Of all these awards the Heisman is the one that garners the most attention and it will be an exciting time to have a pair of Trojans up for the honor. The only question at this point is which USC player will have the best chance of winning. The award is expected to be a four person race with Leinart, Bush and a pair of stars from our Orange Bowl opponent in Jason White and Adrian Peterson from Oklahoma. Seeing as how this is a USC website, however, we will consider the Trojan candidates the favorites although it is hard to choose just one, even the Pac-10 coaches couldn't decide which player was more deserving of Offensive Player of the Year honors so they split the award between them. Both are wonderful candidates who have done enough to get this far so let's take a look at the most compelling arguments for each player as to why they will, or why they will not, be bringing a sixth Heisman Trophy back to Heritage Hall.
Why Matt Leinart will win
Matt will win the Heisman because he is the undisputed leader of a team which just went wire to wire as the #1 ranked team in the country. He has a 24-1 overall record as a starting quarterback, he has won one national title and is getting ready to play for a second. He has been named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year two seasons in a row. Matt carried an incredible load on his back this year while guiding an offense that featured a depleted wide receiver corps and an inexperienced offensive line. His savvy, football intelligence and decision making have some longtime Trojan watchers calling him the best quarterback in USC history (an amazing thought to consider just two years removed from the Carson Palmer era).
Why Matt Leinart won't win
Matt didn't have many splashy games this year with huge numbers (the 400 yard, five TD game against Notre Dame being a very nice exception). He didn't have a great game in his last appearance in front of the voters against UCLA as he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time as a starter.
Why Reggie Bush will win
Even his own Heisman finalist teammate Matt Leinart calls him the best football player in the country. Reggie has the incredible ability to change a game at any time as a runner, receiver or kick returner (and one time this year as a passer). He was named Co-Offensive Player of the Year in the Pac-10 (along with Leinart) and was first team as a RB, KR and PR. He simply has a level of explosive speed that you don't see too often on the football field and he creates headaches for opposing defensive coordinators because of the mismatch possibilities he brings to the table. Reggie also had a big game against UCLA in his last opportunity to impress the voters.
Why Reggie won't win
Reggie won't win because it's Matt Leinart's turn. Matt received consideration for the Heisman last year before becoming a leading finalist this year and Reggie may need to wait his turn as well. Reggie has put up spectacular numbers with the opportunities he has but he doesn't get nearly as many touches as the other candidates and that could be a factor.
We certainly don't want to slight the opponents from Oklahoma as they will send two fine players to New York to represent them. Jason White won the award last year but it's hard to look at him as a two time winner. There's no doubt he's a fine quarterback and based on his numbers this year he's a worthy candidate but the prospect of having him win back to back is something that could be a negative for many voters. Peterson is a wonderful talent, a player who came very close to being a Trojan, but it's hard to imagine a freshman winning the award under these circumstances. If his numbers just blew everybody else away that would be one thing but they likely won't be enough to earn him the trophy this time. It stands to reason that Bush and Peterson, and Leinart if he stays, would start the 2005 season as the leading favorites for the Heisman so we're getting a good look at the future of college football this weekend.
Good luck to all the candidates, especially those representing the Cardinal and Gold.