Finally, we have the two frontrunners, Stanford’s Toby Gerhart, and Alabama’s Mark Ingram. On some level, we’re talking about the same player, here. Both Gerhart and Ingram have been consistent all year, they both are the primary anchors for their team’s offense, and both had definitive "Heisman moments" before a National TV audience.
Against Notre Dame on national television two weeks ago, Gerhart bulldozed his way to 205 yards against the Irish defense, and threw a touchdown in addition to running for three others, one of which proved to be the game-winner. A pretty emphatic statement for Gerhart, and one that had ABC’s Brent Musberger openly cooing about Gerhart’s Heisman candidacy and NFL potential all throughout the broadcast.
As with so many others from the West Coast, Gerhart’s biggest weakness is that many Heisman voters don’t stay awake late enough to see him dominate. But while that’s certainly a legitimate claim, it’s also simplistic to suggest that’s hurt his candidacy this season. Because while the early bedtimes of many Heisman voters may have cost him some hype, it also means that those voters didn’t see just how terrible some of Gerhart’s defensive opponents were. He put up eye-popping numbers, sure. But against Pac-10 defenses, there’s an unmistakable asterisk that comes with it.
Now, as for Ingram… perhaps his greatest asset as a Heisman candidate isn’t what he’s done, but who he’s done it against. SEC defenses boast speed, size, and loads of NFL-caliber talent. To average 112 yards-per-game, as Ingram did, against a schedule like that, well… That’s just outstanding. No other way to explain it.
Despite occasionally splitting carries with his teammate Trent Richardson, Ingram put up numbers just as eye-popping as his peers, against a schedule that would make any Heisman voter blush, and for an undefeated Alabama team. Last week, while McCoy and Tebow faltered, and Toby Gerhart was idle, Mark Ingram exploded for three touchdowns against Florida’s dominant defense, in a decisive win for the Crimson Tide.
Will that be enough to make him the 75th player to win the Heisman trophy? Time will tell, and as the ceremony gets under way as I type this, the answer’s not far off.