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Sam Bradford vs. Graham Harrell: Heisman at stake on Saturday

By Jake Trotter Modified: November 19, 2008 at 4:37 pm •  Published: November 19, 2008
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NORMAN — On Nov. 9, 1940, Tom Harmon of Michigan collided with George Franck of Minnesota in a battle on unbeatens and Heisman front-runners.

In the end, Franck’s Golden Gophers prevailed, 7-6, though Harmon would go on to win the Heisman Trophy; Franck would finish third in the voting.

Since, top-three Heisman finishers have met in November 10 times.

But not once in the last 20 years.

That could change this season.

Saturday, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell will engage in a showdown with major Heisman implications.

Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, many consider the two quarterbacks locks to be invited to the Heisman presentation in New York next month.

But unlike 1940, the winner of Saturday’s game should emerge as the front-runner, while the loser will probably drop out of contention.

"A lot of people are talking about (the Heisman),” Bradford said. "But if you think about that, you get away from what’s important.

"And that’s this football game.”

Beginning with 1940, those who have led their teams to victory in these November Heisman showdowns haven’t always fared well in the voting.

In fact, the loser has placed higher in the Heisman four times, most recently in 1972 when Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers edged OU running back Greg Pruitt for the trophy, even though the Sooners won the head-to-head meeting, 17-14, and the Big Eight title.

This year, however, the only way to distinguish Harrell, Bradford and Texas quarterback Colt MCoy may be by who leads his team to the Big 12 South title, since all three are having monster seasons statistically.


Heisman moments

Eric Crouch reeling in a reverse TD pass, Doug Flutie connecting on a Hail Mary, Desmond Howard striking the Heisman pose after a punt return score.

Heisman moments, memorable plays that factored in to those players winning the Heisman Trophy.

Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell already had his Heisman moment, a 28-yard TD strike to Michael Crabtree that beat Texas with time expiring.

While putting up ridiculous numbers (3,406 yards, 38 TDs) OU QB Sam Bradford is yet to have his Heisman moment, beating up on substandard competition over the last month.

But Saturday, in front of a national television audience, he’ll have his chance.

By Jake Trotter

Reasons why

The case for

Sam Bradford

Against Kansas State, Bradford threw for 255 yards, three TDs and no interceptions. He also ran for a score.

And that, supposedly, was his worst game of the year.

Bradford has been the epitome of consistency, having thrown for at least 300 yards in all but two games. Bradford leads the nation in TD passes and is second in passing efficiency.

The case for

Graham Harrell

Not only did Harrell lead his team to the biggest win in school history (a 39-33 win over then-No. 1 Texas) he has the Red Raiders undefeated and in the hunt for a national title berth.

Harrell also has put up patented big numbers for a Tech QB, having thrown for 4,077 yards and 36 TDs to just five interceptions.

By Jake Trotter

The case against Sam Bradford

Sure, Bradford has torched the likes of Nebraska and Texas A&M. But the Sooners don’t have a win over a Big 12 team currently ranked in the Top 25.

If Bradford loses to Tech, there’ll be no justification for voting him ahead of Colt McCoy or Graham Harrell, who will have both defeated him.

The case against Graham Harrell

If Tech can’t beat OU, Harrell will have to fight the label of "system QB.”

Because Bradford and Florida’s Tim Tebow are surging, Harrell, the only contender from a non-traditional powerhouse, can’t stumble and keep pace.

By Jake Trotter


What they’re saying about Heisman contenders Sam Bradford and Graham Harrell:

"If Oklahoma beats Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and wins the Big 12 South Division tiebreaker — and eventually the Big 12 championship — no one will have a better resume than Bradford. He’ll likely have 50-plus touchdowns, and his team will be playing in the national title game.”

Matt Hayes, The Sporting News

"It’s one thing for Graham Harrell to put up video game numbers for an 8-4 team bound for a second-tier bowl. It’s quite another for him to do it against top-10 teams in a legitimate quest for the national title. I keep waiting for Harrell and Co. to implode under pressure, as in years past, and it’s not happening.”

Austin Murphy, Sports Illustrated

Compiled by Jake Trotter

Other games that had Heisman implications

Heading into Saturday’s showdown, Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell and OU’s Sam Bradford are two of the front-runnersfor the Heisman.

Only 11 times in college football have top-three Heisman finishers met on the field in November.

Heading into Saturday’s showdown, Texas Tech's Graham Harrell and OU's Sam Bradford are two of the frontrunners for the Heisman.

Only 11 times in college football history have top three Heisman finishers met on the field in November.

The list:

Nov.16, 1940:

Minnesota 7, Michigan 6

1: Tom Harmon, HB ,Michigan

3: George Franck, HB, Minnesota

Nov. 13, 1943:

Notre Dame 25, Northwestern 6

1: Angelo Bertelli, QB, Notre Dame

3: Otto Graham, QB, Northwestern

Nov. 9, 1946:

Army 0, Notre Dame 0

1: Glenn Davis, HB, Army

3: Johnny Lujack, HB, Notre Dame

Nov. 12, 1949:

Notre Dame 42, North Carolina 6

1: Leon Hart, E, Notre Dame

2: Charlie Justice, RB, North Carolina

Nov. 24, 1951:

Tennessee 28, Kentucky 0

2: Hank Lauricella, RB, Tennessee

3: Babe Parilli, QB, Kentucky

Nov. 18, 1967:

USC 21, UCLA 20

1: Gary Beban, QB, UCLA

2: O.J. Simpson, RB, USC

Nov. 30, 1968:

USC 21, Notre Dame 21

1: O.J. Simpson, RB, USC

3: Terry Hanratty, QB, Notre Dame

Nov. 15, 1969:

Ohio State 42, Purdue 14

2: Mike Phipps, QB, Purdue

3: Rex Kern, QB, Ohio State

Nov. 23, 1972:

OU 17, Nebraska 14

1: Johnny Rodgers, WR, Nebraska

2: Greg Pruitt, RB, OU

3: Rich Glover, NG, Nebraska

Nov. 1, 1975:

California 28, USC 14

2: Chuck Muncie, TB, California

3: Ricky Bell, TB, USC

Nov. 19, 1988:

USC 31, UCLA 22

2: Rodney Peete, QB, USC

3: Troy Aikman, QB, UCLA

By Berry Tramel and Jake Trotter

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