Throughout the first half of the college football season, BYU quarterback Ty Detmer has been considered the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.

Consider the reasons: He finished ninth in last year's Heisman balloting, making him the highest vote-getter among returning players; he was picked by most preseason publications as the Heisman favorite; he beat then No. 1 Miami on national TV; and he has gotten media coverage coast-to-coast. And he's good, very good.In further support of that "evidence," there has been the weekly Scripps-Howard News Service Heisman poll, which Detmer has led from the start of the season.

Unbeatable combination, right?

Not necessarily.

There are also a number of factors that could work against Detmer. For instance:

- There is a definite regional bias to the Heisman voting. Last year's winner, quarterback Andre Ware of Houston, finished first in the voting in three regions - the Southwest, South and Northeast. Running back Anthony Thompson of Indiana finished on top in the Midwest and Far West. And voters in the Mid-Atlantic region liked QB Major Harris of West Virginia.

There are 918 Heisman voters, 870 from the media and 48 past Heisman Trophy winners. Needless to say, very few of those voters are from the Rocky Mountain states, where Detmer might expect solid support. Being a Texan might get him some extra votes from the Southwest region.

- The Scripps-Howard poll might not mean much. It only represents the opinions of 10 voters, and anyone who took Statistics 101 in college knows that isn't enough to give a fair representation of the 918 voters.

- Finally, the Heisman voters will receive their ballots the second week of November and must return them soon thereafter. Right about the time they receive those ballots, BYU will be playing Wyoming in Laramie (Nov. 10) for what may turn out to be the WAC title game. A poor showing against the Cowboys could sway a lot of voters against Detmer.

But all things considered, the Heisman is Detmer's to win or lose. If he continues to rack up the big passing numbers, he's going to win it.

There is, however, a group of good players pursuing Detmer in the Heisman race, although their numbers are dwindling. At the start of the season, 15 players received votes in the Scripps-Howard poll. In the most recent poll, only 12 received votes. Six who started out as contenders are gone, while three latecomers have joined the race.

Here's a look at who's left and their chances:

Bill Musgrave, quarterback, Oregon - Forget it. In two Pac-10 games, Musgrave has been intercepted six times and fumbled away the ball once. He's a dead Duck.

Darren Lewis, running back, Texas A&M - He has 777 yards on 129 carries, an average of six yards a carry. And that's with season-opening games against wimpy opponents - Hawaii, Southwest Louisiana and North Texas State. He needed to average 200 yards a game in those three contests, and his team needed to be better than 4-2. He's out of it.

Shawn Jones, quarterback, Georgia Tech - He's a sophomore. A sophomore has never won the Heisman. See ya next year.

Darian Hagan, quarterback, Colorado - Why is this guy even getting a vote? He's been injured and shares time with some other guy. Heisman voters aren't partial to ailing platoon players.

Todd Marinovich, quarterback, Southern Cal - Another sophomore. See Jones above.

David Klingler, quarterback, Houston - He's thrown the same number of passes as Detmer (283), with 36 fewer completions. That's a bundle. The one thing he has going for him is a Southwest Conference that is unusually weak this season. His team could easily end up 10-1 or 11-0. He's going to suffer, though, from comparisons to Andre Ware, last year's Heisman winner. Some voters may be wondering if the hefty stats aren't just a by-product of the system.

Raghib Ismail, receiver, Notre Dame - The Heisman folks don't like receivers. In the 53-year history of the award, only two receivers ever won - Larry Kelley of Yale in 1936 and Tim Brown of Notre Dame in 1987. But Brown didn't get off to the slow start that Ismail did this season. If the Rocket should have a splashy game against Miami this weekend, he could boost his stock. If he doesn't, he's history.

Eric Bieniemy, running back, Colorado - He gained 131 yards last week against an Iowa State team that has won two games all year, and he promptly moved up in the poll. Go figure. If he has colossal games against Oklahoma Oct. 27 and Nebraska Nov. 3, he could become a factor.

Craig Erickson, quarterback, Miami - Yes, this is the same Craig Erickson who looked only slightly better than average back on Sept. 8 in Provo. He's come back strong since then, completing 57 percent of his passes as the team has won five straight. A good game against Notre Dame this weekend could make him a real contender, but chances are when it comes time to cast ballots voters will remember the big Heisman duel, won by Detmer.

Jon Vaughn, running back, Michigan - This is one of the guys who wasn't considered a contender in the preseason. He's averaging 6.6 yards per carry but is hurt by the fact his team is 3-2. A few more 200-plus yard rushing games could give him a share of the spotlight, but don't bet on it. Michigan is into the Big 10 season now, and 200-yard rushing games are hard to come by in that neighborhood.

Shawn Moore, quarterback, Virginia - Detmer's closest competitor. He's higher than Detmer in the national passing-efficiency rankings, largely due to a mere two interceptions compared to 16 TD passes. He's helped by a spectacular receiver in Herman Moore and an option attack that all but eliminates the pass rush. There's been a lot of grousing about Virginia's weak schedule, so the big game for the Cavaliers has become the Nov. 3 matchup with Georgia Tech. If Virginia should lose that one, at home, Moore would probably be out of it. As it stands now, if Detmer has a bad game between now and ballot-casting time, Moore is the likeliest replacement as favorite.

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Chart

Heisman Poll

Player, School Pts.

Ty Detmer, BYU (9) 49

Shawn Moore, Virginia (1) 38

Jon Vaughn, Michigan 17

Craig Erickson, Miami 15

Eric Bieniemy, Colorado 9

Raghib Ismail, Notre Dame 9

Others: David Klingler, Houston, 7; Todd Marinovich, Southern Cal, 2; Darian Hagan, Colorado, 1; Shawn Jones, Georgia Tech, 1; Darren Lewis, Texas A&M, 1; Bill Musgrave, Oregon, 1.