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Posted: Friday March 27, 2009 1:10PM; Updated: Friday March 27, 2009 1:10PM

Picking an early Heisman favorite, Spartan drama, more mailbag

Story Highlights

Tim Tebow may be the early Heisman favorite, but history favors Colt McCoy

Bad losses have kept USC out of the title game, not an anti-Trojan voter bias

If ASU wants to take the next step, it must lock up the home recruiting base

By Olin Buchanan, special to SI.com, courtesy of Rivals.com

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If history is any indication, Texas QB and 2008 Heisman runner-up Colt McCoy will be the 2009 Heisman frontrunner.
If history is any indication, Texas QB and 2008 Heisman runner-up Colt McCoy will be the 2009 Heisman frontrunner.
Darren Carroll/SI

Making history is a rare accomplishment. Duplicating it can be difficult.

But that's what Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow will seek to do this fall.

Bradford won the Heisman last season, while Tebow -- the first sophomore to win -- took home to coveted bronze statue in 2007. If either wins this season, he would join Ohio State running back Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winner.

But just by sticking around for the '09 race, Bradford and Tebow have already played a part in duplicating a rare Heisman feat. Read on in this week's mailbag to find out what it is.

Will this season be the first time the top three Heisman vote-getters returned the next season? And in what order do you think they will finish this season?
-- John, Newport Beach, Calif.

Oklahoma's Bradford, Texas' Colt McCoy and Florida's Tebow finished first, second and third, respectively, in last season's Heisman balloting, and each will return this fall.

This will be the second time the top three Heisman finishers returned for the next season.

In 1945, Army's Felix "Doc" Blanchard and Glenn Davis and Oklahoma A&M's (now Oklahoma State) Bob Fenimore finished first, second and third, respectively, in the voting. In 1946, Davis won the Heisman, Blanchard finished fourth and Fenimore played sparingly because of injuries.

SMU's Doak Walker, who won the 1948 Heisman, and North Carolina's Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice returned for the '49 season. But Penn's Chuck Bednarik, who finished third, was the first player selected in the 1949 NFL draft.

It's a rare occasion for the Heisman recipient to return, although it has become more commonplace in recent years, with Oklahoma's Jason White, USC's Matt Leinart, Tebow and Bradford electing to return after taking home the award.

Only 18 non-seniors have won the Heisman. Of those, 11 returned the next season.

As for my early pick for this fall's Heisman, I'd rate Tebow as the early favorite, followed by McCoy and then Bradford, though I wouldn't be surprised if California running back Jahvid Best had a big year and won it.

Frankly, I think it's going to be difficult for Bradford to match last season's production playing behind a line that lost four starters, each of whom earned all-conference recognition.

If you believe in historic trends, the pick probably should be McCoy. Four Heisman runners-up have gone on to win the following year -- Michigan's Tom Harmon in 1940, Army's Davis in '46, USC's O.J. Simpson in '68 and Georgia's Herschel Walker in '82.

Ohio State's Griffin is the only two-time Heisman recipient, so history isn't on Tebow or Bradford's side. Of course, before Tebow won in 2007, no sophomore had ever won. Now, two sophomores in a row have won, so times (and trends) are changing.

Given that you don't think Ohio State is a drama team, what do you think Michigan State can do to overcome its past drama with John L. Smith and Jeff Smoker?
-- Steve, East Lansing, Mich.

In my opinion, the Spartans have already overcome those issues.

Hiring coach Mark Dantonio two years ago was an excellent move. Under previous coaches Bobby Williams and John L. Smith, the Spartans developed a tendency to start fast, then collapse in the last month of the season.

Under Dantonio, the Spartans went 3-1 down the stretch last season, then managed a respectable showing in a Capital One Bowl loss to Georgia.

Michigan State has posted back-to-back winning seasons under Dantonio. Previously, the Spartans hadn't accomplished that since1989-90, under George Perles.

Last season's starting quarterback Brian Hoyer and workhorse running back Javon Ringer have departed, so there is some question about the Spartans in '09. But a late-season Spartans swoon can't be taken for granted anymore.

As for Smoker, he also overcame his issues. He was suspended for the final five games of the 2002 season for substance abuse. But he earned his place back on the team in '03 and passed for 3,395 yards en route to helping the Spartans to an 8-5 finish -- their last winning record until Dantonio's arrival. He then spent time with three teams in the NFL.

USC has been a national powerhouse for quite some time. The Trojans have whipped pretty much everyone in big-time games except Vince Young. So why is there so much bias against them? They show they can play and beat other top-ranked teams, but voters never vote for them. Surely after their past performances, people would get smart.
-- Jeff, Upland, Calif.

You're kidding, right?

There is no bias against USC. In each of the past five seasons, the Trojans started the season ranked no lower than sixth and three times were preseason No. 1. Is that bias? Lest we forget, in 2003 LSU defeated Oklahoma for the BCS national championship, but The Associated Press voted USC its national champion. Is that bias?

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