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Posted: Tuesday December 04, 2001 5:51 PM

A Real Toss-Up  

Our expert sorts through a quarterback quintet to make his Heisman pick

By Ivan Maisel

Sports Illustrated The Heisman Trophy is given to "the outstanding college football player" in the U.S. What if no player stands out above the rest? The 67th presentation of America's most famous stiff-arm will take place on Saturday night, and for the first time since 1985, when Bo Jackson edged Chuck Long, the announcement will be preceded by genuine suspense.

Quarterbacks Eric Crouch of Nebraska, Ken Dorsey of Miami, Rex Grossman of Florida, Joey Harrington of Oregon and Antwaan Randle El of Indiana are the top candidates. Last week it was evident that the 921 voters were having trouble making their choices. On Friday, a week before the deadline, the Downtown Athletic Club had received only 90 ballots. Typically, half the votes are in by then.

The standards for making a Heisman choice are malleable. Good statistics help. So does being a winning team's most valuable player. Having a signature moment that the networks can replay until viewers cry out in anguish is important too. I would go on, but my editors say I can't procrastinate any longer.

Grossman has the best stats: a 65.6% completion rate and 3,896 passing yards. He threw nearly three touchdown passes for every interception (34 of the former to 12 of the latter), although Harrington's ratio of nearly five to one (23 to 5) is better. Four of Grossman's interceptions came in the Gators' 23-20 loss at Auburn. Ouch! Crouch, whose forte is running, rushed for 1,115 yards and 18 touchdowns. His meager seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions are hard to stomach, though.

Grossman and Crouch have the best signature moments: Grossman's desperation shovel pass to Kelvin Kight against Tennessee last Saturday, and Crouch's 95-yard zigzag touchdown run against Missouri. Dorsey's signature moment is throwing out-of-bounds to avoid a sack. Being smart is admirable, but without Dorsey, Miami would be almost the same team. Without Harrington and the four fourth-quarter comebacks he led, Oregon wouldn't be 10-1.

Finally there's Randle El, who rushed for 964 yards and eight touchdowns and threw for 1,664 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. Some Big Ten coaches speak of him as if he were football's Michael Jordan. Utah played Indiana and Oregon, and both Utes coach Ron McBride and defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham think Randle El, not Harrington, is the best player they saw this season.

Try as I might, though, it's hard to fall for a guy who made the difference between Indiana's going 5-6 and, say, 1-10. I'll put Randle El third on my ballot. In second place, as a winner and a leader, I'll vote Harrington. That leaves Crouch, who played well even in the Huskers' 62-36 loss to Colorado. He's my pick. On the other hand....

Issue date: December 10, 2001

For more Scorecard see this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands Wednesday, December 5. Click here to subscribe to SI.

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