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December 4, 2007

Buchanan's Ballot: In the end, it has to be ...

VOTE: Who should win the Heisman Trophy? | Heisman Watch Video | Awards Watch

For the first time in 11 years, a football player from the Southeastern Conference will win the Heisman Trophy. But who is subject to intense debate.

Florida sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow and Arkansas junior tailback Darren McFadden are the serious contenders, and supporters of each can pose legitimate arguments that their favorite should follow 1996 winner Danny Wuerffel as the SEC's next Heisman recipient.

Tebow ranks seventh in the nation in total offense (3,970 yards), is second in passing efficiency and is the first player in NCAA Division I-A history to exceed 20 touchdowns rushing and passing in the same season.

McFadden, who might be the best pro prospect if he enters the NFL draft as expected, ranks fourth in the nation with 1,725 rushing yards.

After closely considering the performance of both players this season, my vote goes to Tebow, who would be the first sophomore to receive the award.

Tebow played more difficult competition and, in my opinion, performed better overall against common opponents.

The teams that Florida faced finished a combined 88-58. In comparison, Arkansas' opponents were a combined 70-75.

The common opponents Tebow and McFadden faced were Tennessee, Ole Miss, Auburn, South Carolina, LSU, Kentucky and Troy. Florida went 5-2 against those teams, while Arkansas was 4-3.

Tebow accounted for 21 touchdowns in those seven games, McFadden seven. McFadden rushed for more than 100 yards in six of those games, but Tebow passed for more than 200 yards in six games, too, and rushed for more than 90 yards in three of them.

Moreover, Tebow accounted for at least two touchdowns and at least 225 yards in those games. McFadden had one touchdown or less in four of them.

And while the most of the rushing touchdowns Tebow scored this season were on short runs, McFadden also scored nine of his 15 touchdowns on runs from 5 yards or less.

The bottom line is both had excellent seasons, but Tebow had a better year.

1. Tim Tebow, Florida, QB: He threw for 3,132 yards and 29 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He also ran for 838 yards and 22 TDs for the 9-3 Gators.

2. Darren McFadden, Arkansas, RB: He rushed for 1,725 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also passed for 123 yards and four touchdowns, had 164 receiving yards and a touchdown, and returned kickoffs for another 283 yards.

3. Dennis Dixon, Oregon, QB: The Ducks appeared on their way to the BCS title game before Dixon suffered a season-ending knee injury. He passed for 2,136 yards and 20 touchdowns, and rushed for 583 yards and nine touchdowns. Without him, the Ducks have lost three in a row.

VOTE: Who should win the Heisman Trophy? | Heisman Watch Video | Awards Watch

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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