By 811 Heisman Trophy voters to be "the outstanding" college football player of 2002, USC quarterback Carson Palmer (page 82). File this one under "Even a Blind Pig Finds an Acorn Once in a While." The notoriously fickle Heisman electorate has interpreted most "outstanding" to mean various things through the years. The voters chose Gino Torretta over Marshall Faulk 10 years ago, and Rashaan Salaam ahead of Steve McNair in 1994. This season they got it right. (SI's take on why Palmer deserved to win: Hand Him the Heisman, Dec. 9.)
Before collecting his 25-pound doorjamb, the 6'6", 230-pound senior—who passed for 3,639 yards and 32 touchdowns and led the Trojans to a 10-2 record—had two obstacles to overcome. The first was an alleged "Eastern bias" against West Coast candidates. The second was the groundswell that seemed to build for Miami's Ken Dorsey and Willis McGahee with each Hurricanes victory. Accepted wisdom in some circles was that if Miami finished unbeaten, which it did, then the trophy must automatically go to one of the team's finalists. "With all due respect to [ Iowa quarterback Brad] Banks, Palmer and [ Penn State running back Larry] Johnson," declaimed The New York Times last week, "it is a two-horse race."
So it was—for fourth place. McGahee, the sophomore running back, finished with 660 points, 17 more than Dorsey, who came in fifth, or, as he put it, "dead last." The Hurricanes quarterback didn't hide his peevishness at the result and now, in the grand Miami tradition of drawing motivation from slights—They don't respect us! It's Us against the World!—Dorsey will go to the title game against Ohio State with a chip on his shoulder. There's a very good chance he'll finish this season with his second national title in two years. Palmer will have the Heisman, and both will have gotten what they deserved.