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Tebow has tough competition in quest to win second Heisman

If you're pulling for Florida to win its second national championship in 3 years, you might want to root against Tim Tebow in his bid to win a second straight Heisman Trophy.

If you're pulling for Florida to win its second national championship in 3 years, you might want to root against Tim Tebow in his bid to win a second straight Heisman Trophy.

And if you're in Oklahoma/Sam Bradford's corner, well, can you say, "Let's go Gators"?

At least for tomorrow night in New York.

Of your last eight Heisman guys, all but one was a quarterback. That exception was Southern Cal running back Reggie Bush in 2005. Six of the eight played in the BCS national-title game, including Bush. Only one played on the winning team. That would be USC's Matt Leinart, in 2004.

The only other one of those eight to play for a team that won its bowl game was USC's Carson Palmer in 2002.

Florida State's Chris Weinke (2000), Nebraska's Eric Crouch (2001), Oklahoma's Jason White (2003) and Ohio State's Troy Smith (2006), like Bush, all got to the last game and lost. Last year, Tebow and the Gators fell to Michigan in the Capital One bowl.

What does it all mean? Nothing, if you don't buy into that kind of stuff. But like that so-called Sports Illustrated cover jinx, you can bet that more than a few folks will be bringing it up in Miami in early January. Just because.

Chances are, either Tebow or Bradford will become the 74th recipient of one of sport's most cherished and recognizable awards. It's indeed forever, a fraternity that's unlike many others. And if it's Tebow, it'll make history, for the second December in a row.

A year ago he was the first sophomore to finish first. Now, he's trying to join Ohio State running back Archie Griffin as the only two-time winners. Griffin did it in 1974 and '75, as a junior and senior.

You might recall that in Griffin's final game, his top-ranked Buckeyes lost to UCLA, and some guy named Dick Vermeil, in the Rose Bowl. That cost them a ring. And got Vermeil a gig here in Philadelphia. So maybe that karma thing didn't start this century.

Anyway, it's been one of the more intriguing Heisman races of recent times.

Last season, Tebow beat out Arkansas running back Darren McFadden (who became a rare two-time runner-up) by 254 points. Even though Florida lost three times in the regular season. Then again, Arkansas had dropped four. Still, that hadn't happened in a while. Most of the time, it's gone to the highest-profile player on one of the best teams. And that will once again be the case. It's just a matter of who, from which.

There are only three finalists, all QBs. Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, who just won the John Unitas Award as the top senior at that position, probably would've made it a foursome had the Red Raiders beaten Oklahoma on Nov. 22. But they lost by 44 at home. So even though his stats were every bit as overwhelming as Bradford's, that was too much to overcome. Still, he deserved an invitation to the ceremony.

Colt McCoy of Texas would've won, had the vote been taken on Halloween. He didn't do anything wrong after that. Tebow and Bradford just closed stronger. Like his team, McCoy never got the chance to make a definitive final statement. He even led his team in rushing, which even Tebow can't claim this year. And he completed 77 percent of his passes. Nonetheless, it doesn't figure to be quite enough.

Which leaves us with two. Sort of like the BCS.

All Bradford did was orchestrate the most prolific offense that college football has ever seen. Not too shabby for a guy who was basically recruited to caddie for Rhett Bomar (remember him?). Bradford passed for 4,400 yards and 48 touchdowns, with just six interceptions in 442 attempts. None came in the last four games, when the Sooners were beating three Top 25 opponents.

Then there's Tebow, who plays more like a throwback. He's only accounted for 40 TDs this year, 15 fewer than 2007. But he's only been picked off twice, in 268 passes. And with him, it's almost as much about all the so-called intangibles. Don't underestimate that.

After Florida's lone loss in September, a one-pointer at home to Mississippi on a missed conversion kick, he basically promised Gator Nation that he'd do everything in his power to make sure it didn't happen again. And in the SEC finale against Alabama, he was great when he needed to be. Again, hardly a minor factor.

I didn't have a ballot. Last year Tebow won because of his numbers. For the same reason, I'd lean to Bradford. I might even put McCoy second, since I had Texas No. 1 at the end. But what if the Southwest vote gets split and leads to a repeat? It should be interesting to see how other parts of the country go.

Maybe this even comes down to hanging chads. *