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On the 75th anniversary of the award, the top three vote-getters from last season return to make another run for the coveted statue. Quarterbacks Sam Bradford (the 2008 recipient) of Oklahoma and Tim Tebow ('07) of Florida have a shot at joining Ohio State running back Archie Griffin (1974 and '75) as a two-time winner. But Texas passer Colt McCoy, the runner-up last season, will have something to say about that, and some long shots are bound to move into contention as the season progresses. Follow the can't-miss games below and decide for yourself before the presentation on Dec. 12
NO. 1 /// SEPT. 5
Sooners junior SAM BRADFORD—the 11th player to return to school after winning the Heisman—opens his bid to repeat at the Dallas Cowboys' sparkling new stadium, in a matchup that shapes up as a shootout. Facing a thin BYU secondary, which ranked 74th in the nation against the pass in '08, Bradford should pick up where he left off last season, when he threw for 4,720 yards and 50 TDs (and became the fifth Oklahoma player to win the Heisman). But can another trophy hopeful, Cougars senior quarterback MAX HALL (above), steal the show? Following in the footsteps of BYU greats, including Gifford Nielsen, Jim McMahon and Heisman winner Ty Detmer, Hall directed the nation's sixth-ranked passing attack last year, and if he can orchestrate an opening-week stunner—the Sooners were 99th in pass defense in 2008—he could go from Heisman dark horse to contender overnight.
NO. 2 /// SEPT. 12
We'll find out fast if TERRELLE PRYOR (above) is ready to be a national star. The Ohio State sophomore gets the opportunity to make an early statement against a USC defense that brings back only three starters. But which Pryor will show up: the jittery underclassman who committed a pair of costly turnovers late in a 13--6 loss to Penn State last October or the playmaker who showed great poise against Texas in the Fiesta Bowl?
NO. 3 /// SEPT. 19
Ducks quarterback JEREMIAH MASOLI dazzled as a sophomore at the end of last season, running and passing for a total of 13 touchdowns in victories over Arizona, Oregon State and Oklahoma State. No wonder the Oregon faithful are calling him the Tim Tebow of the West. A dual threat in coach Chip Kelly's heart-stopping spread-option offense, Masoli could move up in the Heisman race with a big game against last season's undefeated BCS buster.
NO. 4 /// SEPT. 19
He was the first sophomore to win the Heisman, in '07. He was the starting quarterback on the national championship team in '08. An undefeated season, a national title and, of course, another Heisman are on his to-do list for '09. After opening with a pair of cupcakes (Charleston Southern and Troy), TIM TEBOW (below) gets down to business in his third run at a Heisman (he was No. 3 in the voting last year), when the Gators host Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin in his SEC debut. Originally a run-first quarterback who has continually evolved as a passer, Tebow will unveil an over-the-top throwing motion he has been working on with new quarterbacks coach Scott Loeffler (Tom Brady's tutor at Michigan). Will that translate to an NFL-caliber aerial game? The first test will come against what should be a strong Volunteers defense, coached by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coordinator Monte Kiffin, Lane's dad.
NO. 5 /// OCT. 3