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November 21, 2007

Heisman appears to be Tebow's to lose

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow will win the Heisman Trophy.

Count on it.

Of course, there are skeptics, purists, detractors, Georgians and Volunteers who will count him out because he's a sophomore, and no second-year player has won college football's most prestigious individual award.

Georgia tailback Herschel Walker didn't, and if the best player in college football history couldn't win the Heisman as a sophomore, then no one else should

And that's why Tebow will because this season, everything that doesn't make sense does.

If you're confused by that, then you haven't been paying attention to the most unpredictable and uncharacteristic season in recent years maybe ever.

Remember, this year opened with Division I-AA Appalachian State defeating Michigan, which went into the last game of the season playing for the Big Ten championship. Meanwhile, Appalachian State lost to Wofford and Georgia Southern.

Think about that. The team that won in Ann Arbor couldn't win at home against Georgia Southern.

And that was just the beginning.

Basketball powerhouses Connecticut and Kansas are contending for football championships in the Big East and the Big 12, respectively. Kansas hasn't won a championship since 1968, but will get a chance if it can win Saturday against Missouri. The Tigers haven't won a championship since 1969.

Kansas, undefeated this late in the season for the first time since 1899, is ranked No 2 in the nation and hoping for a shot at the national championship. But the Jayhawks' lofty ranking could be a curse. In this weird year the No. 2-ranked team in the country has lost four times, including three consecutive weeks.

In fact, this year top-10 teams have lost 27 times including 16 to unranked opponents.

This season is so strange that Notre Dame has won just twice and lost to Navy for the first time in 44 years. Vanderbilt beat a Steve Spurrier-coached team for the first time. USC's 35-game home winning streak was snapped by Stanford. Nebraska's defense allowed a school-record 76 points in a loss to Kansas. North Texas scored 62 points and lost. Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe in Tuscaloosa.

There's more.

Angry Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy ranted that he was "a man" and challenged reporters to "come after me." Baylor assistant Eric Schnupp was issued a citation for urinating on (not in) a bar. Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione was found to be releasing team information, including injury reports, to boosters paying $1,200 for a subscription to a secret newsletter. Wyoming coach Joe Glenn flipped the bird to the Utah sideline when Utes coach [/db]Kyle Whittingham[/db] called for an onside kick with a 43-0 lead. Alabama coach Nick Saban compared the Crimson Tide's loss to ULM to Pearl Harbor and 9-11.

Considering all that nonsense, it makes perfect sense that a sophomore should win the Heisman, especially one who is the first player in Division I-A history with at least 20 rushing and 20 passing touchdowns in a season.

With a regular-season game against Florida State remaining, Tebow has rushed for 749 yards and 20 touchdowns and passed for 2,870 yards and 26 touchdowns (with six interceptions). He has accounted for at least four touchdowns in eight games, produced five in four games and had a hand in seven touchdowns against South Carolina. The opposition he has faced thus far is a combined 74-45.

Tebow's chief rival for the trophy, Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon, suffered a season-ending knee injury last week.

So go ahead and give Tebow the trophy and start wondering if next season he can join Ohio State's Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman recipient.

Of course, skeptics, purists, detractors, Georgians and Volunteers might point out that Florida has three losses, which also should prevent Tebow from winning. But Texas' Ricky Williams won on a team with three losses.

Actually, no Heisman recipient has won from a team with at least four losses in 20 years, and Tebow still has a game remaining against Florida State. In this zany year, Tebow's Heisman candidacy might actually be enhanced if the Gators lose.

Trivia question

What team has endured the longest time span since last going to a bowl? (Answer at the end of the column)

Losing games and perspective

Alabama coach Nick Saban has drawn more than his share of criticism, perhaps some unfairly. But he opened himself up for all kinds of scrutiny and barbs by making a ridiculous comparison between the Crimson Tide's 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe and the nation's greatest tragedies.

"Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event," Saban said. "It may be 9-11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event."

No doubt about that. But while a loss to ULM may be disappointing, even humiliating for Alabama, it is not catastrophic.

The one that got away

This season, Clemson receiver Aaron Kelly has caught 75 passes and set a school record with 11 touchdown catches.

But the TD total should be 12, and that's haunting him.

Kelly dropped what would have been a game-winning touchdown passes in the final minute of last week's 20-17 loss to Boston College, which cost the Tigers a chance to play for the ACC championship.

"It's something I'll think about for a while, but you've got to put it in the back of your head and try to come back and play strong so that you don't let it affect the rest of the year," Kelly said. "It's a play I expect to make, and I think I'd make that play nine times out of 10."

Kelly caught eight passes for 70 yards in that game.

Quick hitters

  • Texas tailback Jamaal Charles can join Ricky Williams, Earl Campbell and Cedric Benson as the only players in school history to rush for 1,500 yards in a season if he can gain 134 more this season. Charles, who faces Texas A&M on Friday and will play in a bowl game, has averaged 215 yards in the past three games.

  • Though West Virginia is third in the BCS standings, coach Rich Rodriguez issued a mandate forbidding his players to talk about anything other than Saturday's game against Connecticut for the Big East title. "I don't want to talk about anything but UConn and the Big East championship because that's the only thing we can control. It's the only focus right now," he said.

  • Florida State linebacker Geno Hayes promised the Seminoles would not be intimidated and would be effective against Tebow in Saturday's game against Florida. "We're going in with that attitude that Tim Tebow is going to go down this week. You all put that down. Tim Tebow is going down this week. That's the attitude," Hayes said.

  • Tennessee kicker Daniel Lincoln said he knew immediately that Vanderbilt's Bryant Hahnfeldt missed a potential game-winning 49-yard field goal attempt against the Volunteers last week. "It came off his foot way left and he got some help from the wind to make it back close. I didn't think it was going to be that close. The wind was definitely a huge factor," Lincoln said. Hahnfeldt's attempt bounced off the left upright.

  • Although rumors persist that he may be headed to Texas A&M, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville indicated he plans to stay on the Alabama plains. "We're going to be at Auburn as long as they want us here. We're fired up about that," Tuberville said. Tuberville is in the third year of a seven-year contract that paid him $2.6 million this year. Though due for a $200,000 salary increase, he's likely to get a larger raise.

  • University of Nebraska police are seeking help to learn the identity of a person who phoned death threats to Huskers defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove on Nov. 4. Nebraska's defense ranks last in the Big 12.

  • A group of Texas Tech graduates are trying to raise money to pay the $10,000 fine the Big 12 imposed on Red Raiders coach Mike Leach for questioning the integrity of officials after a loss to Texas. Leach is appealing the fine.

  • Washington defensive tackle Jordan Reffett threw down the gauntlet for Saturday's Apple Cup game, saying he would not allow his young daughter to one day attend Washington State. "None of my kids and I plan on having more are going to be at WSU because I want them to be able to get a job sometime later on," he said.

    Trivia answer

    New Mexico State hasn't participated in a bowl since defeating Utah State 20-13 in the 1961 Sun Bowl.

    Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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