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Posted: Monday November 30, 2009 12:16PM; Updated: Monday November 30, 2009 1:43PM
Gene Menez
Gene Menez>HEISMAN WATCH

In closest Trophy race in years, Stanford's RB leads the way

Story Highlights

Toby Gerhart capped a stellar season with a big performance against Notre Dame

His 305 yards and three touchdowns vaulted him to the top spot in The Watch

Many voters will favor Texas QB Colt McCoy, who posted 479 yards and 5 TDs

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Toby Gerhart
Unfortunately for Stanford RB Toby Gerhart, he won't get a 13th game to prove his Heisman worthiness.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Heisman 2009

Before we get to the top five Heisman candidates, let's take a timeout for a public service announcement. Many of you have written in this year to state your disagreement with The Watch's rankings. Well, now you have a chance to have your voice heard.

For the first time, The Watch is giving readers a chance to vote. Call it the Citizen Watch Heisman. Beginning today and continuing through Sunday night, readers can submit their choices for the "trophy" via Twitter. Just send a tweet to @SI_GeneMenez with your top three choices (i.e. 1. Colt McCoy, 2. Toby Gerhart, 3. Mark Ingram), and on Monday, I'll tabulate the results, Heisman style (three points for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place and one for third) and announce the results in conjunction with the final Heisman Watch of the year. Only one vote per Twitter account please.

Now, let's get to the race for the real trophy. After a year in which no candidate seemed to want the coveted award, the Heisman race fittingly comes down to the final week as anyone's to win. After hitting the statistical lottery against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night (479 total yards and five TDs), Texas quarterback Colt McCoy has likely taken over the Heisman driver's seat in the national race over Alabama running back Mark Ingram, who had his worst outing of the season on Saturday, and Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, who leads the nation in rushing yards and TDs, but trails McCoy's Longhorns and Ingram's Tide on the AP Top 25.

The Watch sees the race a little differently, but anything can happen in the last week of what has been the most wide-open Heisman race in years.

1. Toby Gerhart, Stanford, RB, Sr.

Last week: 29 rushes, 205 yards, 3 TDs; 1 reception, 33 yards; 1-of-1 passing, 18 yards, 1 TD in a 45-38 victory against Notre Dame

Season: 311 rushes, 1,736 yards, 26 TDs; 10 catches, 149 yards; 1-of-1 passing, 18 yards, 1 TD

Heisman-o-meter: Gerhart did not slide into the No. 1 spot because of his big night against the Irish. Nor did he jump to the top because of Ingram's subpar day against Auburn on Friday.

No, Gerhart is the one to catch because of his season-long excellence, which culminated with a Heisman-worthy performance against Notre Dame. He hammered the Irish defense (to be fair, Notre Dame ranked 80th against the run) and even threw an 18-yard TD pass on fourth down to help tie the game at 38. His most impressive play, however, came on the game-winning drive when he destroyed cornerbacks Gary Gray and Jamoris Slaughter on a 13-yard run. In the fourth quarter alone, Gerhart had 94 rushing yards, the last four of which came when the Irish allowed him to score so that they could give Jimmy Clausen & Co. the ball with some time on the clock. That begged the following question: Had Notre Dame tried to stop Gerhart on that play, would there really have been a different outcome?

The result of Gerhart's work is this: He is the clubhouse leader on this ballot. (Though my gut tells me that Colt McCoy leads the race for all the votes.) Unfortunately for the Cardinal back, he does not have a 13th game to try to sway voters while his main competition for the trophy -- Ingram, McCoy and perhaps Florida's Tim Tebow -- does. Gerhart will have to sweat this one out.

Up next: Regular season complete

2. Mark Ingram, Alabama, RB, Soph.

Last week: 16 rushes, 30 yards; 3 receptions, 21 yards; 0-of-1 passing in a 26-21 victory at Auburn

Season: 221 rushes, 1,429 yards, 12 TDs; 28 receptions, 246 yards, 3 TDs; 0-of-1 passing

Heisman-o-meter: There's not much to say about Ingram's performance on Saturday because, well, he didn't do much. The former Heisman Watch leader was stuffed all day (particularly by linebacker Josh Bynes), and at one point he walked off the field with a slight hobble. If that wasn't enough, Ingram played a secondary role on Bama's season-saving drive to Trent Richardson who had five carries to Ingram's one. Coach Nick Saban said Ingram was on the sideline for much of that possession because of a bruised hip.

