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Four Heisman hopefuls should bring more recognition
By Greg Auman
Published July 18, 2007
NEWPORT, R.I. - How does the Big East improve on last year's amazing season, capped by a 5-0 record in bowl games? A crop of four talented Heisman Trophy hopefuls gives the league optimism that 2007 can bring even more national acclaim, and perhaps some hardware, too.
"We have four players listed among the top eight or nine Heisman hopefuls, and that's unheard of in the history of our league," commissioner Mike Tranghese said. "We've been playing football since 1991 and we've had a lot of great players, but I think this is an unusual year."
Leading this year's candidates are West Virginia running back Steve Slaton, who took fourth as a sophomore, and Rutgers running back Ray Rice, who finished seventh last year.
Also considered top candidates are Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm, back to lead the Cardinals' high-scoring offense, and West Virginia quarterback Pat White, one of the league's most exciting players as a dual threat to run and pass.
"I think it helps the conference out," said Rice, who led the league with 1,794 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. "I think we're the best conference in the nation. We've got four legitimate Heisman candidates, and I think we'll help each other out. Every time we play each other, it's an exciting moment."
White and Slaton, seen as perhaps the nation's top 1-2 punch, could end up splitting votes from West Virginia's success, but their focus is on winning a national title together.
"It's in one ear and out the other," White said. "It's a great accolade, but Troy Smith won the Heisman last year and went in the fifth round. I think national championship is where you want to be."
The league's only Heisman winner was Miami quarterback Gino Torretta in 1992.
TEAM TO BEAT: West Virginia was picked nearly unanimously atop the league's preseason media poll, getting 20 of 24 first-place votes. USF was picked fourth, its highest preseason position in its three years in the league, with Louisville second and Rutgers third.
"I believe this league has arrived," USF senior linebacker Ben Moffitt said. "Any of these teams here can beat any teams in the nation on a given day. I think it's here to stay for a while."
EIGHT ENOUGH FOR NOW: Having eight teams creates an annual headache with an unbalanced schedule in terms of league games home and away, but Tranghese said he doesn't see a match for football expansion, at least in the next two years.
"We're not going to expand to solve scheduling problems. It makes no sense," he said. "If we're going to take a ninth member, it's got to be someone who's a gate attraction, who helps us in television and helps us with bowls. We've got a brand that's really valuable, and we're not going to give it up unless someone can make us better.
"I just don't see anybody out there. I think we can help some people, but we're not being helped. We need to be selfish about this."