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Published: Tuesday, 12/3/2002

Heisman Trophy could hang on our readers' tally

Sometimes all you can do is shrug your shoulders and shake your head.

Yours truly spent 16 years covering college football as a primary assignment. That meant daily contact with coaches, players and other media folks engaged in the same pursuit from around the country.

Not once in those 16 years did I have a Heisman Trophy vote.

Now, primarily, I cover the National Football League.

(That's presuming the Browns are still in the league after losing at home to Carolina. And that the Lions ever were. But I digress.)

Recently, a letter arrived that began, “Dear Heisman Elector.”

Go figure.

I don't have a clue who should win the Heisman Trophy. Of course, historically, that puts me in good company. How else does one explain Gino Torretta or, more recently, Eric Crouch?

But maybe you do. Have a clue, that is.

So here's the deal. There is an e-mail address at the end of this column. Use it between now and next Monday. Send me your vote for the Heisman, I'll add 'em up and submit your top three selections, in order, to my new friends at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City.

That's right. All of you just became Heisman electors. Pretty exciting, eh?

So who are the candidates?

Carson Palmer, the Southern Cal quarterback, has to be at the top of a lot of lists after Saturday's 425-yard, four-touchdown performance against Notre Dame.

(By the way, if the BCS includes a formula, or some sweetheart agreement, whereby Notre Dame can be slotted into a BCS bowl game ahead of USC and others simply because it is what it is - a famous name with its own TV network - then the whole system is tainted and should be obliterated. Why don't the Irish have to earn their way in like everybody else?)

Anyway, Palmer's Trojans played the toughest schedule in the nation this season, and he completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,639 yards and 32 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. USC lost twice against nationally ranked teams on the road, by a touchdown to Kansas State and in overtime against Washington State because of a missed extra point.

But the Trojans finished with seven straight wins, and Palmer appears to have moved ahead of Washington State's Jason Gesser as the West Coast's top candidate.

But did he move ahead of Iowa's Brad Banks? Palmer has the edge in completion percentage and yardage, but Banks' 25-to-4 ratio in touchdowns and interceptions is impressive, and his team did run roughshod through the Big Ten, minus Ohio State.

No quarterback has the numbers to match Kliff Kingsbury, who completed 447 of 669 passes (.668) for a whopping 4,642 yards and 42 touchdowns. But is he the guy who was simply astounding against Texas or simply embarrassed in a 60-15 loss to Oklahoma? And is a vote for Kingsbury a vote for the player or for the system he plays under at Texas Tech?

Speaking of big numbers, Penn State running back Larry Johnson averaged 8.0 yards per carry, with 2,015 yards and 20 touchdowns. But more than half of that yardage - 1,142 yards, to be precise - came against Northwestern, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan State. He averaged 70 yards per game in losses to Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan.

Which brings us to the Miami duo of quarterback Ken Dorsey, the front-runner for much of this season, and sophomore running back Willis McGahee. The latter has nine 100-yard games and 21 touchdowns, with a date Saturday against Virginia Tech's swiss-cheese run defense.

Dorsey has thrown 218 passes since his last interception and is 37-1 as the Hurricanes' starting quarterback. His team won the national championship last year and is ranked No. 1.

Will having two candidates split the vote and cost both Miami players a chance at the Heisman?

It's up to you. Vote for any of the above, or anybody else for that matter. Do you like Colorado running back Chris Brown? Still fond of Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich? Should OSU's Maurice Clarett be considered? Heck, vote for Toledo linebacker Tom Ward if you like.

It's your call. You are the Heisman electors.



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