Saturday Is Not Ingram Vs. Tebow

It would be miraculous if Alabama tailback Mark Ingram didn't think about the Heisman Trophy constantly. That's the rate he's asked about it. There is a lot on the table this weekend when Alabama and Florida tangle for the Southeastern Conference championship, and some think the fallout may include the Heisman.

Mark Ingram is an Alabama sophomore, but sophomores can win the Heisman Trophy. The man who will be leading the Florida Gators Saturday in the SEC Championship Game won the award as the nation's best football player when he was a sophomore. And Tim Tebow, the Florida quarterback, is one of the contenders again this year.

There are others, of course. For instance, last weekend, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy had a monster game against Texas A&M.

Also last weekend, Tebow accounted for five touchdowns in the Gators' win over Florida State. Meanwhile, Ingram had his worst day as an Alabama starter, gaining only 30 yards on 16 carries before going out with a bruised hip.

There is a school of thought that Ingram and Tebow will be making their final auditions for the Heisman Trophy when they meet in a battle of undefeated teams this weekend. Florida is ranked number one and Alabama number two. Both squads are 12-0. They'll kick off in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta shortly after 4 p.m. EST (3 p.m. central time) and CBS will televise the game.

Ingram, 5-10, 212, has been the leading rusher in the SEC through most of this season. Although he is slightly behind Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon in yards per game, Ingram has the most yardage thus far this season, 1,429. He's within striking distance of the all-time Bama single season mark of 1,471 set by Bobby Humphrey in 1986.

Tebow broke Herschel Walker's longtime record for career touchdowns this season. The phenomenal Tebow ranks among SEC leaders in passing (2,166 yards) and rushing (796 yards).

Ingram isn't paying heed to those who say he and Tebow are battling for the Heisman Trophy this weekend.

"Not at all," Ingram said. "It's a team sport. 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 he 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. And if we're going to win, my teammates are going to have a major contribution as well. It's a team sport. Tebow, he's a great player. He's a winner, and he's going to do whatever he can to have that team ready to go and do whatever he can to help them win. But it's a team sport. It's just going to take both teams doing everything right. Whoever comes to play the most physical, whoever makes the least amount of mistakes, that's who's going to win the game."

Most people in Ingram's position would dream a little. "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. It's all got to be positive. You've got to always remember what got you there. You can't get complacent or you can't get satisfied. You've always got to remember what got you that success and keep working to have that continued success."

He said he's not one to pay attention to the Heisman Watch polls. He said following his performance against Auburn, he suspected that many had marked him off as a contender. It doesn't matter, Ingram said. "All I care about is helping this team win," he said. "That's all that matters ultimately. As long as we keep winning games, everything else will take care of itself. "I had a down week (in a 26-21 win over Auburn), but I affected the game in a different way. I didn't have the yards or the touchdowns, but the passing game opened up. I don't really pay attention to any of that. I try and focus on whatever I have to do to help this team win a game and win a championship."

Ingram wasn't on the field for Bama's winning touchdown. He had gone off with a hip that was "kind of bruised." He said, "It's getting better every day, so I'll be ready for Saturday, most definitely."

Ingram gave credit to Auburn for his poor performance. "Their coaching staff did a great job of game-planning," he said. "They had eight, nine in the box all throughout the day. They came out with some looks that we weren't expecting, that we didn't study on film. They had two weeks to get ready for it, and their coaches and their players did a great job executing to stop the run.

"I couldn't get any room, couldn't get any space, just couldn't get anything going. They controlled the line of scrimmage and didn't let us get much of a push. That kind of stalled the run game."

Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy drove Bama 79 yards in 15 plays, taking 7:03 of the final 8:27 to get the winning touchdown. He completed seven passes, including a four-yard strike to third team tailback Roy Upchurch for a four-yard touchdown.

"Although the running game wasn't working, we had a lot of success in the passing game," Ingram said. "Julio (Jones) had nine catches. (Colin) Peek had a big catch. Trent (Richardson) ran the ball well, and Roy (Upchurch) had a big catch at the end. So other people contributed and stepped up, and that's what we need."

Ingram indicated that Florida wouldn't copy what Auburn did. "Their defense is great as it is," Ingram said of the Gators. "They have the best defense in the country statistically. I'm sure whatever they've got planned is going to be a challenge, and we're going to work hard all week to get prepared and get ready for it."

Ingram said he probably allowed himself to get frustrated against Auburn. "I let the emotions of the game get the best of me," he said. "When you get frustrated, it's never good. It affects how you play. You've just got to keep pushing, keep being patient, and keep working hard.

"It's a one-game season now."

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