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Florida's Tim Tebow and Alabama's Mark Ingram make their Heisman Trophy case

For most of the 2009 season, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has been considered a Heisman Trophy candidate. Midway through the season, Alabama running back Mark Ingram burst onto the scene and has remained another serious contender. Today, in a sold-out Georgia Dome, playing in a nationally televised game, Tebow and Ingram will get one final opportunity to state their cases for why each is the best college football player in America. Call it Heisman Hopeful Saturday.

Along with Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who has led his team in the Big 12 Championship Game, Tebow and Ingram will have the national platform to showcase their talents for all the voters to see in head-to-head competition. Tebow, the senior, has a trophy at a school where there have been three Heisman winners. He is trying to become the second player to win two, joining Ohio State's Archie Griffin. Ingram, the sophomore, plays at a school with a storied history but no Heisman Trophy winners.

"I think each player has a reason where the voter would want to vote for him," CBS analyst Gary Danielson said. "I think there's a lot of voters that want to vote for Colt McCoy because of his three-year run and his excellence for three years. … I think there's a lot of people who would like a reason to vote for Mark Ingram. He's not a quarterback, and he plays for Alabama, a team that's never had a Heisman Trophy winner. I think there are a lot of voters that would like to vote for someone other than a quarterback. And then, of course the polarizing figure, Tim Tebow. There's no middle ground on him. … They all have a platform, they all play for very good teams, and they're all going to play on national television."

The SEC Championship Game pits No. 1 Florida against No. 2 Alabama, both undefeated, meaning the spotlight will undoubtedly shine on Tebow and Ingram. Both players said that's the farthest thing from their minds. On Saturday, the most important thing is the SEC championship trophy and a trip to the national championship.

"It's special, and I don't want to put that down at all because that is a very prestigious award, it means a lot, and it would mean a lot to win it," Tebow said. "But that's totally out of my mind frame. It's something I'm not even worried about or thinking about because our goal is to win the SEC championship, and that's our focus."

"It's a team sport," Ingram said. "I've never seen a football game where one person has just done everything to win the game. It's going to take a team effort, both sides of the ball. I'm sure if (Tebow) wants to win, his team is going to have to help him out and they're going to have a major contribution to what they do."

Tebow's Gator teammates realize that, too.

Ingram gained just 30 yards last week against Auburn, and the Gator defense is keenly aware that if it can achieve similar results, it can help Tebow.

"Definitely, definitely (aware)," defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. "That's our leader, that's our quarterback. He should win the Heisman. He's the best player in college football."

Tebow hasn't had the big-time numbers of previous seasons. He is 162-of-244 for 2,166 yards and 17 touchdowns, a 160.67 passing efficiency. He has rushed for 796 yards on 193 carries.

Ingram, who is a finalist for the Doak Walker Award given to the nation's best running back, has 1,429 rushing yards, 43 shy of becoming the leader on the school's single-season rushing yards list.

Ingram admits he has thought about the possibility of winning the Heisman.

"Sometimes, when you're by yourself, you sit back and think about it a little bit," he said. "But you can't let it affect you in a negative way. You've always got to remember what got you that success."

Where Tebow and Ingram stand in the Heisman voting depends on which unofficial poll you're studying. Whichever team wins today will be headed to the national championship game. Whichever player performs best likely will be headed to New York next week, where the winner will be announced Dec. 12 (8 p.m., ESPN).

Official online ballots are due by 5 p.m. Monday, which gives Tebow and Ingram all Saturday afternoon to sway voters. Even if it isn't their main focus.

"Winning a Heisman Trophy would be special, it was special, and it does mean a lot, but not compared to winning an SEC title," Tebow said. "So they are kind of different things in my eyes. And the SEC is really my focus."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com. Follow her blog at blogs.tampabay.com/gators.

Tim Tebow

7 games with a rushing and passing TD

796 yards rush­ing exceed 2008 total

Mark Ingram

7 100-yard rushing games

246 yards rushing vs. South Carolina



Saturday, December 5, 2009

The case for Mark Ingram:

• Leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally in total rushing yards (1,429)and 12 touchdowns

• Ranks second in the SEC and 11th nationally in rushing yards per game

• Has averaged 178 rushing yards per game vs. Top 25 competition this season

• Has had seven 100-yard rushing games: Virginia (150); Kentucky (140); Mississippi (172); South Carolina (246); LSU (144); Mississippi State (149) and Tennessee (102).

• Has gained 908 yards after contact on 249 touches.

• Is 43 yards shy of becoming Alabama's all-time single season rushing leader (currently held by Bobby Humphrey, 1,471 in 1986).

• His 246-yard rushing effort against South Carolina set a Bryant-Denny Stadium record.

The case for Tim Tebow:

• Has 2,166 passing yards and and 17 touchdowns.

• Has rushed for 796 yards and 13 touchdowns.

• Set the SEC record for most total offensive yards in a career 11,389, surpassing Chris Leak (11,350, 2003-06).

• Set the SEC career record for rushing yards by a quarterback (2,833, surpassing Matt Jones of Arkansas, 2,535 in 2001-04).

• Set SEC career rushing touchdown record with 56, surpassing former Georgia All-American Herschel Walker (49).

• Career passing rating of 170.4 currently ranks No. 1 in SEC history (minimum 300 completions).

• With 796 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, he has exceeded his 2008 totals (673 and 12) and is 99 yards shy of his personal-best 895 yards, set in his 2007 Heisman winning season.

• Has a rushing and passing touchdown in seven games this season

The case for Mark Ingram:

• Leads SEC and ranks sixth nationally in total rushing yards (1,429)and 12 touchdowns.

• Ranks second in SEC and 11th nationally in rushing yards per game.

• Has averaged 178 rushing yards per game vs. Top 25 competition this season.

• Has had seven 100-yard rushing games: Virginia (150), Kentucky (140), Mississippi (172), South Carolina (246), LSU (144), Mississippi State (149) and Tennessee (102).

• Has gained 908 yards after contact on 249 touches.

• Is 43 yards shy of becoming Alabama's all-time single-season rushing leader (currently held by Bobby Humphrey, 1,471 in 1986).

• His 246-yard rushing effort against South Carolina set a Bryant-Denny Stadium record.

The case for Tim Tebow:

• Has 2,166 passing yards and and 17 touchdowns.

• Has rushed for 796 yards and 13 touchdowns.

• Set SEC record for most total offensive yards in a career 11,389, surpassing former teammate Chris Leak (11,350, 2003-06).

• Set SEC career record for rushing yards by a quarterback (2,833, surpassing Matt Jones of Arkansas, 2,535 in 2001-04).

• Set SEC career rushing touchdown record with 56, surpassing former Georgia great and 1982 Heisman winner Herschel Walker (49).

• Career passing rating of 170.4 ranks No. 1 in SEC history (minimum 300 completions).

• With 796 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, he has exceeded his 2008 totals (673 and 12) and is 99 yards shy of his personal-best 895 yards, set in his 2007 Heisman winning season.

• Has a rushing and passing touchdown in seven games this season.

Florida's Tim Tebow and Alabama's Mark Ingram make their Heisman Trophy case 12/04/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 4, 2009 10:47pm]
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