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October 6, 2005

QBs, Bush lead Heisman hopefuls

You know the Heisman race is in full swing when you've got quarterbacks both going off (Notre Dame's Brady Quinn against Purdue) and flipping off (Virginia Tech's Marcus Vick toward West Virginia fans).

We're at least a quarter of the way into the season for everyone, and quarter is an appropriate word when you look at the Heisman race. It's being dominated by quarterbacks, although there is a candidate named Bush.

Herewith, a look at how the race for college football's most coveted trophy (sorry, Bednarik fans) shapes up:

Defending champ: Matt Leinart, QB, Southern Cal. Leinart has done little to screw up his bid to become the Heisman's second-ever repeat winner, save for mentioning he's friends with Jessica Simpson. For anti-Trojan voters, he also didn't have a TD pass in the team's closest victory, a 38-28 decision over Arizona State. Oh, and his lone class this semester is ballroom dancing.

Path to repeat: It will be tough to deny Leinart if the Trojans win a third consecutive national title.

Path to destruction: He could start throwing like Jessica, or eating like Homer. If he takes time off for a dance-off with Mr. Peterman that would be bad, too.

Season stats: 82-of-126 passing for 1,304 yards and 10 touchdowns with two interceptions.

Other frontrunner: Reggie Bush, RB, Southern Cal. Bush is Barry Sanders in a Trojans uniform. You almost feel let down when he doesn't do something special on every touch. He did get outgained by teammate LenDale White in the Arizona State game.

Path to Heisman: If the Trojans win out, only Leinart stands in the way.

Path to destruction: Too many carries for White or too many photo ops for Leinart.

Season stats: 57 carries for 492 yards and six touchdowns; 11 receptions for 176 yards and two touchdowns.

Legitimate contender: Vince Young, QB, Texas. Each year the Longhorns starter has matured and become a better decision-maker. He's not the passing marksman Leinart is, but he can beat you with his feet and his playmaking ability.

Path to Heisman: Young will get a big boost with a victory over rival Oklahoma, something he has yet to accomplish. If he carries the Longhorns in that one like he did against Ohio State, he'll be in it with the Trojans twosome till the end.

Path to destruction: Honestly, another loss to the Sooners and Young can forget about it.

Season stats: 55-of-93 passing for 775 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions; 48 carries for 315 yards and two touchdowns.

Dark horse: Marcus Vick, QB, Virginia Tech. Vick has been a steady performer in contrast to his mercurial older brother. And while Frank Beamer will take what he's getting, Heisman voters need that breakout game.

Path to Heisman: If the Hokies go undefeated and Vick lights it up in one of the two big games left for Tech (Boston College and Miami, both in Blacksburg), and USC loses, and Texas loses, and … that's why he's a dark horse.

Path to destruction: Any loss and it's all over.

Season stats: 62-of-91 passing for 880 yards and nine touchdowns with one interception; 49 carries for 213 yards and two touchdowns.

Dark horse: Brodie Croyle, QB, Alabama. It's nice to see good things happening for a hard-working kid who has been beset by injuries his entire career.

Path to Heisman: Croyle is 1-for-1 on the national stage, having put up a spectacular performance against then-No. 5 Florida. He will have a chance to hog the spotlight down the stretch, too, with games against Tennessee, Auburn and LSU. If he's as good in those as he was against the Gators, and the Tide stays undefeated, he's got a chance for a trip to New York.

Path to destruction: It may already have begun with the season-ending injury to deep threat Tyrone Prothro.

Season stats: 76-of-126 passing for 1,111 yards and nine touchdowns with two interceptions.

Waking the echoes: Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame. The transformation of Quinn under new head coach Charlie Weis has been nothing short of amazing. And you know which school has produced more Heisman winners than any other, don't you?

Path to Heisman: If Quinn torches Southern Cal on Oct. 15 and the Irish end the Trojans' winning streak, he could find himself the frontrunner with really only the home game against Tennessee to worry about.

Path to destruction: If the Irish lose again to anyone, especially a team not from Los Angeles, the mighty Quinn will be mighty done.

Season stats: 124-of-190 passing for 1,621 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions.

Setting up '06 candidacy: Brian Calhoun, RB, Wisconsin.


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