AS ANTICIPATED, Villanova junior quarterback John Robertson is one of the three finalists for the Walter Payton Award that goes to the top player in FCS.

The other contenders are Eastern Washington junior QB Vernon Adams and Idaho State fifth-year senior QB Justin Arias. Many consider Robertson to be the favorite.

The award, which is sponsored by the Hatboro-based Sports Network, will be presented on Dec. 15 in Philadelphia.

Robertson won the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman 2 years ago.

He leads the nation in three statistical passing categories and was recently named the CAA Offensive Player of the Year. The sixth-ranked Wildcats (10-2), who received an opening bye in the playoffs, will host Liberty (9-4) on Saturday afternoon (4:30) in the second round. He's also the team's top rusher, despite playing with a cast on his left hand much of the season.

Two Villanova players have won this award: senior wide receiver Brian Finneran in 1997 and senior running back Brian Westbrook 4 years later. Senior quarterback Brett Gordon finished a very close second to Eastern Illinois' QB Tony Romo in 2002.