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Handicapping the Heisman race

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The preseason Heisman Trophy field is top-heavy with quarterbacks. Texas' Colt McCoy, the only one of the top three who hasn't won the award yet, might be the favorite.

September 03, 2009|Chris Dufresne

National college football reporter Chris Dufresne handicaps this year's Heisman Trophy race:

1. Colt McCoy, senior quarterback, Texas

Has to be considered the preseason favorite because of his astounding body of work and the fact the other top quarterback candidates, Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow, have already won Heismans.

McCoy is 32-7 as a starter since taking over for Vince Young, and last year finished second behind Oklahoma's Bradford in Heisman balloting. McCoy in 2008 set the NCAA single-season record with a completion rate of 76.7%, throwing for 34 touchdowns with eight interceptions. McCoy also led Texas in rushing with 561 yards.

Why he'll win: It's his turn.

Why he won't: Tebow puts up huge numbers for a Florida team that doesn't lose.

2. Tim Tebow, senior quarterback, Florida

He returns for his last season with a chance to win his third Bowl Championship Series title ring and a second Heisman Trophy, and to etch his name among college football's most acclaimed players. Tebow won the Heisman in 2007, the only year the Gators didn't win the national title since he has been in Gainesville. Tebow's career numbers: 67 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions, 2,037 rushing yards, 43 touchdowns.

Why he'll win: Did you take a look at those career numbers?

Why he won't: Florida doesn't cover the spread against Charleston Southern and/or loses to Mississippi State.

3. Sam Bradford, junior quarterback, Oklahoma

Had he left early, Bradford was a cinch top-five NFL draft pick after an outstanding sophomore season in which he threw 50 touchdown passes with only eight interceptions. A loss to Florida in the BCS title game should provide plenty of motivation for Bradford and an Oklahoma program that has lost five straight BCS bowl games.

Why he'll win: Florida loses at least once, Bradford has an off-the-charts day in a win over Texas and he ends up with 50 touchdown passes again.

Why he won't: The loss of four starting offensive linemen means Bradford can't come close to matching last year's numbers.

4. Jahvid Best, junior tailback, California

USC has more quality tailbacks than any other Pacific 10 Conference school, but not the best one.

Best is the best . . . and certainly the fastest. He led the conference with 1,580 yards rushing last year, averaging 8.1 yards a carry. Best is also a dangerous kick returner, which should add to his Heisman-candidacy highlight reel.

Why he'll win: Best has another stellar year for a Cal team that finally lives up to the hype, snaps a five-year losing streak to USC and earns its first BCS bowl bid.

Why he won't: ESPN headquarters are still located in Connecticut.

5 (t). Taylor Mays, senior safety, USC, and Eric Berry, junior safety, Tennessee.

The last defensive back to win the Heisman was Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997, a moment that still irks many who thought Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning deserved the award.

Woodson also played wide receiver and returned kicks. Mays and Berry are clearly the best players at their position in the country. Mays is a heavy hitter and, incredibly, USC's fastest player. Berry's seven interceptions last year tied for the national lead.

Why Mays or Berry could win: Heisman voters get tired of giving the award to quarterbacks and, for a change, determine a defensive player can be just as important as an offensive player.

Why they can't win: Woodson was the exception, and he padded his numbers with receiving and kick-return yardage.

Others to watch: C.J. Spiller, running back, Clemson; Terrelle Pryor, quarterback, Ohio State; Jimmy Clausen, quarterback, Notre Dame; Dez Bryant, receiver, Oklahoma State; Jevan Snead, quarterback, Mississippi; Daryll Clark, quarterback, Penn State; Jeremiah Masoli, quarterback, Oregon; Colin Kaepernick, quarterback, Nevada.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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