Stats vs. speed. Great arm vs. great legs. Consistency vs. versatility.
Those are just some of the contrasts between Brigham Young's Ty Detmer and Notre Dame's Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, the two leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy.One of them seems certain to win the award when the announcement is made today at the Downtown Athletic Club. But which one?
Detmer apparently has the edge, according to a survey of Heisman voters by USA Today. Detmer received 88 more points and 20 more first-place votes than Ismail in the poll, which included nearly 30 percent of the eligible voters.
The choice is difficult. Who do you vote for, the most prolific single-season passer in college football history or the game's most versatile and exciting player? Will Notre Dame get its eighth Heisman or will BYU get its first?
"It's tough," says ESPN's Beano Cook, who voted for Detmer. "It's like trying to choose between Jefferson and Lincoln."
Colorado running back Eric Bieniemy, Virginia quarterback Shawn Moore and Houston quarterback David Klingler also had great seasons, but Detmer and Ismail - both juniors - are clearly a notch above the rest.
With a game remaining against Hawaii, Detmer has already broken Andre Ware's single-season record for passing yardage with 4,869 and needs only two touchdown passes to break Jim McMahon's NCAA career mark of 84. He has thrown for more than 300 yards in 23 consecutive games and set or tied 26 NCAA passing and total offense records.
"And his stats are not padded," says Lee Corso, one of Cook's colleagues at ESPN. "Only seven of his 38 touchdown passes this season were in the fourth quarter and three of those were against Washington State when they came back from 22 points down to win."
Critics point to Detmer's 24 interceptions in 517 attempts, but Corso says that's about the average ratio for a passer. He also refutes skeptics who think Detmer is just the product of a pass-happy offense.
"In the three years before Detmer (became a full-time starter), BYU didn't win the WAC championship and dropped out of the national leaders in passing and total offense," Corso says. "Since he took over, they've won two WAC titles and been either first or second in passing and total offense. It's not the system; it's Ty Detmer." "
Statistically speaking, Ismail can't compare with Detmer. But no one matches the Rocket when it comes to all-around ability and big plays.
Ismail accounted for 157 all-purpose yards per game this season, scored six touchdowns and gained an average of 14 yards every time he touched the ball as a runner, receiver or kick returner. The average length of an Ismail touchdown was an amazing 64 yards.
"I've been covering college football since the 1950s, and I've never seen a more dangerous player," Heisman voter Ron Bliss of the Kingsport (Tenn.) Times-News told USA Today.
All you need to know about Ismail's value is this: Notre Dame lost only twice, and both times he saw limited action because of a thigh injury.
"Rocket is the best player in the country," says John Pruett of the Huntsville (Ala.) Times. "When he wasn't in the game, Notre Dame struggled. When he was, they did good things."
However, some voters consider Ismail a part-time player. Like baseball fans who don't think pitchers should win the Most Valuable Player award, they don't think Ismail plays enough to merit the Heisman.