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Archive for Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Heisman winner impossible to predict

Trophy could go to any of five college football players - only Dorsey was a preseason candidate

December 10, 2002

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Sixty-six men have won the Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding player in college football.

Ready for five more?

OK, so a five-way tie is about as likely as attempting a field goal from 65 yards out and having the ball get stuck in the corner of the goalpost. But in this Heisman race, where the pecking order seems to change three times on, say, a Tuesday afternoon, five players still have a chance to win the most famous individual trophy in team sports.

Finalists will be announced Wednesday - there are usually four or five - and the winner will be announced Saturday night. There might be a surprise finalist, but one of these five players is expected to win the trophy: Miami (Fla.) quarterback Ken Dorsey, Miami running back Willis McGahee, Iowa quarterback Brad Banks, Southern California quarterback Carson Palmer or Penn State running back Larry Johnson.

Those are the five who still have hope. They outlasted preseason favorite Rex Grossman, who went down with his Florida Gators; Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich, who didn't face stiff enough competition for most voters' tastes; and Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace, who went from front-runner to footnote in one afternoon against Oklahoma.

Dorsey is the only survivor from the preseason watch lists. He's the unquestioned leader of the Hurricanes, who have won 34 consecutive games. His numbers are good - the nation's eighth-best passer rating, 26 touchdowns, 8.78 yards per attempt - but Dorsey has been the victim of what might be called the Torretta Backlash.

In 1992, Miami quarterback Gino Torretta won the Heisman despite the suspicion that he was the third-best quarterback in his own state, behind Florida State's Charlie Ward (the 1993 winner) and Florida's Shane Matthews.

To win the Heisman, Dorsey must first win the Hurricane vote. His backfield mate, McGahee, has rushed for 1,686 yards (fifth in the nation), 6.44 yards a carry and a nation-leading 27 touchdowns. McGahee, a virtual unknown in the preseason, capped his campaign with six touchdowns Saturday against Virginia Tech.

Banks would have benefited greatly from that kind of performance in the season's last weekend. Problem is, he didn't play in the season's last weekend. Or the weekend before that. Or the weekend before that. Banks finished his season Nov. 16, which could hurt him.

Banks led the nation in passing efficiency (166.1) and yards per attempt (9.18). He threw for 25 touchdowns and just four interceptions for a team that finished 11-1. He was named Associated Press player of the year Monday. But were Heisman voters watching when he put on his 12-week show?

Palmer doesn't have that worry. He lit up Notre Dame in his season finale, which was televised in prime time on ABC. He has great statistics - sixth in the nation in efficiency, 32 touchdown passes, 3,639 yards - and led Southern Cal to a 10-2 record.

Johnson also put together a show at the end of the season. He led the nation with 2,015 yards and ran for 20 touchdowns. But Johnson's best games came against weaklings like Northwestern (257 yards), Illinois (279), Indiana (327) and Michigan State (279).

Rest assured - one of these five players will win it. Unless all five of them do.

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