Clemson University

Heisman: Exploring issues in voting

A historic Heisman Trophy vote made Mark Ingram the winner of the most famous bronze statue in sports by the narrowest margin in its 75-year history. It also highlighted some of the problems and quirks - both new and old - in choosing college football's top player.

THE BIG STORY

The story of Ingram becoming Alabama's first Heisman winner obscured a fascinating vote that produced several notable results.

Stanford tailback Toby Gerhart finished 28 points behind Ingram. The previous tightest vote came in 1985 when Auburn's Bo Jackson won with a 45-point margin over Iowa quarterback Chuck Long.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy's third-place point total was third-most for a third-place finisher and only three players to finish third were closer to the winner than McCoy.

Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh finished fourth, but received more points (815) than any fourth-place finisher before.

Suh's finish shows the influence championship weekend has on the Heisman. It's safe to say Suh would not have been a finalist had he not played one of the best games any player at any position played this season against Texas in the Big 12 championship.

And, clearly, McCoy's spotty performance against the Cornhuskers cost him the Heisman.

A CASE FOR THE DEFENSE

Will a player who makes significant contributions only on defense, such as Suh, win a Heisman Trophy?

It probably will happen, but the process is tilted so heavily toward offensive players it will take a sort of perfect storm for it to happen.

For a defensive player to win, he will have to come into the season with name recognition and his school pushing him for the Heisman because he will not have the flashy stats and highlights to come from nowhere.

Then he will have to play great for a high-profile team that contends for a national title.

SECRET BALLOTS

Some of the drama is being taken out of the Heisman Trophy by Web sites and news organizations that conduct straw polls and track votes made public throughout the season.

It is frustrating for the people at the Heisman Trust, which requests voters keep their ballots secret but have no way to enforce that.

While stiffarmtrophy.com and heismanpundit.com - both projected Ingram as the winner - might make the presentation ceremony anticlimactic, they help fuel season-long interest in the Heisman by quantifying the race for the trophy.

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