It seems like the Heisman hype of previous years has gotten off to a slow start this year, which is understandable, considering what has happened to the top contenders so far.
Let's see, there's Michigan's Tyrone Wheatley, who will be playing in his first game today after an injury . . . UCLA's J.J. Stokes, who missed two games with a bruised thigh . . . Ohio State receiver Joey Galloway, who was suspended by the NCAA two games for seeing an agent . . . USC quarterback Rob Johnson, who's off to a slow start . . . and Notre Dame fullback Lee Becton who will be out for a few weeks with a groin injury.Sounds like a perfect year for a junior quarterback from BYU to make a run at the Heisman like Ty Detmer in 1991.
The only problem is BYU's John Walsh suffered a bad case of overthrow-itis last week in a loss to Colorado State to not only end any Heisman talk, but also raise speculation whether he is even No. 1 on the Cougar team.
With the favorites going down all over, the race has become wide open with many media folks (they're the ones who vote) jumping on the Steve McNair bandwagon.
Who's Steve McNair?
He's the quarterback for Alcorn State, an historically black I-AA college in remote Lorman, Miss., who is trying to become the first player from a non-Division I-A school to capture the coveted award, given to college football's top player.
In the first game of the year he passed for 534 yards and five touchdowns and followed with with a 647-yard, eight-touchdown effort.
Obviously he's not playing against Nebraska or Florida every week, but the 6-3, 218-pounder is still good enough that he's being considered a top pro prospect.
"I think he should be one of the first three or four players drafted," said NFL draft expert Mel Kiper. "He's the best quarterback available. He doesn't have a weakness."
McNair has passed for 11,002 yards in his career and should break Neil Lomax's I-AA record of 13,220 yards later this year.
He also has 12,756 total yards (passing and running) and has a good shot at passing Detmer (14,665) for the top spot in all NCAA divisions.
Besides McNair, two other quarterbacks have jumped in the Heisman fray, Flordia's Terry Dean and Nebraska's Tommie Frazier, who happen to play for the top two ranked teams in the country. Dean already has thrown 13 touchdown passes this year, while Frazier has run and passed the Cornhuskers to three easy victories.
Another quarterback getting a lot of attention is Eric Zeier, who has been putting up big numbers for Georgia.
With so many good quarterbacks around, Utah's Mike McCoy as well as Walsh aren't likely to get much attention for All-America honors if they should have good seasons, let alone for the Heisman.
PICKS: We missed on BYU and Weber State last week. The Colorado State win really wasn't overly surprising, but Weber winning by 28 was an absolute shocker.
Wyoming at Utah, 7 p.m. - The Utes ought to win, but are they still an enigma in many ways. The Cowboys are big and tough and could pull an upset, but . . . Utah 33-22.
New Mexico at BYU, 1:30 p.m. (ABC) - The luster has gone off "LaVell's 200th" after last week's loss following all the pre-game hype. You haven't heard much No. 200 about it this week, but expect it to happen against the Lobos' porous defense . . . BYU 38-27.
UNLV at Utah State, 7 p.m. - The Aggies must find a way to stop the Rebels flashy, record-breaking passing game, because they haven't shown an ability to score yet . . . Utah State 24-20.
Weber State at Eastern Washington, 2 p.m. - After three straight home wins against Montana schools, the 'Cats hit the road. They won't know what to do without all those screaming fans behind them . . . EWU 27-20.
Eastern New Mexico at Southern Utah, 7 p.m. - The T-Birds are playing teams on their own level now after those opening blowouts to Big Sky teams . . . SUU 31-18.
Colorado at Michigan, noon - Two former Utah preps, Kerry Hicks of Highland and Jeff Holtry of West will be on opposite sides of the ball in this one, although freshman Holtry will mostly play on special teams. Since we picked Michigan to lose to Notre Dame, we feel bad . . . Michigan 31-28.