Tide's Ingram on verge of making history

Olin Buchanan
Yahoo! SportsNovember 10, 2009

David Palmer, Johnny Musso and Lee Roy Jordan all finished in the top four in Heisman Trophy voting.

Of course, none of those Alabama stars won the coveted the bronze statue.

Alabama sophomore running back Mark Ingram probably will finish high in this season's Heisman voting. Indeed, after rushing for 144 yards in last week's 24-15 victory over LSU, Ingram appears on the verge of becoming Alabama's first Heisman recipient.

Ingram has rushed for 1,148 yards and eight touchdowns for the undefeated Crimson Tide. And with Mississippi State, Chattanooga and Auburn, which all have vulnerable run defenses, remaining on the Tide's schedule, Ingram has a great opportunity in the next three weeks to enhance his candidacy and work on his acceptance speech. But if he struggles at all, he could fall out of contention, too.

This season's Heisman race has been one of the most uncertain ever because there aren't one or two players who are obviously ahead of the pack of contenders. In fact, as many as 10 players would appear to still have legitimate shots to win it with strong November showings.

Indeed, it takes a close look to show why some players shouldn't be considered top contenders as this point.

For example:

• Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, the 2007 recipient, has passed for just 1,531 yards and 11 touchdowns, while rushing for 578 yards and nine scores. That's a good season, but doesn't deserve recognition for most outstanding player. Of course, it could be argued that Tebow is deserving because Florida is unbeaten. But TCU is unbeaten, too, and quarterback Andy Dalton isn't getting Heisman hype.

• Texas QB Colt McCoy is on track to pass for more than 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also has nine interceptions and didn't perform well against Oklahoma. He did throw for 470 yards last week – but that was against UCF.

• Running back Ryan Mathews of Fresno State leads the nation with 1,459 rushing yards. But five of the teams he has faced rank 84th or worse in defense. And that doesn't include FCS member UC-Davis.

• Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt has failed to pass for 100 yards in five separate games. OK, so he's operating in a run-oriented offense. But he's only rushed for 100 yards twice.

• Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen has had a tremendous season. But Heisman contenders shouldn't be losing fumbles at the 1 and throwing red zone interceptions in a loss to Navy.

Any of those players – and some others – could make a late charge at the Heisman. But unless Ingram falters, it appears it's his to lose.

1. RB Mark Ingram, Alabama: Finally, there is some separation in the Heisman race. After a 144-yard rushing output against LSU, Ingram is tantalizingly close to becoming Alabama's first recipient.

2. QB Case Keenum, Houston: There is just no legitimate reason to dismiss Keenum as a serious contender. Last week, he led the Cougars to a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Tulsa. He passed for 522 yards and three touchdowns. That's back-to-back games in which he's exceeded 500 passing yards and it's the third time he's done it this season. Go ahead and question his competition, but against common opponents, Keenum has outplayed Texas' Colt McCoy and Florida's Tim Tebow.

3. RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford: Gerhart, a junior who is coming off a career-high 223 rushing yards and three touchdowns in an upset of Oregon, has not been held to fewer than 82 yards in any game this season. In fact, he's exceeded 100 rushing yards seven times and 200 twice. He's second in the nation in rushing.

4. RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson: One of the country's most versatile players, Spiller is coming off a 165-yard rushing effort in a win over Florida State; he also scored on a 58-yard reception against the Seminoles and had a school-record 313 all-purpose yards. Spiller has scored touchdowns via runs, receptions, kickoff return and punt return this season, and eight of his touchdowns have covered more than 50 yards.

5. RB LaMichael James, Oregon: Don't blame James for the Ducks' loss to Stanford. He rushed for 125 yards and added 89 receiving yards. James has exceeded 100 rushing yards in six of the past seven games, which incidentally are the only games that he has started.