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Center of Attention
Chase Daniel has his Tigers in the Big 12 Championshp game, but has he done enough to win the Heisman Trophy?

By John Helsley Modified: November 29, 2007 at 11:43 am •  Published: November 29, 2007
Chase Daniel might show up in your mailbox today.

Sports Illustrated cover boy.

And, by all accounts, hard-charging Heisman Trophy contender on his way to what might be a defining candidacy moment: Saturday's Big 12 Championship game against Oklahoma.

The Missouri quarterback is hot. No, wait, he's sizzling; has been since the Tigers' season started with a win over an underappreciated-at-the-time Illinois squad.

But has Daniel, flying under the radar for much of this season, done enough to warm himself to Heisman voters who face a Dec. 5 deadline for submitting their ballots?

And how many will wait to watch him one more time, in that matchup with the Sooners, before casting a final decision?

Those questions dictate Daniel's place in the race, whether alongside, in front of, or behind the other leading men: Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, with West Virginia's Pat White holding an outside shot.

One Heisman poll performed by Scripps Howard News Service shows a current order of Tebow, McFadden and Daniel. ESPN projects it as Tebow, Daniel and McFadden.

"He can still wind up first on my ballot,” columnist Pat Forde said of Daniel. "I'll definitely be holding it through the weekend, and if he's heroic in victory over Oklahoma, I will take a hard look at putting him first.”

Forde was at Arrowhead Stadium last Saturday night, when Daniel's glow carried nationwide as the Tigers' junior surgically dismantled Kansas in what might have been college football's game of the year. Daniel completed 40-of-49 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns, displaying accuracy and mobility and savvy.

It was a Heisman-moment performance, played out for a national television audience and launching Mizzou to No. 1 for just the second time in school history.

And Wednesday, Daniel was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.

"You saw it. America saw it,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel campaigned after the 36-28 win. "They saw this guy in adverse conditions in the fourth quarter, having to make plays.

"He'll be the first one to tell you about his offensive line. He'll be the first one to tell you about wide receivers and tight ends. But I'll be the first one to tell you, this guy is special.

"I've said this for a year and a half. America got to see today how special he is.”

But what about America's Heisman voters? Do they consider him special?

Daniel's season numbers are extraordinary: 3,951 yards and 33 touchdowns passing, with just nine interceptions.

But Tebow and McFadden boast great numbers, too.

And Heisman moments.

On the same weekend Daniel dazzled KU, Tebow accounted for five touchdowns – three passing, two rushing – in the Gators' 45-12 rout of rival Florida State. McFadden made magic with 206 yards and three touchdowns rushing to go with a TD pass in a triple-overtime upset of then-No. 1 LSU.

Still, while Tebow and McFadden are done until their bowl games, Daniel gets one final chance to impress – at least those voters still holding ballots – Saturday in San Antonio.

And if there were ever a year to delay decisions, this is it. There's no clear deserving winner, just like there's no clear national title team.

Just so happens, however, that Daniel and White are the only players among the leading candidates still maintaining a hand in each.

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