Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Oregon running back LaMichael James will meet up in New York before heading to Arizona for next month's national championship game.
Newton and James have been announced as finalists for the Heisman Trophy and will be joined by Stanford's Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore of Boise State for Saturday's announcement.
Newton overcame a pay-to-play scandal with a superb season on the field, piling up nearly 4,000 combined yards and 49 touchdowns in leading the top-ranked Tigers into the Jan. 10 national championship game.
The dynamic James had more yards and touchdowns than anyone else in FBS, helping the second-ranked Ducks into their first national championship game.
Newton is the front-runner, but the big question is whether voters will look past the pay-to-play scandal involving his father.
Playing for a junior college team in Texas just a year ago, Newton was unparalleled on the field.
This year, too.
At Auburn, he threw for 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns while running for 1,409 yards and 20 more scores, joining Florida quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow as the only FBS players to have 20 touchdowns rushing and passing in a season.
In his final regular-season game. he threw four TD passes and scored two more on the ground in Auburn's 56-17 rout of the 18th-ranked Gamecocks that earned Auburn the SEC championship and a shot at its first national title since 1957.
The knock against Newton is the shenanigans by his father, Cecil.
The elder Newton was accused of working with the owner of a scouting service to get up to $180,000 for his son to play for at Mississippi State while the quarterback was being recruited out of junior college last year.
The NCAA cleared Cam, saying neither he nor Auburn knew anything about it, but Heisman voters might be leery of another Reggie Bush situation. The 2005 Heisman winner from USC gave back his trophy earlier this year and his school was hit with heavy sanctions after a four-year NCAA investigation determined he was ineligible that season for receiving improper benefits.
If voters steer away from Newton, James could swoop in and become the first Oregon player to win college football's most prestigious individual award.
James was the main cog in Oregon's nearly point-a-minute offense, forcing teams to key on him while the rest of his talented teammates ran all over the field. Oregon led the nation in scoring at nearly 50 points per game and was second in total yards, just a few tenths behind Oklahoma State at 537 yards per game.
Even with the extra attention, James led the nation with 1,682 yards and 21 touchdowns, and his 152 yards per game was nearly 10 more than Connecticut's Jordan Todman in second. He closed out the regular season by gaining 134 yards in Oregon's 37-20 win over rival Oregon State on Saturday that clinched the school's first trip to the national title game.
Luck was second fiddle to Washington's Heisman hopeful Jake Locker to open the season, but quickly established himself as the Pac-10's best quarterback.
The 6-foot-4 junior won a lopsided battle over Locker and his Huskies early in the season and guided the fifth-ranked Cardinal to one of the best seasons in school history. A projected top NFL pick, Luck threw for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns with just seven interceptions while completing 70 percent of his passes for an 11-1 team that earned an Orange Bowl berth.Comment on this story
Moore wasn't much of a Heisman hopeful early in the season, but quickly played his way into the picture while leading the Broncos to the cusp of a BCS bowl berth.
The junior was second in the nation in passer efficiency, throwing for over 3,500 yards with 33 TDs and five interceptions, but his chances took a hit with a loss to Nevada that knocked Boise State out of BCS contention.
Alabama's Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, wasn't much of a factor in his bid to repeat.
The bruising running back missed the first two games after offseason knee surgery and wasn't nearly as dynamic as a year ago, rushing for 816 yards, half his total from a year ago. His team also had its repeat national title hopes fizzle with an early-season loss to South Carolina and later losses to LSU and Newton's Tigers.