Auburn's monster of a quarterback lowered his left shoulder and pushed toward the goal line. All that stood between Cam Newton and the end zone last Saturday was Arkansas linebacker Jerico Nelson. The 6' 6", 250-pound Tiger collided with the Razorback, and Nelson toppled backward as Newton plowed into the end zone for a five-yard touchdown. That was just the first of four scores that Newton would account for in a 65--43 shootout win over No. 12 Arkansas that helped land Auburn (7--0) at the No. 4 spot in the first BCS standings.
In the same way that the slew of upsets on Saturday changed the national title picture, Newton's performance against the Hogs—he ran for 188 yards and three TDs on 25 carries, passed for 140 yards and a score on 14 attempts, and did not commit a turnover—caused a shift in the race for the Heisman Trophy. The Tigers' dynamic dual-threat quarterback has moved to the front of the pack for college football's most storied award. "[Newton] is one spectacular football player," said Auburn coach Gene Chizik. "I'm not one to go out on a limb, but everybody in the world sees it."
Newton's candidacy benefited from all the carnage that occurred elsewhere on Saturday. Arkansas's Ryan Mallett (concussion) and Michigan's Denard Robinson (right shoulder injury) were knocked out of their team's losses while Nebraska's Taylor Martinez was benched after Texas held the redshirt freshman to 21 rushing yards, 126 below his average. Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor fizzled in the Buckeyes' comeback attempt at Wisconsin, and reigning Heisman winner Mark Ingram of Alabama had his third straight sub-100-yard rushing game.
A little more than halfway through the season, the contenders with the best chance for the Heisman include Newton; Oregon running back LaMichael James, the nation's leading rusher (169.6 yards a game); and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, the country's most efficient passer (16 passing TDs, one interception). And it's much too early to discount Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck or one of the fallen contenders because, as Moore said on Saturday when trying to express his feelings about what had just transpired, "Wild college football, crazy things happen."
Here's a closer look at the leading candidates for the Heisman.
1. Cameron Newton
QB, Auburn, Junior
This bruising runner and effective passer leads the SEC in rushing yards (860), total offense (2,138 yards) and passing efficiency (180.5) and tops the nation with 25 combined TDs. He's the first Tiger with four 170-yard rushing games in a season since 1985 winner Bo Jackson.
2. LaMichael James
RB, Oregon, Sophomore