Washington tailback Napoleon Kaufman's chance to win the Heisman Trophy almost certainly ended with the Huskies' 31-20 loss at unranked Oregon last Saturday, their second loss of the season. Though the splendid senior remains second in the nation in rushing and all-purpose yards (behind Colorado tailback Rashaan Salaam in both categories), Kaufman's most convincing argument for the Heisman—that he made his team a winner—has been deflated.
Every person who has won the Heisman in the last 20 years had at least one of three qualifications: He led the nation in a major statistical category; he was the best player on the top-ranked team; or he was the hero of an early-season game involving Notre Dame. Kaufman does not qualify on any count, but these candidates do.
?Salaam. He leads the nation in scoring, as well as in rushing and all-purpose yards, but he has to solidify his spot as his team's top Heisman candidate before he can be the country's.
? Colorado quarterback Kordell Stewart. Stewart doesn't have Salaam's numbers, but a national television audience has seen him pass (at Michigan) and run (against Kansas State) for dramatic game-winning touchdowns. Indeed, Stewart may be even more valuable to the Buffaloes than Salaam. Ask coach Bill McCartney the one player he can't afford to lose, and he'll name Stewart.
? Nebraska tailback Lawrence Phillips. If the Huskers defeat Colorado on national TV this Saturday and Phillips, who is already averaging 6.7 yards per carry, puts up bigger numbers for the day than Salaam, then Phillips could become the first sophomore ever to win the Heisman.
? Alcorn State quarterback Steve McNair. Indisputably the best player in Division I-AA, Air McNair's performance in Saturday's win over Southern on ESPN2 did wonders for his chances to be called the best player in all of college football. Not only docs he lead the country in total offense, averaging 503.13 yards per game, but he also broke Ty Detmer's NCAA career yardage mark on Saturday. All he needs now is more Air time.
? Penn State tailback Ki-Jana Carter. Although he's not in the top 10 among rushers, he's a great player on the No. 1 team. But is he the Nittany Lions' best player? His candidacy is hampered because he must split ink (and future votes) with his quarterback, Kerry Collins, who leads the country in passing efficiency.
? Georgia quarterback Erie Zeier. Although he is first in Division I-A in total offense, he will have a chance at the Heisman only if he leads the Bulldogs past Auburn on Nov. 12.
And then there's Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus. He's only a sophomore, he and his team have struggled, and preseason suggestions that he would win the Heisman this year have proved way off base. But lie does have one credential that all the aforementioned players lack: All of his games do involve Notre Dame.