- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2008

If you think the BCS formula is confusing, try filling out a Heisman Trophy ballot this year. It’s getting ridiculous with all these quarterbacks putting up insane numbers - so off-the-charts they make it hard to vote for anybody at any other position.

How can a running back compete with the 48 touchdown passes thrown by Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford? Or a receiver match the 77.6 completion percentage compiled by TexasColt McCoy? Or a defensive player come close to the impact Tim Tebow has on Florida with his arm and legs (40 combined TDs)? In the current climate, only a back like Barry Sanders, a wideout like Jerry Rice or a defender who was part Lawrence Taylor, part T-Rex would stand a chance against the aforementioned three QBs - and he’d still probably finish fourth.

Here’s a statistic that will blow you away: Fourteen quarterbacks in the Division Formerly Known As I-A completed at least two-thirds of their passes this season. Fourteen! Five of the top seven played in the same conference, the Big 12 (McCoy, Missouri’s Chase Daniel at 74.0, Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell at 71.5, Nebraska’s Joe Ganz at 69.3 and Bradford at 68.3.)

That’s right, folks, we’ve gone from “When you throw the ball, three things can happen - and two of them are bad” to “If you throw the ball three times, you can expect something good to happen twice.” The passing game has attained a precision beyond Woody Hayes’ wildest imagination.

So what Heisman jurors are left to do is split hairs, because Bradford, McCoy and Tebow have all had Heisman-type years. (You could, of course, consider Harrell and his 4,747 passing yards; how often does Tech go 11-1? But could you really vote for a guy whose team lost to Oklahoma 65-21 late in the season?)

OK, to the task at hand …

Let me begin by saying Tebow gets no bonus points for winning the Heisman last year. Last year is last year. There’s no carry-over effect. Let me also say I might have found a way to sneak Ball State QB Nate Davis onto my ballot, perhaps as the third preference, had his previously unbeaten club not blown the Mid-American Conference title game to Buffalo (where Buddy Ryan began his coaching career). Sorry, but sentimental choices aren’t allowed that much margin for error.

Back to the Big Three:

If you went purely by passing statistics, Bradford would be your man. He threw for 1,000 more yards than McCoy and almost 2,000 more than Tebow. He also did it against a schedule that included five teams ranked in the BCS top 25 (Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma State and Missouri) plus the Big East champ (Cincinnati). Here’s something else I found out: Only six of his 48 touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter, so he wasn’t padding his stats in all those blowouts.

Tebow and McCoy are much different quarterbacks, though. Both rushed for more than 500 yards this season (compared with Bradford’s 65), so there’s another dimension to them. Colt actually led the Longhorns in rushing, much of it gained on scrambles. Many of Tim’s runs, on the other hand, are by design. The Gators run a kind of souped-up version of the old single wing, with him as the tailback.

How do I break this tie? By reminding everybody that McCoy’s team beat Bradford’s 45-35, and Colt had a terrific game (28-for-25 for 277 yards and a touchdown). Sam also played well that day (28-for-39 for 387 yards and five touchdowns, with two interceptions), but it was Colt who made more big plays in the second half, when Texas rallied to win. That’s how I separate them, arbitrary as it may seem.

That and the fact that Bradford has a better supporting cast. Not only does Oklahoma have two 1,000-yard rushers (Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray) it also has a tight end who could well be a first-round NFL pick (Jermaine Gresham). And that Sooners line … let’s face it, the OU offense is one of the greatest in college football history. It’s AVERAGING 54 points a game. McCoy is more of a one-man show than Sam is.

Tebow, too, is surrounded by more talent. None of the Longhorns, for instance, does the things Percy Harvin does (8.8 yards a carry, 17 yards a catch, 16 touchdowns). Indeed, the Florida attack is almost perfectly balanced between the run (229.8 yards a game) and the pass (212.6). And let’s not forget: Tim had a better year last year, when he had a hand in 15 more touchdowns and was the Gators’ top rusher with 895 yards (331 more than this year).

It’s an incredibly close call, admittedly, but my ballot read: McCoy, then Tebow, then Bradford. If it were up to me, the trophy would go to Colt - not a bad consolation prize for getting chop-blocked by the BCS computers. Tim and Sam, meanwhile, get to play in the national championship game … and prove me wrong.



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