This Year's Big Game a Big Deal

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Stanford's Toby Gerhart has raced to the front of the Heisman Trophy speculation.

    The late-season surge of the Stanford Cardinal football team isn't just rocking the BCS Bowl scenarios. The Cardinal are also shuffling the Heisman Trophy race.

    In an ESPN Heisman Trophy voter poll released just days before this Saturday's 112th Big Game, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart has catapulted to second place in the Heisman race. Several of the "experts" polled in the ESPN vote actually do have Heisman Trophy votes.

    The New York Times ran a story Wednesday on Gerhart's out-of-the-blue Heisman candidacy, so it's officially an issue.

    It's not just that Cardinal have had only one player win the Heisman Trophy since 1970. The Cardinal have had only one player win the Heisman Trophy ever in the history of the Heisman Trophy, when Jim Plunkett took home the prize in 1970.

    Gerhart's 179-yard, three-touchdown romp in last week's Stanford upset of USC really put him on the map. Gerhart now ranks third among all NCAA backs with an eye-popping 139.5-yard-per-game average. Bucking the conventional wisdom, Gerhart is the rare legitimate Heisman candidate whom no one had heard of at the beginning of the season.

    Gerhart is a symbol of Stanford's football renaissance. In Gerhart's freshman year, the Cardinal were a pathetic 1-11. As he now completes his senior season, he's a top Heisman candidate on a team that could win the PAC-10.

    "The fullback is very physical," Cal coach Jeff Tedford told ESPN, as he prepares his team for the Big Game. "Toby is a runner that doesn't go down with arm tackles and has the speed in the open field to break the long one."

    Gerhart has already broken the long one, breaking a decades-long streak of Stanford being shut out of the Heisman Trophy race.

    Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who will probably catch hell from Stanford alums for not mentioning any previous Stanford Heisman runner-ups.