We know how this Heisman Trophy stuff works: The most highly-publicized quarterback from a really good team usually wins.

Which means that this year's award for the best college football player will go to Texas quarterback Colt McCoy or Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. (We're betting McCoy wins decisively).

And that's OK.

It's just not the best pick.

Because it's more impressive what jumbo tailback Toby Gerhart is doing at Stanford -- and most importantly, how he's doing it.

No matter that he doesn't have the hype, the expectations or the right position.

Look at his style. His numbers. His impact. The way he's captured the nation's attention at season's end, the way he literally rolled over highly-regarded USC and Oregon and then Notre Dame, all by himself.

He's different, and he should be celebrated for that.

For three years now, we've been watching and debating Tebow and McCoy, wonderful runners and throwers on super-talented, high-scoring machines.

Tebow already won the Heisman as a sophomore and nearly won it again last year. Fair or not, his numbers and accomplishments seem to blur. Shouldn't he need to do more to deserve it again? And he hasn't.

McCoy caught fire in November, but, like Tebow, the judging standards need to be higher because both of them rely so heavily on teammates for their success -- All-America teammates at every turn.

McCoy has impressed more than Tebow, but has he impressed enough?

And that's when things really get muddy.


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You could make a case for Boise State QB Kellen Moore and his outrageous, jaw-dropping statistics. How do you throw 38 touchdown passes and only three interceptions at this level?

You could make a case for all-around runner/receiver Mark Ingram of Alabama. Or even more all-around dynamo C.J. Spiller of Clemson, the NCAA record holder for kickoff returns for touchdowns.

But we're getting bogged down here.

That's why this goes back to Gerhart, in the end.

He leads the nation in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns and accomplished that in a pretty good Pac-10 Conference.

He combines power, speed and agility like Earl Campbell once did, and you just don't find guys who play that way and earn that kind of success anymore. You definitely don't find them leading the nation in rushing.

And consider that he's gotten stronger as the year ended, never flinched down the stretch.

And Gerhart is just as valuable, if not more so, to his team than any of them.

Of course, he won't win the prestigious trophy Saturday night.

But he'll be in the running, which is a huge accomplishment for a kid who had about zero Heisman buzz coming into the season and who stars for Ivy League-quality Stanford on the late-night West Coast.

Put it this way: There will always be quarterbacks putting up the numbers like McCoy and Tebow. But when's the last time a running back at a BCS school did what Gerhart did, the way he did it?

It's interesting. It's different. It's more impressive the more I think about it.

Which is enough to get my vote.
fbodani@ydr.com; 771-2104