Matt Leinart USC Quarterback 3. Philip Rivers N.C. State Quarterback

*--*

* White, a senior, has been a starter for an entire season for the first time and his performance has proved he was well worth the wait. White's 40 touchdowns and only six interceptions speak volumes to his consistency and overall dominance for the 12-0 Sooners. Scrutiny of a No. 1-ranked team can be intense, let alone when it is undefeated and producing on the level Oklahoma has week after week. White's presence makes the pressure nonexistent and his level continues to rise.

* The same can be said for Leinart, who hadn't thrown a pass until this season. Still, he is matching -- if not surpassing -- Carson Palmer's Heisman season of a year ago. His last interception was Oct. 4 and the Trojans' seven victories since then have each been by at least 20 points. Leinart has 30 touchdown passes, seven interceptions and 2,951 yards. Since Heisman ballots aren't due until Dec. 10, Leinart does have one more chance -- USC plays Oregon State on Saturday -- to change the minds of some.* That's not an advantage Rivers has since his regular season ended Nov. 22 with a loss to Maryland. Still, the four-year starter for the Wolfpack had his best season yet, completing an amazing 71% of his passes for 4,016 yards. Rivers also had 29 touchdown passes, only seven interceptions and owns nearly every Atlantic Coast Conference passing record.

*

THE HYPE

*--* 1. Cody Pickett Washington Quarterback 2. Ell Roberson Kansas State Quarterback 3. Rashaun Woods Oklahoma State Receiver

*--*

* When the season started, Pickett had the name and reputation to carry the hopes of the West for another Heisman triumph. Then came Aug. 30 and a date with defending national champion Ohio State. The Huskies lost, Pickett spent more time on the run than making plays and this campaign floated into oblivion.

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