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Alabama is one of the all-time elite programs in college football history, with the fifth most wins all time and seven national championships (in the poll era), trailing only Notre Dame’s eight (they are tied with USC and Oklahoma). The Crimson Tide also have a chance to bring more hardware to Tuscaloosa as they will be facing Texas in the BCS National Championship game in January. However, Mark Ingram, their superstar sophomore running back did something no other Alabama football player has ever done: win the John Heisman Memorial Trophy. This was the 75th time the Downtown Athletic Club has honored a player with this award.
Tim Tebow (QB, Florida, Senior) won in 2007 and Sam Bradford (QB, Oklahoma, Junior) won in 2008 and Colt McCoy (QB, Texas, Senior) joined those two to comprise the three finalists last season. With all three returning, it seemed almost impossible not to see one of those three hoisting the award this season, but it was not to be. Tebow’s Gators finished a 12-0 regular season, but lost to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Championship game, but their offense did not look as dominant as the past couple seasons. Tebow finished fifth. Bradford hurt his shoulder in the season opener, attempted a comeback a few games later and was lost for the season, making no noise for the Trophy at all. McCoy led his Longhorns to an undefeated 13-0 season and another Big 12 Title, but he seemed to come back to the pack a bit as well. He did finish third in the balloting.
While those three were not running away with the award, others threw their name in the ring. Toby Gerhart (RB, Stanford, Senior) led the nation in rushing and torched the Pac-10, including USC to earn a very close second. Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska, DT, Senior) finished fourth in the voting with the most attention a defensive player has garnered in many years.
Ingram became only the third second year man to win the coveted trophy, but all three have been consecutive. Tebow was the first and Bradford was the second, and now Ingram keeps the trend alive. With more underclassmen opting for the NFL Draft in recent years, fewer and fewer high profile seniors are playing, so it is only natural that sophomores and juniors will continue to win going forward.
Ingram carried the ball 249 times for 1,542 yards (6.2 average) which was fifth in the nation. He had 30 catches for 322 yards (10.7 average) and scored 18 times (15 rush, 3 receiving). He had one 200 yard game when he went for 246 against South Carolina. He also topped 100 yards in seven other games and 99 once as well. He was pulled early from a couple games that were well in hand and really only struggled in the Tide’s Iron Bowl game with rival Auburn with 30 yards on 16 carries and 21 yards on three catches. He was important in their win over Florida, highlighted by his 69 yard reception.
The 28 point margin was the closest ever. Bo Jackson’s victory over Chuck Long by 45 was the previous tightest race.
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The winner of each region is bolded below. It should be noted that three regions had finalists: South (Ingram, Tebow), Southwest (McCoy, Suh), Far West (Gerhart). The other three regionalists were the wild cards in the voting without a natural favorite: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, all going for Ingram.