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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

ite's Mountaineers can lock up a spot in the BCS title game by beating a struggling Pittsburgh team Saturday.

Can you picture Missouri at 11-1 and No. 1 without Daniel?

Isn't it easier to envision Florida and Arkansas managing 9-3 and 8-4 seasons, respectively, without Tebow and McFadden?

"I think Tebow will win it, but there's a question whether some of the ‘old guard' Heisman voters will balk at putting Tebow first on their ballots because he's a sophomore,” said Wendell Barnhouse of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I think if Daniel plays against OU like he did against Kansas and that Missouri wins, he becomes a serious threat to win it.

"My guess on the order of finish would be Tebow, Daniel and McFadden. As of today, that's how I would rank 'em on my Heisman ballot. I think it's going to be a very close race.”

Daniel isn't the prototype Heisman candidate.

By quarterback standards, he's short – 6-foot-even, maybe, with padded inserts in his black Nike cleats. And at 225 pounds, he's, well, a bit thick.

During a teleconference this week to advance the Big 12 title game, Sooner linebacker Curtis Lofton sort of giggled when a reporter spoke of Daniel as "pudgy.”

Not that Lofton meant any disrespect.

"He's not your typical quarterback,” Lofton said. "Most quarterbacks you look for someone taller, a more rangier guy. But he has a real strong arm and he can run especially well for a guy his size.”

Daniel definitely has the Sooners' attention.

He threw for 361 yards and a touchdown in Missouri's 41-31 loss at OU back in October. And in Mizzou's past four games, when the Tigers kicked up their drive to the Big 12 North title, Daniel has been nothing short of spectacular, firing 15 touchdowns with but one interception.

Thus, the Heisman buzz.

"He's a great, great player,” said OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "He has our vote. Just a great competitor, a fearless attitude, very confident and very precise in what he's doing.

"We recognize the talent and ability. Throwing off his back foot, his ability to improvise on the perimeter and how quick he is, strong he is. You watch him and it's like, ‘Holy cow, this guy is incredible.'”

If Daniel can make Heisman voters utter such superlatives Saturday night, he might just have enough to sway sentiment his way.

Late gains have happened like this before. Southern Cal's Carson Palmer finished hot in 2002, rallying to claim his Heisman.

Can it happen again?

"I'm down to four – Chase Daniel, Pat White, Darren McFadden and Tim Tebow,” said Tom Luicci of the Newark Star-Ledger. "Daniel elevated himself with his big game against Kansas. Now he and Pat White have the stage all to themselves on Saturday, though Daniel's is considerably bigger.

"I'll wait until after Saturday's results to vote. I base mine on the body of work, not just one game. But when things are this close, one game can carry significant weight.”

One game, for Daniel, that carries mighty stakes.

One game for a BCS championship berth and, perhaps, the Heisman Trophy.

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