Heisman race wide open in 2009

When the season began, we all figured Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford would battle once more for the Heisman Trophy. Well, Bradford didn’t last the season and McCoy and Tebow went through stretches where their statistics didn’t meet Heisman standards.

That helped create a Heisman race that may be the closest in years and one that breaks down along regional lines. With that, Douglas Pils examines the finalists invited to New York for today’s ceremony (7 p.m., ESPN):

Toby Gerhart, Stanford RB, senior

The fact that the bruiser won the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s best running back could be a good sign for Texas fans. Only five Walker winners have won a Heisman and Walker runner-ups, like Alabama’s Mark Ingram, don’t win the Heisman.

Mark Ingram, Alabama RB, sophomore

Of the offensive guys, he had the best game last week with 186 total yards and three TDs against Florida. But these numbers don’t say nation’s best player — he’s 12th nationally in rushing yards per game, 26th in scoring and 31st in all-purpose yards. He failed to reach 100 yards against Florida International, North Texas (91), Arkansas, Tennessee (99) and Auburn, teams that were a combined 26-34.

Colt McCoy, Texas QB, Senior

He won Maxwell and Walter Camp awards for player of the year, but that doesn’t mean the Heisman is his. Larry Johnson was the last to win both awards, and Carson Palmer got the Heisman in 2002. Ron Dayne was the last to sweep all three in 1999. The last two Longhorns in New York finished second — Vince Young in 2005 and McCoy last year.

Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska DT, Senior

If ever one game might have won a Heisman, it was his 41/2-sack, 12-tackle night in Nebraska’s loss at the Big 12 title game. Slinging McCoy to the ground could be the next Heisman pose. Still, he’s a defensive tackle and those guys don’t win Heismans either.

Tim Tebow, Florida QB, Senior

He’s got a vote since he won in 2007, and he’s the first to go to New York three times for the announcement. If voters based their decision by comparing final scenes between Tebow and McCoy, the Gator just might get his second trophy. Everyone loves a good tearjerker.