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    Thailand Expat Texpat's Avatar
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    best team, best player ... is it foretelling?

    NEW YORK -- One by one, the three Heisman finalists walked on stage at the Nokia Theater to begin Saturday's Heisman Trophy presentation and stood together behind the iconic stiff-arm trophy. First came Colt McCoy, then Sam Bradford, then Tim Tebow.

    Less than an hour later, Oklahoma's Bradford walked up on stage again, this time as the newly anointed 74th Heisman Trophy winner. But watching him at that moment, flanked by Texas's McCoy on his left and Florida's Tebow on his right, one couldn't help thinking how closely Bradford's 2008 legacy -- and the direction of this entire college football season -- has been intertwined with that of his fellow finalists.

    The three players, decked in their suits and ties, graciously shook hands and smiled with each other. You would never know that nine weeks earlier, Bradford and McCoy duked it out at the Cotton Bowl in an epic game that would wind up dominating a whole bunch of conversations for the duration of the season. And 26 days from now, Bradford and Tebow -- each now a Heisman-winning quarterback -- will square off in Miami for the BCS championship.

    Will Bradford lead his team to a sixth straight 60-point scoring output against Tebow's Gators?
    "Probably not," Bradford said with a chuckle at a post-ceremony press conference Saturday night. "But you never know."

    In a season that has been defined in large part by numbers -- confounding BCS ratings, history-making completion percentages and astonishing touchdown-to-interception ratios -- it was only fitting that the Heisman race involved another round of historic, tightly-wound numbers.

    In the highest voter turnout (904 of 926 ballots) in Heisman history, Bradford (1,726 points) beat out McCoy (1,604) by 122 points, the closest margin since Eric Crouch's 2001 victory over Rex Grossman. And in a strange twist to the results, Tebow actually landed the most first-place votes (309) of the trio and the most total points (1,575) ever for a third-place finisher.

    Bradford beat McCoy in the Southwest but trailed him in the Midwest. Tebow dominated the South but finished third in the West.

    It's no surprise, really. The country can't seem to agree on anything this season.

    However, the largest number of Heisman voters agreed on one thing: Of all the eye-popping numbers that (literally) flew before us this season, no one's were more impressive than Oklahoma's Bradford, the third-year sophomore who threw for 4,464 yards, 48 touchdowns and six interceptions to lead the country in pass efficiency for a second straight season.

    "It's definitely remarkable," said Bradford's coach, Bob Stoops. "And he's only three years into it. He's far from a finished product."

    Dear almighty. What will that look like?

    Lest we forget, amidst all his other accolades, Bradford became just the second sophomore in history to win the stiff-armed statue. It was just more than a year ago that no one had done it.

    Last year it was Tebow who made history, in large part because of some earth-shattering numbers of his own (32 passing touchdowns and 23 rushing touchdowns). Saturday night, Bradford and Tebow became linked together in history -- and now they get to play each other.

    Bradford, shy-spoken in general and visibly nervous in front of a podium ("I'd much rather play in front of 100,000 people than wait for an award to be handed out," he said), did not have much to say Saturday night about that Florida showdown.

    But Tebow sure did.

    "You lose, you lose," said the now former Heisman winner, who, while flashing his trademark sly smile, seemed undeniably peeved about Saturday's voting results. "We still get to play on Jan. 8 and decide something a little bit more important."

    Asked if he thought his defensive teammates might have a little extra motivation now when they go up against Bradford, Tebow replied: "I've already gotten quite a few texts from some guys. ... I can't share those -- but they were good."

    Since the advent of the BCS in 1998, the Heisman race has become inescapably linked to that of the national championship. Bradford became the seventh winner in nine years who will also play in the BCS title game. This year's edition will be the fifth to match the winner against a fellow finalist and the second to match reigning Heisman winners.

    Such games have not gone well for the newly anointed. Think Josh Heupel over Chris Weinke, Ken Dorsey over Crouch and Vince Young over Reggie Bush. Troy Smith and Jason White also lost their subsequent titles games.

    The one exception: Matt Leinart, whose 2004 USC Trojans shredded White's Sooners 55-19.
    In other words, all the parallels are there for Tebow to exact revenge on Bradford in Miami.

    That is, unless Bradford follows the blueprint set by his boyhood idol, Heupel, whose 2000 Oklahoma team was considered the underdog to Weinke's Florida State team in that year's title game (also played in Miami) but wound up winning 13-2.

    "We're ready to meet that challenge," said Bradford, who knows well the skepticism by some regarding the quality of defenses he's faced in the Big 12. "When we started this season, winning the national championship was the first goal we put on the board."

    It's a testament to the quarterback assembly line that Stoops has engineered during his tenure in Norman that Heupel now serves as the position coach for Bradford, while another one of his former protégés, White, stood on the stage Saturday night as another Oklahoma Heisman winner.

    "It's hard to consider myself on the same level as Jason White," said Bradford. "To consider that we're going to be mentioned together, it's still kind of hard for me to understand."

    It's still hard to understand for a whole lot of people outside of Norman who, just 15 months ago, had barely heard of Bradford, the lightly regarded recruit who former OU quarterbacks coach Chuck Long recently admitted to the New York Times was signed primarily "for depth."
    Contrast that with Tebow, whose senior season in high school was made into a documentary and whose legend hovered over Gainesville before he even took his first snap.

    Then there's McCoy, the once-scrawny freshman thrown into the then-unenviable task of succeeding the greatest quarterback in school history (Young) only to break all his records three years later. McCoy, too, will forever be linked in history with Bradford -- but so far, for all the wrong reasons. He's the guy who dealt Bradford his sole defeat this season yet lost out to him in the Big 12 South tiebreaker, and now, for the Heisman.

    Saturday night, McCoy didn't express even the slightest hint of bitterness.

    "Having an opportunity to play in the Big 12 championship, things may have turned out a little differently," he said. "But when Sam was on the big stage and he earned it. Give him credit."

    Now, Bradford prepares to play on his biggest stage yet -- the one where his college legacy (in the event he turns pro after this season) will ultimately be determined. The same goes for Tebow.

    Bradford mentioned the honor of being mentioned in the same breath as Jason White.

    Unfortunately, that's not considered the most flattering comparison outside of Oklahoma, where White, for all he accomplished in college, is generally viewed as a "flop" for his consecutive BCS title defeats.

    As of Saturday night, Bradford and Tebow were the toasts of their sport, its two most recent Heisman Trophy winners. But should Oklahoma lose to Florida, Bradford will have won the Heisman while losing to both his fellow finalists. Should the Sooners beat the Gators, Tebow will become the most celebrated quarterback in history to have earned his national championship ring as a backup.

    And whatever the outcome, McCoy will forever be the guy who never got a chance due to circumstances beyond his control. (Though McCoy, unlike the other two, has already announced he'll be back next season.)

    "I've said all along, I think all three of us deserved to win the [Heisman]," said McCoy -- and he's absolutely right. Unfortunately for him, once again, he's the odd-man out in this tiebreaker. On Jan. 8, either Bradford or Tebow will earn the most important number of the season: No. 1.

    ***

    Excellence knows no bounds....
    Last edited by Texpat; 15-12-2008 at 01:15 AM.

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