Heisman Suspense Palpable This Year : College football: Frazier, George and Wuerffel all present strong cases in highly anticipated race.


Other awards have more famous namesakes, but none has the prestige of the Heisman Trophy.

Now that most of the other individual honors, such as the Fred Biletnikoff Award and the Jim Thorpe Award, have been bestowed, it's time for the most cherished of all, which will be announced today at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York.

There's still plenty of suspense. Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier, Ohio State running back Eddie George and Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel have each presented strong cases for the award given to the most outstanding college football player. The closest margin in the 61-year history of the Heisman came in 1985, when Auburn running back Bo Jackson (who rushed for 1,786 yards and 17 touchdowns) won by 45 points over Iowa quarterback Chuck Long (who completed 67% of his passes for 3,297 yards and 27 touchdowns).

That vote presented a good example of some of the Heisman voting dynamics.

"I think two things cost Long the Heisman that year," said George Wine, who was Iowa's sports information director at the time. "First of all, the Big Ten vote was fragmented; [Michigan State running back] Lorenzo White got some--he finished third in the voting--and [Purdue quarterback] Jim Everett took some votes. Whereas I thought Jackson, his block of votes was solid.

"In late October we went out to Ohio State, played the Buckeyes in the rain and [Long] threw four interceptions. Of course, the game was on national TV, had huge press coverage. As you know, the Heisman voters aren't too forgiving."

Regionalization and big-game factors work in Wuerffel's favor. He doesn't face any competition in the South, and he threw for 443 yards and four touchdowns against Florida State as a busload of Heisman voters looked on from the press box.

Iowa State running back Troy Davis, who this season became only the fifth Division I-A player to surpass 2,000 yards rushing, will draw some votes away from Frazier in the Plains states. But Frazier, the quarterback on the nation's top-ranked team, performed well in his biggest media game, at then-No. 7 Colorado on Oct. 28. Frazier went 14 for 23 for 241 yards and two touchdowns and he also rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown.

George didn't help himself on Nov. 25. On the same day Wuerffel had his big game against Florida State, George gained a nondescript 104 yards in a loss to Michigan, while his Wolverine counterpart, Tshimanga Biakabutuka, gained 313 yards. George also risks losing Big Ten area votes to Northwestern running back Darnell Autry, who accounted for 52% of the conference champion Wildcats' offense this season.

George can consider it a good omen that he won the Maxwell Award on Thursday night. Thirty-one previous winners of the award, created by the Maxwell Memorial Football Club of Philadelphia to honor the nation's most outstanding college football player, have also won the Heisman the same year. George also won the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back.

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