Regardless of the frenzied speculation about which college football player will bag the coveted Heisman trophy, when the time comes for voters to nominate the country's best players it's seldom the grand mystery pundits make it out to be. Unlike the Oscars, statistics in sports speak for themselves and this year, they've spoken for five top-notch athletes. While the trophy has traditionally gone to a quarterback, only two made the cut, allowing two runningbacks and (gasp!) a defensive tackle to edge their way into contention. So what's to be made of this year's finalists?
  • The Case for the Lone Defender The Heisman traditionally goes to an offensive player. If not the quarterback, then at least another member of the offense whose chances at scoring and wracking up easily trackable statistics (32 touchdowns, 1000 running yards, ect) put him in a much more notable place for a voter to observe. Defensemen, on the other hand, generally play as a unit, making it difficult to shine as an individual star--that is unless you are Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska's defensive tackle who many believe will capture the Heisman this year. "The numbers suggest a relentless and dominating effort from the gritty, sweaty workplace of the trenches," says USA Today's Mike Lopresti. "If a lineman wants to accomplish great things, he is left to his own will. Nobody blocked for him, when he stormed opposing backfields through double teams for 12 sacks and 82 tackles, 23 of them for a loss. He clawed his way there on his own motor." Fan blogger Beergut at I Am The 12th Man agrees.
  • The Case for the Brainy Runningback Heismans rarely go to athletes from the upper echelon of academia. But occasionally one gets through, and this year it's Toby Gerhart from Stanford's winning team in the Pacific 10 conference. Gerhart's 1,736 yards and 26 touchdowns are impressive, but what's even more impressive, says Fanhouse's Dave Whitley, is that Gerhart is white. "I'll admit I never thought I'd vote for a Stanford player unless Tiger Woods paid me off. Then I started watching Gerhart and realized just how great he is. I also realized he is -- how do I put this nicely? -- caucasian. According the NCAA, NFL, CFL and ACORN, white guys can't run...I'm no anthropologist, but the facts back that up."
  • The Case Against the Quarterbacks Last year's finalists included Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford; all quarterbacks, the last of whom won. This year was expected to be another dead-heat competition between the three players, but that ended when Bradford was knocked out of contention after an injury early in the season. So what to make of the other two returnees to the Heisman finalist circle? "They simply weren't as good this year as the other three finalists," says TexasScout.com's Pete Fiutak. In his breakdown of each finalist, he notes, "Tebow doesn't deserve to be here, likely receiving most of his votes from those too impatient to submit their ballots until after the final weekend of the season." As for McCoy, he says, "If only he had done something more memorable in the Big 12 Championship than lazily throw the ball out of bounds with barely a flicker of a second still left on the clock, he'd be the winner."
  • The Case for the Hard Worker It's not often that a former defensive tackle will vote against a current defensive tackle, but ESPN's Mike Golic--Notre Dame alum and former NFL player--put in his #1 vote for the athlete he would have gone against, were he still playing today. "My winner would be Mark Ingram, from Alabama, the running back. He had a fantastic year, especially against a lot of tough defenses in the SEC. He runs very hard and returns well. I would give it to him."