With one brilliant display of brute force, Ndamukong Suh altered the Heisman Trophy race like no other player this season.

In 1 night, the Nebraska defensive tackle went from Heisman dark horse to fast-finishing finalist and might have shaken the big, bronze statue loose from Colt McCoy's grasp just as he tossed the Texas quarterback around Cowboys Stadium in the Big 12 title game.

"I didn't have any idea what my [Heisman] chances were [going into the game]," Suh said yesterday from New York, where the prize will be awarded tonight. "My focus was to go out there and play as hard as I can to win that Big 12 championship and go to the Fiesta Bowl."

McCoy, despite the pounding he took from Suh and the Cornuskers in a 13-12 victory in the Big 12 title game, is also a Heisman finalist, along with running backs Toby Gerhart from Stanford and Mark Ingram from Alabama, and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

Ingram seems to be the front-runner in what is expected to be a close vote. McCoy, the runner-up last year, was the favorite before he followed up a spectacular game on Thanksgiving night against Texas A & M with a clunker against Nebraska. Now there's no guarantee he'll finish in the top three.


* Brian Kelly has his dream job. Now he has to figure out how to turn a Notre Dame program mired in mediocrity back into a national championship contender. Just as did when he was introduced as the new Cincinnati coach 3 years ago, Kelly talked at his introductory news conference about having a 5-minute plan, not a 5-year plan that reflects the length of his contract. Kelly replaced Charlie Weis.

* Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins said he has not offered the vacant coaching job to anyone, amid reports that the school is negotiating with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.

Perkins has been interviewing candidates to replace Mark Mangino, who resigned under pressure after an investigation into his treatment of players. Perkins is known to have talked to Buffalo coach Turner Gill and Mississippi coach Houston Nutt.

* Illinois will retain head coach Ron Zook, despite a 3-9 season, but fired offensive coordinator Mike Schultz, quarterbacks coach Kurt Beathard, receivers coach Jim Pry and special-teams coach Mike Woodford. *