Potential Heisman Battle Brewing

Saturday's showdown between Ohio State and Miami (Fla.) will be more than a contest between two teams with designs of being national champions. It will also be a game featuring two potential Heisman Trophy candidates leading their respective offensive attacks.

Nearly one month ago, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit added a little extra spice to Ohio State's upcoming showdown with Miami (Fla.). Speaking in Columbus to promote the annual slate of prep football games that bear his name, the former Buckeye quarterback was asked about the rematch of the 2003 BCS national championship game.

Looking at the two quarterbacks slated to be under center, Herbstreit said either Terrelle Pryor or Jacory Harris will cement his place in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy with his Sept. 11 performance.

"Without a doubt," Herbstreit said. "Whoever wins that game and whichever quarterback performs better will without a doubt. When you turn on SportsCenter it will be ‘so-and-so wins the game and he's now one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy.' Without a doubt."

The question then becomes which player it will be. Prior to the season opening contest with Marshall, OSU head coach Jim Tressel said he adheres to a policy where he would not actively begin campaigning for one of his players to win the Heisman until three or four weeks into the season.

In OSU's weekly releases, Pryor is the only player who gets his own full-page bio. The first bullet point under his name? "Heisman Trophy Contender."

As Pryor put it, if the Buckeyes keep winning then the Heisman will take care of itself.

"The Heisman is a great honor, but at the same time there's a rare number of people that would rather have a Heisman than a championship," he said. "A championship is brought in by the whole group. That means we go down in history as a team, like the 2002 and 1942 teams. "I want to be remembered like that. And if we keep winning and make it into the championship, all the honors will come with us winning ballgames."

This is the second year of Heisman talk for the junior, who was pegged as a potential candidate last season after assuming the starting job four games into his freshman season. A dual-threat quarterback, he sits 10th on OSU's all-time passing list and 11th on the schools rushing list.

Miami head coach Randy Shannon said his team's primary goal is to stop OSU's ground game and make the Buckeyes beat them through the air – a common theme to this point in Pryor's career.

"It's not going to be a (case of) line up and throw the ball 40 times with Terrelle Pryor," the coach said. "That's not Coach Tressel's MO. He's going to line up and say, ‘OK, let's control the ball game and use the talented guys that we have on our offensive line, which is our strength, and pound the football and see what we can do.' "

In the victory against the Thundering Herd, Pryor completed 17 of 25 passes for 247 yards and three scores but rushed for just eight yards. In his team's blowout victory against Florida A&M, Harris completed 12 of 15 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns.

Not a dual threat like Pryor, Harris has lost 121 rushing yards in his career.

Both members of the class of 2008, Pryor was the No. 1 overall prospect as ranked by Scout.com. Harris checked in as a three-star prospect and the No. 16 quarterback in the nation.

Before the Buckeyes hosted Texas for a night contest in 2005, linebacker Bobby Carpenter made headlines for saying that Longhorns quarterback Vince Young would not leave Ohio Stadium with his Heisman candidacy still intact.

This year's group of Buckeyes did not offer any similar challenges.

"It's not really on our mind right now," senior linebacker Ross Homan said of thwarting Harris' Heisman campaign. "He's a very good athlete so he should be mentioned for the Heisman but at the same time it's every defense's goal to affect the quarterback."

Although Tressel said he would start stumping for a player worthy of such an award, Shannon said he prefers to let the play on the field speak for itself.

"I think a player showcases talent by what he does on the field," he said. "I'm not a guy that's going to campaign and politic because you have a team and you emphasize the team."

With much of the attention focused on the play of Harris and Pryor, the Miami quarterback said the game is about more than their performances.

"I don't look at it as a challenge between me and him," Harris told SunSentinel.com. "It is a game between two teams and not individuals. We just want to go out there and have a good showdown between the two teams, and then that is what we will settle from there."

Should Pryor and the Buckeyes get the upper hand, it could be a springboard to bigger things for the Jeannette, Pa., native. Perhaps, then, someone from his team will start talking about it as well.

"That's so far away right now," junior wide receiver DeVier Posey said following Tuesday's practice. "Either way, if we want to win this week Terrelle has to play great and if he wants to win the Heisman he has to play great. Either way, he'd better get in here and study film tomorrow."

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