The Heisman Trophy race actually is a race again.
The past two seasons have given us no suspense in prognosticating the winner of college football's top award. In 2005, USC running back Reggie Bush garnered the second-most points in history and won the Heisman in a landslide. By the time he took his seat, the only question was what color tie Bush would be wearing when he accepted the award.
The mismatch was even greater last year when Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith won the Heisman by 1,662 points, the second-largest margin in the history of the award. Smith set a Heisman record by earning 86.7 percent of the first-place votes.
It appears we're going to have no such slam-dunk winner this year. In fact, this race could turn out to be one of the closest in years.
With the season now more than half over, there is no front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. Usually at this point in the season, at least a couple of players have emerged as leading candidates. But ask two college football experts for five finalists and you may get five completely different answers.
Remember when USC quarterback John David Booty was considered a favorite for the award? Four interceptions against Stanford and a broken finger took care of that. West Virginia running back Steve Slaton has lost momentum after a couple of quiet games and the Mountaineers' loss to South Florida. Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm has put up huge numbers, but the Cardinals have been a major disappointment at 4-4.
There are a handful of players in the mix now that weren't part of the preseason discussion for the Heisman. And a couple of preseason favorites are still hanging around. It all adds up to more uncertainty than we've seen in years.
The closest Heisman voting came in 1985 when Auburn running back Bo Jackson edged Iowa quarterback Chuck Long by a mere 45 points. There still is a lot of time for a player or two to emerge this season, but don't be surprised if we see one of the closer votes in awhile.
Here is a look at some of the top candidates at this point in the season:
• Tim Tebow, QB, Florida: Many feel Tebow would win if votes were collected today. He leads the nation in passing efficiency (177.5) and is seventh in total offense (327 ypg). Tebow has thrown 17 touchdown passes with just three interceptions and has rushed for 578 yards and 10 more scores. Despite two losses, the Gators are ranked 9th in the country and are very much in contention to play in a BCS game.
• Andre Woodson, QB, Kentucky: Woodson has come out of nowhere to make Kentucky football relevant. He's thrown 26 touchdown passes, second nationally to Texas Tech's Graham Harrell. Woodson threw for 415 yards and five touchdowns in last week's 45-37 loss to Florida and helped the Wildcats knock off then-No. 1 LSU earlier in the season.
• Mike Hart, RB, Michigan: Despite missing last week's win over Illinois because of a sprained ankle, Hart still is one of just six running backs to top the 1,000-yard mark so far. He's third in rushing average (first among BCS conferences) at 154 yards per game and is tied for third with 12 rushing touchdowns. After a miserable start, the Wolverines have won six in a row and are tied for the Big Ten lead.
• Ray Rice, RB, Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have been mildly disappointing, but that's no fault of Rice, who is fourth nationally in rushing yards per game (142.7) and tied for second with 13 touchdowns. Rice has topped the 175-yard mark in rushing four times this season.
• Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College: Ryan is having a Troy Smith-type year. He doesn't necessarily have gaudy numbers but he's led his team to an undefeated season and a No. 2 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series standings. He's thrown for 2,148 yards and 17 touchdowns with six interceptions. Ryan's candidacy will have a defining moment tonight when the Eagles visit Virginia Tech on national television.