Monday, December 15, 2008

2008: first time no Heisman finalist is a senior

Football stars are getting younger. This is an odd year in the Heisman Trophy voting for the country’s most outstanding college football player. None of the three finalists were seniors, the first time that has happened in the award’s 74-year history. All three players could return next season.

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford arrived on campus three years ago with modest hype and low expectations. But Bradford’s rise from relative obscurity to national pre-eminence was sealed Saturday night when he won the Heisman Trophy.

In leading No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) to the Bowl Championship Series title game against Tebow and the Gators, Bradford orchestrated the highest-scoring season in college football’s modern era. The Sooners scored 702 points, the first modern team to break the 700 mark. They finished with a flourish, scoring more than 60 points in each of their final five games.

Bradford led the nation with 48 touchdown passes and threw only 6 interceptions. He finished with an average of 14.78 yards a completion.

Bradford will also hold a place in Heisman history in that he became the first American Indian to win the trophy since Jim Plunkett of Stanford in 1970. Bradford is one-sixteenth Cherokee and has become a role model in Oklahoma, a state with a rich American Indian heritage.

The third-place finisher, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, received more first-place votes than Bradford (309-300), becoming the first third-place finisher to do so since 1956. That did not seem to matter to Tebow, who last season became the first sophomore to win the Heisman.

Bradford’s victory set up a thick subplot in the title game Jan. 8. He will square off with Tebow, who led the No. 1 Gators to their second national title game in the past three seasons.

The last time two Heisman winners played for the national title came at the end of the 2004 season, when Southern California and Matt Leinart (the 2004 winner) blew out White and Oklahoma, 55-19, in the Bowl Championship Series title game. (info from The New York Times)

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