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Original Issue

The Best of 2004

After a season rife with breakout performances, we cast our ballots for year-end awards--and offer some kudos of our own

HEISMAN Could a freshman win the award for the first time in history? We think so. Though there was much debate among eight SI Heisman voters and no clear consensus (five different players received first-place votes) here's how our in-house poll turned out: 1. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma; 2. (tie) Reggie Bush, USC and Alex Smith, Utah. 3. Jason White, Oklahoma.

O'BRIEN (Quarterback) After throwing for 2,624 yards and 28 touchdowns and running for 10 more scores, Utah junior Alex Smith was more vital to his team's success than any other signal-caller.

DOAK WALKER (Running back) Yes, Texas' Cedric Benson and Cal's J.J. Arrington had better numbers, but Oklahoma superfreshman Adrian Peterson played bigger in big games (225 yards against Texas on Oct. 9; 172 in last Saturday's Big 12 title game).

BILETNIKOFF (Receiver) In a lackluster year for wideouts, senior Braylon Edwards, who had 1,221 yards and 12 touchdowns for Rose Bowl--bound Michigan, runs away with this hardware.

NAGURSKI (Defensive player) Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson was almost always the best player on the field this season, making 128 tackles and forcing eight fumbles to tie an NCAA mark. He should also win the Butkus award as the top linebacker.

THORPE (Defensive back) Miami's Antrel Rolle didn't have the most impressive stats--66 tackles, including eight for loss, one interception and a forced fumble--because most teams were afraid to throw his way. He'll likely be the No. 1 pick in next spring's NFL draft.

GROZA (Kicker) Ohio State's most reliable offensive weapon, senior Mike Nugent hit 20 of 23 field goals--including five of six from 50-plus-yards--and didn't miss a PAT.

BOBBY DODD (Coach) Tommy Tuberville has transformed Auburn from last season's flop to unbeaten SEC champion.

BIGGEST SURPRISE Despite replacing nine offensive starters and then starting the season 2--2, Iowa won seven straight to earn a share of the Big Ten title.

BEST GAME Miami trailed Louisville 31--14 in the Orange Bowl on Oct. 14 before scoring 20 unanswered points to take the lead. The Hurricanes then briefly gave it up but won 41--38 on a Frank Gore touchdown with 49 seconds remaining.

BEST GAME WE WON'T SEE We'd love to see Auburn and Utah, two unbeatens, play each other in a BCS bowl. Why won't that happen? Blame it on the BCS, which is hamstrung by conference tie-ins--one of its numerous flaws.

MOST RESOUNDING STATEMENT Win now--or else. It's been a tough autumn for coaches; at week's end 12 had been forced out this season, including Ole Miss's David Cutcliffe, whose Rebels won 10 games a year ago. --K.K.




No QB meant more to his team than Smith did to Utah.