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Meyer, meanwhile, had his own situation with Murphy, the strong-willed wideout who kept demanding the ball. Early in the game, he'd wisecracked, "Coach, I don't know if you can beat Nick Saban, but I'm gonna beat my man all night." Meyer usually rolls his eyes at such braggadocio from receivers who, he says, "tell us how bad they're beating guys, and you watch the film and they're not."
But something in Murphy's tone persuaded the coaches to call his number. Seeing the senior single-covered up the right sideline, Tebow dropped a perfect, 33-yard pass down the chimney and into the outstretched hands of his fellow captain. Four plays later Tebow shoehorned a five-yard laser into the arms of Cooper for the game's final touchdown.
Afterward Meyer spoke in reverent tones of "a special something" within Tebow—an ineffable, unquantifiable quality that enables him to elevate "everyone around him." With all due respect to the three Big 12 quarterbacks in contention for the Heisman, Meyer added, "My quarterback, I think, is the best in college football. I think he's the best football player in America."
SO THE DEBATE enters its endgame. Not the BCS debate. That was over by halftime of the Big 12 championship game, in which Oklahoma put the wood to Missouri, 62--21. Compared with the chaos of previous seasons, this year's resolution of the title matchup was relatively tidy, with only one team, Texas, nursing a deep and bona fide grudge.
Much murkier is the answer to the question Heisman electors must ask themselves: Who is the most "outstanding" player in the country? Oklahoma's Sam Bradford has nearly doubled Tebow in passing yards (4,464 to 2,515) and has thrown 48 TD passes, 20 more than his Florida counterpart. Many voters will most likely take into consideration the fact that Tebow put up those numbers against the much tougher defenses of the SEC, just as they will weigh his superior rushing stats: 564 yards and 12 TDs. What this race will boil down to is how much significance the electors attach to that special something: the leadership Tebow exhibited in his tearful mea culpa and vow to work harder after Florida's September loss to Ole Miss; the ability, it seems, to will his team to victory.
If it's all about numbers, Bradford will be the one giving the speech in midtown Manhattan this Saturday. Adding piquancy to this race is the knowledge that 26 days after the trophy is awarded, the loser will get a chance to show voters how wrong they were.
With fireworks detonating overhead and streamers wafting to the turf around him, Tebow was most definitely not in a New York state of mind. "It's a great award, and I love it," he said, "but it's nothing compared to this."