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No suspense in Heisman vote; Oklahoma's awesome statistics

The presentation of the Heisman Trophy will be made during a live telecast (5:30-6 Eastern time) following CBS's coverage of Saturday's Army-Navy game. The suspense is not killing anyone, since quarterback Vinny Testaverde basically sewed up the best-player honor when he led Miami past Oklahoma on Sept. 27 in this season's ``game of the year.'' Testaverde has already pocketed two other comparable, if lesser-known, awards - the Walter Camp and Maxwell. The Hurricane signal caller could possibly walk away as the most lopsided winner in Heisman history, topping O.J. Simpson's landslide election in 1968.

The real race is for second among such players as Temple tailback Paul Palmer, Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh, and Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth.

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Look for Penn State's Shane Conlan to squeeze into the picture, too, particularly now that Sports Illustrated has endorsed the Nittany Lion linebacker as the magazine's Heisman choice. This marks the second year SI has thrown its support behind a surprising candidate, a year ago giving the nod to small-college star Joe Dudek of Plymouth (N.H.) State.

Sports Illustrated has no argument with Testaverde's unquestioned playing ability, just with the low priority he seems to place on school work. Conlan, on the other hand, is not only the anchor of the Penn State defense, but according to SI, also a ``bona fide student,'' carrying a 3.54 grade-point average, majoring in administration of justice.

Over the years, of course, the Heisman voters have seldom given much weight to a candidate's academic credentials, and it's unrealistic to expect voting habits to change overnight. But SI's point, that the winner of college football's premier award should show a reasonable interest in academics, is a good one. Briefly speaking

The Big Ten used to be a runner's conference. But even with passing more prevalent, good ballcarriers are not a disappearing commodity.

Among the better athletes at that position this season were Michigan's Jamie Morris, Ohio State's Vince Workman, and Michigan State's Lorenzo White, who was a preseason Heisman candidate after winning the national rushing championship a year ago as a sophomore. Rather surprisingly, however, none of these players averaged 100 yards or better, and the only Big Ten athlete who did was Minnesota's Darrell Thompson, the first freshman to win the league rushing crown since Wisconsin's Alan Ameche in 1951. Thompson wound up with 112.7 yards a game, while White, who was hampered by injuries, barely averaged 70, more than 100 below his '85 clip.

White's frustrations were symbolic of a Michigan State season full of ``might-have- beens.'' The Spartans lost their opener to Rose Bowl-bound Arizona State, 20-17, and were beaten by field goals three other times in completing a 6-5 campaign.

Oklahoma didn't go undefeated, losing to Miami in its third game of the season, but the 10-1 Sooners still emerged as one of the most overpowering teams in recent years.

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Statistically they were awesome, leading the nation in six major categories (scoring, rushing, total defense, scoring defense, and both rushing and passing defense). The only team to pick off as many statistical titles was Syracuse in 1959, when sophomore halfback Ernie Davis led the Orangemen to a perfect record and No. 1 ranking.

Maybe Oklahoma's two most eye-grabbing feats were outscoring five straight opponents by a combined tally of 226-3 and limiting Kansas to minus 52 yards rushing.

Brigham Young, noted as a quarterback factory, has never had a Heisman winning passer. Finally, however, a BYU player has broken through with a major individual award, the Outland Trophy, which goes to the nation's top interior lineman.

The irony is that 6 ft. 6 in., 274 lb. Jason Buck, the Outland winner, is a quarterback-turned-defensive tackle who is skilled at making a quarterback's life miserable. Buck, a quarterback throughout high school, joins Utah State's Merlin Olsen (1961) as the only other Rocky Mountain region player to win the 41-year-old award.

Ohio State didn't get what it most wanted - a trip to the Rose Bowl - but the Buckeyes have earned an interesting distinction. By accepting a Cotton Bowl bid, they will become the first team to play in every New Year's Day bowl, the Rose, Cotton, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, and Florida Citrus (formerly the Tangerine). The Florida Citrus actually is just joining the ranks of the Jan. 1 games, while in a special departure, the Fiesta has been moved to Jan. 2 to bring special attention to the ``national championship'' game between Miami and Penn State. The Fiesta's dream match-up marks the first time unbeaten, untied major-college opponents have met since Notre Dame edged Alabama 24-23 in the 1973 Sugar Bowl, which was then played on New Year's Eve.

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