Whom do you like--the spectacular player for a flawed team or the
phenomenal performer for the nation's best squad? That's what
this year's Heisman race will most likely come down to, as nearly
1,000 voters choose between Pitt wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald
and Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, with Ole Miss QB Eli
Manning as a wild card. To get a read on how the polling might
go, six SI voters--writers Tim Layden, Austin Murphy, Phil Taylor
and Kelley King and editors Mark Mravic and B.J. Schecter--listed
their top three choices as of last weekend. As in actual Heisman
voting, points were assigned (three for first, two for second,
one for third), with final rankings based on total points. Looks
like a tight two-man race.
1. LARRY FITZGERALD, WR, Pittsburgh, Soph.
POINTS: 16 (four first-place votes, two seconds) STATS: 77
receptions, 1,467 yards, 19 touchdowns; NCAA-record 16 straight
games with a TD reception SKINNY: Don't penalize Fitzgerald for
his youth (he'd be the first sophomore to win the Heisman) or his
team's failings (in Saturday's 52-31 loss to West Virginia he had
nine catches for 185 yards and two TDs). Despite seeing double
and triple teams all season, he continues to churn out huge
numbers--at 146.7 receiving yards per game, he leads the nation
by nearly 30 yards--and make out-of-this world catches. Still,
some voters will be reluctant to hand him a Heisman when Herschel
Walker, considered by many the best college player ever, didn't
win it as a sophomore.
2. JASON WHITE, QB, Oklahoma, Sr.
POINTS: 12 (two firsts, three seconds) STATS: 332 attempts, 216
completions (65.1%), 3,052 yards, 36 touchdown passes, six
interceptions, 174.4 passer rating (first in the nation) SKINNY:
White's camp must wonder what more a guy can do to win the
Heisman beyond leading the country in passing while directing an
undefeated team to the No. 1 ranking. Meanwhile, his detractors
call him another Gino Torretta, riding the coattails of a
supremely talented team. History is also against him--since 1960,
only four players on national championship teams have won the
award--but White will get plenty of support from voters in the
Midwest, South and West, maybe enough to overcome Fitzgerald's
growing East Coast media buzz.
3. ELI MANNING, QB, Mississippi, Sr.
POINTS: 5 (one second, three thirds) STATS: 347 attempts, 218
completions (62.8%), 2,881 yards, 23 touchdowns passes, eight
interceptions, 149.8 passer rating (16th in the nation) SKINNY:
In the past two years Manning popped up on preseason Heisman
lists based seemingly on the strength of his name rather than his
game. But it's his performance this year that has pushed him into
contention for the award that eluded brother Peyton. He has Ole
Miss vying for its first SEC title in 40 years, and he's the most
poised and fundamentally sound quarterback in the country. A big
win against LSU in Oxford this weekend would boost his candidacy,
but it's hard to imagine him passing Fitzgerald or White.
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: USC quarterback Matt Leinart (two
third-place votes), Michigan running back Chris Perry (one
COLOR PHOTO: ICON SPORTS MEDIA
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO
COLOR PHOTO: GARY BOGDON