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Midseason Crystal Ball (cont.)

Posted: Thursday October 12, 2006 10:25AM; Updated: Thursday October 12, 2006 2:35PM
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Heisman Trophy winner

Garrett Wolfe may finish with some amazing numbers, but that may not help him pry the Heisman away from Troy Smith.
Garrett Wolfe may finish with some amazing numbers, but that may not help him pry the Heisman away from Troy Smith.
AP
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Mandel: Troy Smith, Ohio State. As long as the Buckeyes keep winning and Smith keeps playing like he has, there's not much Brady Quinn, Garrett Wolfe or anyone else can do to wrestle the thing away from him.

Winn: Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois. Troy Smith's name is probably engraved on the trophy already, but I'm sick of handing it to the best quarterback on such a regular basis. Wolfe will finish with wow numbers -- 2,600 yards, perhaps -- and respectable games against two Big Ten powers (OSU and Iowa). That's enough for me.

McCartney: Smith. Wolfe may be the chic pick, but he didn't march into Austin and Iowa City and rip the hearts out of two hostile crowds. Smith's on pace to finish with 2,522 yards and 30 touchdowns, numbers that will be hard to ignore, despite how many yards Wolfe racks up.

Beech: Smith. He's halfway home and has done just about everything right to this point. His efficient dissection of the Texas D (17 of 26, 269 yards, two TDs) showed his total command of the offense. His scrambling save of a broken play against Penn State -- which resulted in a 37-yard touchdown pass -- showed his remarkable athletic ability. The Buckeyes are going to have to lose for anybody else to get close to him.

Heisman candidate who'll disappear

Mandel: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma. With the Sooners out of the national-title picture, Peterson will struggle to stay in the limelight. He may have big games, but the voters won't see them.

Winn: Ray Rice, Rutgers. Sir Speedy is a fine runner (and currently No. 2 behind Wolfe in the rushing race), but see the blurb in the "flop" section: The Knights will be forced to pass more frequently in the season's backstretch, and Rice's numbers will inevitably fall ... along with his team's ranking.

McCartney: Chris Leak, Florida. While the Gators are unbeaten behind their two-headed QB system of Leak and freshman Tim Tebow, it's not doing Leak any favors. Who would have thought the Gators' biggest win so far (over LSU) may have ended his candidacy?

Beech: Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois. I don't think Wolfe will disappear so much as he will probably never catch up -- no matter how many rushing yards he gains. He's a marvelous talent, but the Huskies play only one more marquee opponent: Iowa, on Oct. 28.

First coach to get fired

Mandel: John L. Smith, Michigan State. It's never a good sign when the coach admits publicly that he's on thin ice. Unless the Spartans upset Ohio State this weekend, I don't see things ending well.

Winn: John Bunting, North Carolina. I say Coker holds off the dogs until January and Bunting goes first. It's a down year for the ACC, one in which a once-lowly Tobacco Road neighbor, Wake Forest, is making a run at a decent bowl, and the Heels still haven't made any strides. They're 1-4 and getting steamrollered on the ground, giving up an atrocious 202.6 yards per game.

McCartney: Bunting. He's under contract through 2009 and it will cost the Tar Heels in excess of $1.5 million to oust him, but he's 25-40 in six years. This year's team is off to a 1-4 start, on pace for his fifth losing season.

Beech: I stare into my crystal ball and I see swirling before me the heads of John L. Smith, Larry Coker and Chuck Amato. Who will go first? My guess is Smith, since his team has suffered by far the most embarrassing meltdown.

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