My expectations for this year's Heisman race boiled down to this: Ndamukong Suh and Toby Gerhart, arguably the two players most crucial to their team's respective success, should win.
Gerhart led the nation in yards, attempts, and touchdowns rushing, and singlehandledly made Stanford football relevant in the Pac-10.
Suh, besides being the runner-up in B/R's official endorsement, led his team to nine wins and nearly a Big 12 upset championship and a BCS berth without the semblance of an offense on the other side of the ball.
Colt McCoy would win. He'd not only won all of the other awards—the Maxwell, the Davey O' Brien, as well as the choice for AFCA All-American at QB—but his Heisman would have made for an excellent "I'm sorry" present from the voters for missing out on him last year.
Tebow, of course, was a sham. He got invited because somewhere someone's mother said to the Heisman voters, "Aren't you going to invite Tim Tebow?" and the voters said, "Well, we don't really like him any more, he's weird and kind of Christian," and then the mother said, "You're inviting Tebow and that's final. I don't care if you think he's weird, he's coming." And so He came.
It was easy and convenient, if frustrating, to believe that McCoy would win, even if it meant trotting out the illegitimacy of the Longhorns, as a team and as a national championship contender, for the zillionth time. Paragraphs could be devoted to his inconsistent play, his dropoff from last year, the likelihood of him busting at the next level.
At least a McCoy win would have explained itself: then we could say the 2009 Heisman was a career acheivement award, which we'd suspected since the days of George Rogers, Jason White, and Gino Torretta.
But Ingram? Really? What is Ingram's Heisman representative of?
In my mind, it represents the magnitude of the "SEC as superior conference" conspiracy within the voting rolls.
And putting the past three years aside—which we can do, since college football is a linear game—this is true no longer.
This year, the SEC's play exposed it as a top-heavy conference (the Pac-10 was clearly the better conference top-to-bottom) wherein going undefeated is really not that big of an accomplishment, where the middlemen are either incompetent signal callers, inconsistent cowboys, or liars and crooks, and where the worst teams are still bad, and may remain bad for years to come.
Believing in the top-down superiority of the SEC is how the voters selected Ingram as the Heisman winner. But at the very least, that information is a few years behind.
(Heck, with information that old, they might as well have given at to Tebow—and likely would've, had the Gators been the victor).
To award Ingram, who without question was not the most dominant running back in the room (Gerhart), nor was his equal in terms of crucial play (Suh), nor was even the one everyone else likes (McCoy) or whom everyone is still pretending to like (Tebow), tells us that this award is a temporality, a common hoax, seized by SEC pirates, influenced by a confluence of old biases. Swayed by suspicious loyalties, but nowhere near the pulse of the sport.
Gerhart's closeness in votes is no salve: there's not a chance the voting should have been close between these two players, particularly since Gerhart was so clearly the more dominant back.
No, illegitimate it remains in everyone's eyes, except for the men who hire the PR machine and, likely, by the men of the PR machine itself.
Don't throw Ingram's yards, his Wildcat ability, or even the three-touchdown performance in the SEC championship at me. That win, indeed, all of Alabama's wins, were a team effort wherein Ingram was merely an excellent but enormously lucky cog.
Gerhart is the face of Stanford football, and will be as long as we are sane enough to talk about college football in 2009. Ditto Suh. Mark Ingram, meanwhile, picked up where Glen Coffee (and Shaun Alexander, to be fair) left off, and where Trent Richardson and the next great Alabama backs will pick up once Ingram leaves.
Ingram will not do his greatest work in college, unlike Gerhart, for whom college will have likely be his only venue of success. Don't expect him to be able to truck people in the NFL.
In the pros, Gerhart he will be a third-down back, and will probably disappear down the path of repeat injuries and anonymity. Ingram, will find success, but God help us if this award also becomes some sort of pre-professional success predictor.
Now, the Longhorns are facing the tall order of beating Alabama, and I won't diss the Tide: they are an outstanding team (emphasis: team).
But they will also attempt the seemingly impossible: expose a conference for not being nearly as competitive as many believe.
(Ironic that the Florida Gators, an SEC team many expected to roll over in the national championship under the bombs of Troy Smith, were the ones that did that to the Big Ten.)
And though I don't believe they will succeed, I'm now rooting for them, if only to euthanize this nauseating SEC bias as quickly as possible.
Until the dismal rah-rah era in college football is over, the BCS, the media, and now, the Heisman, all will remain completely out of touch with the reality of the college football landscape, the sport as it is fought for and appreciated today.