The dual-threat quarterback has always been about more than stats. Sure, he’s having a solid season, amassing more than 1,400 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns, but more important than that, his team keeps winning because of him. He has steadied it during tough times. He has carried it during desperate days. He is the leader of a contender and the face of a program. Yep, Zac Robinson is having a heck of a year. The Oklahoma State quarterback probably won’t be confused with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in this year’s Heisman Trophy debate. But maybe he should be. In a season that started with three can’t-miss candidates, the race for college football’s most prestigious individual award is wide open at the midway point. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford is injured, and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is average. Without those two returning finalists struggling, Tebow is the favorite by default. He has yet to distinguish himself with a great game. He has yet to have that Heisman highlight. Then again, neither has any other candidate. "This is as wide open as any race I’ve seen,” said Chris Huston, who oversees the Web site HeismanPundit.com. "It seems like none of the top candidates can build any sort of momentum and, as a result, voters are starting to shop around.” Look no farther than the straw poll of Heisman voters on Huston’s Web site. Alabama running back Mark Ingram took the top spot week, bumping Tebow from the lead for the first time this season. The little bronze statue is up for grabs. It is anyone’s Heisman. Anyone starring on offense on one of the nation’s best teams, anyway. That has become the recipe for Heisman success. A player has to be pretty darn good, but so does his team. No wonder that Tebow and Ingram have emerged as the frontrunners. Their teams are No. 1 and No. 2 in the rankings, and they are the offensive stars. But it is hardly a two-horse race. Ask SportsIllustrated.com writer Stewart Mandel who he would pick to win right now, and he would go with Ingram. "But last week I might have said Tony Pike,” he said of the Cincinnati quarterback who was injured last weekend. "Next week, I might say Jimmy Clausen.” The Notre Dame quarterback is in the mix. So is Houston quarterback Case Keenum, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate, Oregon State running back Jaquizz Rodgers and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. Who’d have thought that would be the case when the season started and Bradford, McCoy and Tebow were expected to rule the Heisman heap? "Injuries and unimpressive performances have turned what looked like a closed party into an all-comers bash,” ESPN.com writer Pat Forde said. "I think everyone with a vote is sitting around waiting for someone to get the hot hand and keep it for more than a couple weeks.” Which brings us back to Robinson. The Cowboy senior got off to a slow start after missing a couple weeks of preseason practice with a hamstring injury, but he turned a corner two weeks ago at Texas A&M. After a shaky first half, he played his best ball of the season. He was 8-of-11 for 156 yards in the second half, and he would’ve been even better had his receivers held onto a couple of those passes that went incomplete. Best of all, Robinson led the Cowboys on a 93-yard, 16-play touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that melted almost eight minutes off the clock and sealed an OSU victory. He only built on that stellar play last weekend against Missouri. He threw for 227 yards and rushed for another 39 yards. He looked sharp. He played confident. And he did it all without his top two sidekicks, Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant. Robinson has made his team a contender for a conference title and a BCS bowl. His season statistics: 1,449 total yards, 13 total touchdowns, three interceptions and a 61.7 completion percentage. But Robinson is nowhere near the Heisman discussion while Tebow is leading the conversation. His season statistics: 1,410 total yards, 13 total touchdowns, two interceptions and a 65.5 completion percentage. What would it take for Robinson to join Tebow and Co.? OSU would need to run the table, and the Cowboy quarterback would need to be outstanding, especially when he’s in the spotlight like he’ll be next weekend. "Robinson needs to play the game of his life against Texas — and the Cowboys would need to win the game,” Forde said. Mandel said, "A win would probably put him in the mix. He’s always been overshadowed in the past by other quarterbacks in his conference and other players on his own team, but interestingly, all have faded.” The same could be said of many of the Heisman candidates. In a season when the unexpected has become the norm, it doesn’t seem crazy that a dual-threat quarterback leading a contender could be in the running for the Heisman. It doesn’t seem crazy at all that Zac Robinson could be a Heisman contender.
No. 15 Oklahoma State at Baylor →When: 11:30 a.m., Saturday →Where: Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco, Texas →TV: Versus (Cox 251, DirecTV 603, Dish Network 151) →Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1