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Heisman history is possible for Newton

| Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is a Heisman Trophy lock.

Unless an inordinate number of voters take the moral high ground — declaring him guilty until proven innocent — Newton should win in the biggest landslide ever when one of the most coveted prizes in sports is awarded by the Downtown Athletic Club tonight.

Is he the greatest college football player ever• Let's just say he easily was the best in 2010.

Newton, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior, won't stick around long enough to win the Heisman twice, as Archie Griffin of Ohio State did. Certainly, he won't supplant Bo Jackson as the all-time best at Auburn.

But no one in the past 40 years — save Georgia's Herschel Walker in 1982 — has had an impact on college football the way Newton has had this year. He consistently responded under pressure against the best.

Ask Alabama, which watched in disbelief as Newton almost single-handily wiped out a 24-0 deficit to lead Auburn to an improbable, 28-27 victory.

That kept the Tigers' title hopes alive, then he clinched a spot opposite Oregon in the BCS championship game with a six-touchdown performance in a 56-17 thrashing of South Carolina in the SEC title game.

Newton's performance in the clutch overshadows his mind-blowing numbers. He accounted for 49 touchdowns: 28 passing, 20 rushing, one receiving. He is only the third player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to rack up 20 rushing touchdowns and 20 passing touchdowns in one season.

But the numbers that matter most are Auburn's 13-0 record and No. 1 ranking in the BCS standings.

The Tribune-Review rated the top five Heisman candidates for 14 weeks. Newton was atop the charts for the past two months, with running back LaMichael James of Oregon a distant second.

Newton wasn't ranked when the season began, in part because he and Auburn were far below the radar. Newton surged ahead of Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who staggered down the stretch.

After Newton put together the first of several signature performances against LSU, a recruiting scandal centered on a pay-for-play scheme involving him and his father, Cecil, surfaced to seemingly jeopardize his candidacy. The NCAA investigated and deemed Newton eligible. Newton soldiered on, leading the Tigers to victories over six ranked opponents.

Still, there were detractors. Some searched for supposedly untarnished candidates, including Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore and James — all Heisman finalists.

Ultimately, fair-minded voters and common sense will prevail. Newton probably will tally more than the record 2,853 points that Southern Cal's O.J. Simpson received in 1968.

A year ago, Alabama running back Mark Ingram won the Heisman by the narrowest margin ever. Newton should win in record fashion.

Additional Information:

Record winners

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton figures to be the runaway winner of the Heisman Trophy (8 p.m. today, ESPN). The winners who have earned the most points from voters:

1968 : RB O.J. Simpson, Southern Cal ? 2,853 points

2006 : QB Troy Smith, Ohio State • 2,540

1976 : RB Tony Dorsett, Pitt • 2,357

1998 : RB Ricky Williams, Texas ? 2,355

1993 : QB Charlie Ward, Florida State ? 2,310

Additional Information:

Final Tribune-Review Heisman rankings

• 1. QB Cam Newton, Auburn, jr.

• 2. RB LaMichael James, Oregon, soph.

• 3. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford, jr.

• 4. DB Patrick Peterson, LSU, jr.

• 5. QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State, jr.

Source: Tribune-Review research

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