NORMAN — In 1997, Charles Woodson led Michigan to three straight wins over ranked opponents to close the season, culminating with a 20-14 victory over No. 4 Ohio State.
Against the Buckeyes, Woodson returned a punt for a touchdown, intercepted a pass in the end zone and reeled in a long reception. That performance charmed the voters and carried Woodson to an improbable upset of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning for the Heisman as Michigan went on to a shared national championship. Not since has a Heisman winner defeated three ranked teams to close the season. But with games looming against No. 12 Oklahoma State and potentially No. 13 Missouri in the Big 12 Championship, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford will probably have to reproduce Woodson’s feat this season and close strong to hold off Heisman incumbent and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. "Ultimately, we need him to play well if we want to win these games here at the end of the season, when we look at this ball game coming up, and hopefully one after that,” said OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel, who in 2000 became the first Sooner quarterback to find himself in a Heisman race late in the year. For Bradford, he’s already one-third of the way there. Saturday, the sophomore threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns as OU disposed of then-No. 2 Texas Tech 65-21. Now, he’ll have to do it on the road in Stillwater. "It’s a rivalry game, it’s going to be loud,” Bradford said. "I’m excited about playing there.” History suggests that winning late is almost paramount to winning the Heisman.