The Greatest Heisman Race Ever
Posted Jan 14, 2009

Tim Tebow is back, as expected, and so is Colt McCoy. But Sam Bradford threw a curve ball into the 2009 NFL Draft, the national title chase, and the Heisman race, which should be the greatest of all-time, now that the reigning winner is coming back. As Pete Fiutak writes, get ready for the thrill ride.

With Sam Bradford Coming Back ...

The 2009 Heisman race was going to be good before, but now ...

By Pete Fiutak

Colt McCoy led Texas to a brilliant, heart-stopping game-winning drive in the final few seconds to beat Ohio State in a classic Fiesta Bowl. With it, and because a large segment of the world still feels lousy about how McCoy and Texas got hosed in the Heisman and national title chases, respectively, McCoy was expected to be the odds on favorite to win the 2009 Heisman.

Fast forward a few days later to Miami, where Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford squared off in a matchup of Heisman winners with a bigger prize at stake. With everything on the line, Tebow said, "third place this" and led Florida to a thrilling national title win over Oklahoma. With the win, Tebow's reputation grew from legendary to a discussion of the all-time greats. With the loss, Bradford's Heisman suddenly seemed a bit tarnished, even with all the great things that he did throughout the season. As expected, Tebow announced he was coming back for his senior year, and at that moment he became the favorite to win the Heisman while Florida became the likely preseason No. 1 pick.

And then came Wednesday afternoon.

If Georgia's Matthew Stafford wasn't No. 1 on everyone's draft board for a Detroit Lion team in desperate need of a franchise quarterback, it was Bradford.

Of course he was going to leave school early as a third year sophomore. Of course he wasn't going to pass up $75 million. No one would've thought ill of him if he decided to take off to fulfill every player's pie-in-the-sky dream of going off to the big league. But Bradford decided to come back for another year to try to create a legacy that would be more than two terrific years and the greatest individual prize in all of sports.

With Bradford's decision, and with USC QB Mark Sanchez choosing to leave and become far richer than he would've been had the OU star left, the Heisman race is cut and dry and it should be the greatest weekly showdown of greats that college football has ever seen.

2005 certainly came close with Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and Vince Young battling for the prize. The 1979 race saw USC's Charles White, who finished fourth in 1978 to Oklahoma's Billy Sims, who finished second the year after. But there was no third star in the mix, unless you count BYU's Marc Wilson. Leinart beat out Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson, 2003 Heisman winner Jason White of OU, Utah's Alex Smith and Bush, but that wasn't nearly the thriller that this year's chase should be.

This is star power to the nth degree. This will be a year when all three will likely be trying to one-up the other with their play, but only in an attempt to lead their respective teams to the national title. Ah yes, the national title hunt.

Florida will likely be the nation's preseason No. 1 team, Texas should be second, and with Sanchez leaving, meaning USC should be around No. 5, Oklahoma will almost certainly be third. If Tebow, McCoy and Bradford had left, teams like Nebraska, Oregon and Oklahoma State would've been sleeper teams in the BCS Championship hunt, while obvious teams like LSU and USC would be front-and-center in everyone's top three. Now, with the three biggest stars in college football coming back, if Florida and the winner of the OU/Texas game go unbeaten, they'll play for the national title (unless USC goes unbeaten, but the 2009 team likely won't be strong enough to do that).

If nothing else, this will be a whole bunch of fun this off-season as the anticipation will build and build and build for a season that will need a miracle to live up to what the hype will be. Thanks Tim, Colt and Sam for sticking around ... even if you really should be gone.