THE MOST remarkable thing about the Heisman Trophy race, which Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford won last Saturday, is not that Florida quarterback Tim Tebow received the most first-place votes yet finished third or that Bradford's margin of victory over Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Tebow was slimmer than an Olsen twin. It was that the Heisman fate of the three QBs was essentially decided six weeks ago in Lubbock, Texas, on a single play—a play that involved none of them.
Think about it. If Texas Tech wideout Michael Crabtree had not hauled in a 28-yard pass from Graham Harrell and tightroped into the end zone with one second left, giving the Red Raiders a 39--33 victory over Texas on Nov. 1, the Heisman voting would almost certainly have been dramatically different. Texas would probably have emerged with a 33--32 victory (a game-winning 45-yard field goal would have been a long shot for Texas Tech), and considering the way they rolled over their final three regular-season opponents, the Longhorns would likely have completed a 12--0 regular season. That would have made McCoy the quarterback of the undefeated No. 1 team in the nation and the almost surefire Heisman winner.
That's not to say that Bradford, who threw 48 touchdown passes, was anything but a deserving recipient, or that Tebow, whose versatility and leadership are the main reasons the Gators will play in the BCS championship game on Jan. 8, wasn't worthy of a second Heisman. It merely shows the folly in trying to choose the "most outstanding" college football player in the nation, or even the best quarterback, which is what the Heisman has become in recent years. Winning the award takes individual and team achievement, and quite often a fortuitous combination of circumstances that even a trio of take-charge quarterbacks are powerless to control. One play can change everything, and sometimes the winner doesn't even have to be the one who makes it.