No matter how a Heisman voter looks at Friday's game, Ingram's chances to win the stiff-armed statuette took a major hit. Luckily for him, he still has 1) a Heisman résumé filled with three months of excellence against top competition (178 yard rushing average in four games against ranked teams) and 2) one more chance to sway voters' minds. If he is somehow able to gash the nation's No. 1 ranked team and defense in the biggest game of the college football regular season (a big "if"), there's every reason to think that he can reclaim the top spot next week.

Up next: Saturday vs. No. 1 Florida in Atlanta

3. Colt McCoy, Texas, QB, Sr.

Last week: 24-of-40 passing, 304 yards, 4 TDs; 18 rushes, 175 yards, 1 TD; 1 punt, 33 yards in a 49-39 victory at Texas A&M

Season: 310-of-432 passing, 3,328 yards, 27 TDs, 9 INTs; 111 rushes, 368 yards, 2 TDs; 2 punts, 57 yards

Heisman-o-meter: The most popular player not on The Watch for the last several weeks finally returns to the list -- and in a big way. McCoy had his best game in a Texas uniform, racking up 479 yards and five TDs and seemingly answering every Aggies touchdown with one of his own. The most impressive score was his 65-yard run up the middle during, which A&M cornerback (yes, cornerback) Jordan Pugh could not even make up ground on McCoy, much less catch him. Sure, the Aggies have made it a habit this season of making opposing quarterbacks look like Hall of Famers (Arkansas's Ryan Mallett -- 271 passing yards, 4 TDs; Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson -- 279 passing yards, 3 total TDs; Oklahoma's Landry Jones -- 392 passing yards, 5 TDs just to name three), but McCoy's all-purpose effort eclipsed even those.

Now, with McCoy possibly one good game away from winning the Heisman, he gets a Huskers defense with a great line and a great reputation, but one that had some breakdowns in the secondary against Colorado on Saturday. "Defensively we left a lot of receivers open," Nebraska safety Matt O'Hanlon said. That's not good news for the Huskers with the McCoy-led Texas offense looming. Expect another Heisman-caliber performance on Saturday.

Up next: Saturday vs. No. 21 Nebraska in Arlington, Texas

4. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, DT, Sr.

Last week: 5 tackles, 5 solo, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 2 quarterback hurries in a 28-20 victory at Colorado

Season: 70 tackles, 40 solo; 7 ˝ sacks; 16 tackles for loss; 1 interception; 10 passes broken up; 22 quarterback hurries; 1 forced fumble, 3 blocked kicks

Heisman-o-meter: Late in the fourth quarter of the Nebraska-Colorado game, ABC flashed a graphic saying that Suh had been "double-teamed on 29 of 64 plays today." Despite the constant attention that the Buffs gave Suh, it did not prevent him from making plays. In the second quarter he applied pressure on quarterback Tyler Hansen that helped lead to an interception. Then in the third quarter he again got in the face of Hansen who tried, unsuccessfully, to get rid of the ball. Hansen was flagged for intentional grounding, and Suh was credited with a sack.

On Saturday, Suh faces his toughest test yet: a Texas offense with a scorching-hot quarterback who gets rid of the ball so quickly that defensive linemen often don't have enough time to apply pressure. Even if Suh somehow comes up with another heroic effort, the guess here is that he still would be a long shot to even make it to New York next week, given Heisman voters' history favoring offensive players.

Up next: Saturday vs. No. 3 Texas in Arlington, Texas

5. Golden Tate, Notre Dame, WR, Jr.

Last week: 10 receptions, 201 yards, 3 TDs; 1 rush, 15 yards; 1 punt return, 3 yards in a 45-38 loss at Stanford

Season: 93 receptions, 1,496 yards, 15 TDs; 25 rushes, 186 yards, 2 TDs; 12 punt returns, 171 yards, 1 TD; 3 kickoff returns, 62 yards

Heisman-o-meter: Stanford's defense simply could not cover Tate, who burned the Cardinal for three scores, two of the highlight-reel variety. This Biletnikoff finalist outfought double coverage to haul in a 78-yard TD in the second quarter. Then in the fourth quarter he took in a short pass on the left sideline before swerving entirely across the field, avoiding seven would-be tacklers in the process, for a 28-yard cross country score that should really go down as an 80-yarder. Alas, his feats were once again not rewarded as the Irish lost their fourth straight.

Tate's haters make a big deal about his team's record (6-6), and, while that is a valid point, he had at least 113 receiving yards and one score in each of those losses, giving the Irish a fighting chance in those games. Barring some strange, unforeseen events this weekend, this will be the last you will see Tate on The Watch, which is a shame because we've enjoyed watching him during this breakout season.

Up next: Regular season complete

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