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Ballots for the Heisman Trophy, college football's most prestigious award, will be mailed Wednesday, but close to 75 percent of the voting is done online. Just one elector of more than 750 voted in the first week last season. I suspect that most of the votes will be delayed to the final week this time. It should be that close. There is still time for some players to make a late statement.

That's what Jason White, the Oklahoma quarterback, did last week in the Sooners' comeback victory against Texas A&M. There were some, me not included, who thought White was an undeserving winner of the Heisman last year. Against the Aggies he passed for five touchdowns when his team needed him most.

That game might have propelled White to the head of the pack except for one thing: One of the top two or three candidates this time is his own teammate, freshman running back Adrian Peterson, who has produced so many 100-yard games that it's starting to get boring. Two superior candidates from the same school tend to knock off each other.

I have a feeling that some voters will pass on Peterson because he has three years of eligibility remaining. That's what happened to Michael Vick after his sensational sophomore season at Virginia Tech. Vick finished third behind Ron Dayne of Wisconsin in 1999. Dayne wasn't in his class then and isn't now with both of them in the NFL.

Vick turned pro after that season, leaving without a Heisman. I still regret not voting for him.

Herschel Walker was one of the greatest college players of all time when he played for Georgia. As a freshman he finished third in the Heisman voting, second as a sophomore and then won as a junior. He didn't play in his senior season, signing a rich contract with Donald Trump's New Jersey Generals of the USFL instead.

If voters had stuck to the idea that you can't forecast a player's future, he probably would have won as a freshman over George Rogers of South Carolina. Southern California, which might win the national championship, has a dual-candidate situation along with a "Heisman in waiting" star. If the pro scouts were doing the voting, Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart would probably win because he's the best player in the nation in the eyes of many of them. He's only a junior but he'll probably come into the next pro draft.

Leinart's hang-up is that sophomore Reggie Bush is in the same backfield. If he were draft-eligible a lot of pro scouts might tab him as No. 1. Whether it's running, receiving or returning kicks, Bush is the most thrilling game-breaker in college football.

The ground rules for the Heisman voting do state that the balloting is to determine "the nation's best player." But there is wide latitude in that "best" description. My interpretation is more along the lines of the most valuable player in college football. Winners such as Miami's Gino Torretta, Brigham Young's Ty Detmer, Houston's Andre Ware as well as Florida State's Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke, all quarterbacks, were not the year's best players but for enough voters the MVP factor kicked in.

Controversy has been part of the Heisman results since the second election in 1936, when Yale end Larry Kelley won. Kelley was a fine player, but there was no television or even much radio then and one of the all-time great quarterbacks, Sammy Baugh, played in relative obscurity down in Fort Worth, Texas, at Texas Christian. Slinging Sammy finished third.

My choice? Too much time left to make a final decision now, but I'm leaning toward Alex Smith, the Utah option quarterback who plays in a lesser conference, the Mountain West, yet has done everything else the better-known guys have done and more, plus he has his team in the nation's top 10.
Larry Felser, former News columnist, appears in Sunday's editions.

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