HOT TOPIC

Does anybody want to win the Heisman? Last Saturday, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith (right), the unquestioned front-runner for the past two months, threw for just 108 yards in a closer-than-expected 17--10 win over Illinois (2--8). It was Smith's second straight game with fewer than 200 yards passing. He remains the overwhelming favorite, however, due to the lack of a plausible alternative. Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson broke his collarbone on Oct 14. Northern Illinois tailback Garrett Wolfe has been shut down in his last three games. And West Virginia running back Steve Slaton probably fumbled away his chances in last week's nationally televised loss to Louisville. Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn has been on a tear the past three weeks, throwing for 945 yards, with nine touchdowns and no interceptions, but voters aren't likely to forget his three-interception meltdown in the 47--21 loss to Michigan on Sept. 16—the last game the Irish have played against a ranked opponent. With such a lackluster field, one improbable contender has emerged: Texas QB Colt McCoy. The unheralded redshirt freshman has completed 69% of his passes for 2,051 yards, with a school-record 27 TDs and just four picks. He's a higher-rated passer than Smith or Quinn. But his own coach, Mack Brown, won't even endorse him. "I don't think a freshman should be up for the Heisman," says Brown. "I think that's an award for juniors and seniors." Just what we need: an even smaller pool of candidates.

HOT TOPIC II

Coaches have been fuming all season over the controversial clock rules the NCAA implemented this year in an attempt to shorten games, but last Saturday first-year Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema became the first to deliberately exploit them. After scoring a touchdown against Penn State with 23 seconds left in the first half, the Badgers intentionally sent their coverage team ahead of the ensuing kickoff and were flagged for being offside. Because the clock now starts on the kick, nine seconds came off before the Badgers rekicked. Wisconsin repeated the ploy, milking another 10 seconds and ensuring Penn State would not get the ball back with enough time to score. Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno (above), who in the third quarter would leave with a broken left leg and damaged knee ligaments after being rolled into on the sideline, was furious, but the tactic was legal. "We did something that allowed us to have maximum coverage [on the return]," said Bielema. "They had the right to accept or decline the penalty." Here's hoping that the loophole discovery prompts the NCAA to scrap the new rules, which include starting the clock on a change of possession.

THREE AND OUT

1 The dismissal last week of senior defensive tackle Marcus Thomas—a projected first-round NFL draft pick—is a huge blow to SEC East--champion Florida. Thomas, who was suspended for three September games after failing two drug tests, was the most dominant player on the nation's seventh-ranked scoring defense.

2 One of the nation's most disappointing teams has been Iowa. Following an embarrassing 21--7 home loss to Northwestern, the Hawkeyes stand 2--4 in the Big Ten, and, uncharacteristic of a Kirk Ferentz team, they have not improved over the course of the season.

3 Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has done a magnificent job of adjusting to the loss of injured star Adrian Peterson. Riding a ball-control offense and a much improved defense, the Sooners (7--2) have turned in consecutive road wins over ranked opponents (Missouri and Texas A&M).

Read more from Stewart Mandel at SI.com/collegefootball.

PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (SMITH) PHOTOMARK A. WALLENFANG/WIREIMAGE.COM (PATERNO)
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