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SEC seems a lock for Heisman

Florida's Tebow, Arkansas' McFadden are favorites. Daniel, Brennan also invited.

December 08, 2007|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

The race for the 73rd Heisman Trophy has mirrored the season itself -- it has been a madcap mess.

Candidates rose and fell, sort of the way schools ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll did.

In the same way that Ohio State and Louisiana State ended up as the last teams standing in the Bowl Championship Series standings, the Heisman race also staggered to a finish.

An unprecedented season might lead to an unprecedented result, with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's becoming the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.

Several key straw polls have tabbed Tebow to win while projecting junior Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden to finish second for a second straight year.

Quarterbacks Chase Daniel of Missouri and Colt Brennan of Hawaii also received invitations to tonight's ceremony in New York, but this year's award seems destined to go to a Southeastern Conference player for the first time since Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel won in 1996.

It has been an unusual year when you consider Tebow and McFadden played on teams that combined for seven losses.

Tebow is favored because he posted off-the-chart numbers for 9-3 Florida, becoming the first player to run and pass for at least 20 touchdowns in a season. Tebow led the Gators with 838 rushing yards and also passed for 3,132.

McFadden, after a couple of sub-par midseason games, played himself back into award contention on Thanksgiving weekend with one of the year's most impressive performances: a 206-yard rushing effort in a win over LSU that included McFadden playing quarterback in Arkansas' "Wild Hog" formation.

Tebow and McFadden needed a few breaks. Preseason favorites John David Booty of USC, Mike Hart of Michigan, Steve Slaton of West Virginia and Brian Brohm of Louisville all fell out of contention.

Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan appeared the favorite until the Eagles suffered a Nov. 3 home loss to Florida State.

The trophy then seemed Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon's to lose until he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Arizona on Nov. 15.

Last weekend, Tebow and McFadden became clear-cut favorites after contenders Pat White of West Virginia and Daniel of Missouri suffered Heisman setbacks.

Daniel, a week after completing 40 of 49 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Kansas, was held without a scoring pass in Missouri's Big 12 title-game loss to Oklahoma. White suffered a dislocated thumb in West Virginia's stunning home defeat to Pittsburgh.

Brennan finished sixth in last year's Heisman Trophy balloting after setting the NCAA single-season record with 58 touchdown passes.

Brennan threw "only" 38 scoring passes this year but led Hawaii to a 12-0 finish and a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Brennan probably earned his Heisman invite after rallying the Warriors from a 21-point deficit last weekend to a 35-28 win over Washington.

Brennan threw for 4,174 yards this season and also became the NCAA's career leader in touchdown passes with 131.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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