Race tight for Heisman

In 2004, NCAA football has seen a season of debates, arguments and controversy. Awarding the Heisman Trophy this year should be no different than the current theme.

Unlike past years, the Heisman race is wide open and should go right down to the wire.

This year’s Heisman field includes three quarterbacks of undefeated teams (one is the previous Heisman winner), a record-breaking freshman, an electric sophomore and a 5,000 yard career rusher.

Here is a preview to the Heisman Award Ceremony at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City.

Matt Leinart, Southern California (2990 passing yards, 29 total TD’s, 6 int.)

* Why he’ll win: Matt Leinart is 23-1 as a starter and has thrown 61 touchdown passes in 24 games. In front of a national audience, Leinart torched rival Notre Dame for 400 yards passing and five touchdowns. Leinart is the quarterback of the top team in the nation, which usually translates into a Heisman Trophy.

* Why he won’t win: There aren’t many reasons to keep Leinart from winning the Heisman. He did however finish the regular season on a sour note against UCLA with 242 passing yards and an interception with no touchdowns.

Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (1843 rushing yards, 15 TD’s)

* Why he’ll win: If a freshman should ever win the Heisman Trophy, this should be the year.

Adrian Peterson has already set the freshman rushing record with the Orange Bowl left to play, including a 240-yard performance against rival Texas. In the Big XII Championship, Peterson continued to impress with a 182-yard and three-touchdown performance.

* Why he won’t win: Traditionally the Heisman Trophy is given, almost, as a career award. With that said, Peterson maybe the best freshman running back in NCAA history, but Heisman voters cringe at the thought of a freshman winning at the Downtown Athletic Club. The last time a freshman was considered for the Heisman was in 1999 when Michael Vick finished third to Ron Dayne.

Jason White, Oklahoma (2961 passing yards, 33 passing TD’s and 6 int.)

* Why he’ll win: Jason White returns to New York as the 2003 Heisman winner. White threw 40 touchdown passes a year ago and has 33 this season but has improved his completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio from a year ago. He has also led Oklahoma to a Big XII Championship and a second straight berth in the national championship game.

* Why he won’t win: Only once in 68 years has a player won the Heisman Trophy twice (Archie Griffin 1973 and 1974). If that’s not enough, White has to steal votes from teammate Adrian Peterson in order to recapture the award. The last time a player won the Heisman Trophy and had a teammate finish in the top five was in 1983; Mike Rozier won and Turner Gill of Nebraska finished fourth.

Alex Smith, Utah (2624 passing yards, 38 total TD’s, 4 Interceptions)

* Why he’ll win: Alex Smith led the Utes to their highest ranking and only undefeated season in school history. Smith is second in NCAA in quarterback rating, seventh in passing touchdowns, and ninth in completion percentage.

* Why he won’t win: Smith and the Utes have not played in three weeks while Leinart, White and Peterson all played on Dec. 4. Heisman voters surely will move those players fresh in their minds to the front of the list. Ultimately, lack of name recognition and national publicity will hurt Smith’s chances of taking home the trophy.

Cedric Benson, Texas (1764 rushing yards, 20 total TD’s)

* Why he’ll win: Six of the last nine players to finish their careers with over 5,000 rushing yards have won the Heisman. Benson finished his career sixth all-time with 5,470 rushing yards. Benson also holds the NCAA record for most games with a touchdown at 37.

* Why he won’t win: Oklahoma! There is no other reason that Benson shouldn’t win this award. In three games against the Sooners, Benson has been held to 167 rushing yards and only one touchdown including being out rushed by 148 yards in this years match up with Adrian Peterson.

Reggie Bush, Southern California (1034 yards from scrimmage, 14 total TD’s)

* Why he’ll win: Reggie Bush is arguably the most exciting college football player of the last 20 years.

Bush, nicknamed “The President,” has had a rushing, receiving, passing touchdown and returned two punts for touchdowns this season. In the season finale against UCLA, Bush gained 277 total yards including touchdown runs from 65 and 81 yards out.

* Why he won’t win: Reggie Bush has a major roadblock in his way: Matt Leinart.

Although Reggie Bush can score at any moment from anywhere on the field, Leinart has carried the Trojans for the majority of the season.

Most all of the previous winners of this award have had set positions. Reggie Bush does not.