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Championships start from behind center
By Gary Danielson
Special to

Each Monday, ABC college football analyst Gary Danielson will break down the top quarterbacks around the country and rank his Top 10.

My theory all year has been that in order for one of the quarterbacks to win the Heisman, they would have to take a run at the national championship. The exception is Drew Brees, but if he takes Purdue to the Rose Bowl, he's the wild card.

As we head for the stretch run, all the key contenders are alive for just that reason. There is not a quarterback out there who is standing out for a .500 team. No one is putting up David Klingler-type numbers.

Josh Heupel
Josh Heupel led Oklahoma to an undefeated regular season and the Big 12 title.
My theory will be proven correct, and that's why you can start eliminating people from the list. That's not to say they are not playing good football, but we have to start paring down the list.

It's been fun to watch these quarterbacks break into the league, but let's start zeroing in on the top quarterbacks and take a close look at how this thing is going to finish.

The interesting thing is that as the focus comes down on these teams, they may have to sacrifice statistics for the good of the team, whereas a running back, it happens very rarely. The quarterback may have to play to a strong defense or concede to a strong running game to help his team win. That's why the final decisions on this will come down to how these players play down the stretch.

Here are the latest Top 10 quarterbacks as we head into this weekend with their previous ranking in parentheses.

Respond to Gary's rankings.

No. 1 -- Drew Brees, Purdue (3)
at Wisconsin: 21-43-274, 2 TD; rush: 11-74, 1 TD
Season: 201-336-2443, 19 TD, 4 int.; rush: 74-423, 4 TD; rec: 1-5, 1 TD
He's alive. He has all the records. He's carrying his team on his back. He is trying to do something that has never been done at Purdue: win a Big Ten championship, go to the Rose Bowl and win a Heisman. He has his team turned on to all three of these goals simultaneously.

Take a look at this year's statistics: He's rushing for nearly as many yards as Michael Vick. Considering his style of offense, for Brees to even to be within 50 percent of that number is amazing. You can see Brees' impact on Purdue's current run.

Understand, though, he has plenty of pitfalls in front of him. Ohio State's assistant head coach Freddie Pagac is going to burn the midnight oil to find a system to disrupt him. Brees also has to go to Michigan State, which gave Drew Henson all that he could handle.

He has tough games ahead of him, but it's his to lose.

No. 2 (tie) -- Eric Crouch, Nebraska (2)
Baylor: 2-6-23; rush: 5-46, 1 TD
Season: 47-96-775, 10 TD, 5 int.; rush: 96-576, 10 TD

No. 2 (tie) -- Josh Heupel, Oklahoma (5)
Last week: Off
Season: 144-210-1894, 11 TD, 4 int.; rush: 33-26, 5 TD
The winner of this game will be No. 2 next week, and with a great performance, could leapfrog Brees. It will be a fascinating matchup because Crouch has more experience in big games with the national media spotlight being there.

Heupel has a system in throwing the ball that seems to isolate weaknesses in defenses. If both of these guys are on, it could be the one of the best games college football has seen in a long time.

My hunch is that Nebraska has the edge because Crouch can rely on more of his other weapons to help him, whereas Heupel has to have a tremendous game for Oklahoma to win.

No. 4 -- Michael Vick, Virginia Tech (1)
at Syracuse: 6-11-75; rush: 16-9, 1 TD
Season: 71-118-943, 7 TD, 4 int.; rush: 86-550, 8 TD
Michael is hanging in there more with SportsCenter highlights than with steady play. Can you imagine if he was a drop-back passer and got sacked eight times? They would say they need a mobile quarterback. No one can be more mobile than Vick. That is why I continue to say that quarterback is more than just running around the end and making highlight plays. You have to get everybody involved and do everything correctly.

He struggles at times, but he has that home run potential that could win any game. Watch out Miami, he's due for a big Michael Vick game. He has not had a Michael Vick game yet this year. If he beats Miami in Miami and goes to the National Championship Game again this year, he will win the Heisman.

No. 5 -- Chris Weinke, Florida State (4)
Virginia: 16-28-274, 2 TD, 1 int.
Season: 180-284-2784, 22 TD, 7 int.
Sitting there like the big beast. If Florida State does its job, the Seminoles are minimum No. 3 and waiting for a stumble from above. Weinke will need some help, but he is playing the best football of his career right now. Chris' shot at the Heisman is slim, but possible.

No. 6 -- Woodrow Dantzler, Clemson (6)
at North Carolina: 4-7-68; rush: 8-22
Season: 95-154-1339, 8 TD, 4 int.; rush: 130-841, 12 TD
He has to get healthy ASAP for him to have any shot. If he wins at Florida State and comes back and limps around with a Willis Reed-like performance and things break his way, he's still in the running. But he can't afford to miss any time.

Get ready for next year:
Not that they haven't had great years, but they need to either focus on a Heisman run next year or get ready for the next level.

Joey Harrington
Oregon QB Joey Harrington is in the Heisman Hunt.
Major Applewhite, Texas: I knew he would play well when the quarterback situation ironed itself out. Texas is the most dangerous team in the Big XII right now. The Longhorns will continue to play better football as the year goes on. Too little, too late.

Ken Dorsey, Miami: The whole country will be watching. Set up your 2001 Heisman run with a win over Virginia Tech.

Joey Harrington, Oregon: Big win over Arizona. Average stats. Don't worry. Take your team to the Rose Bowl.

Drew Henson, Michigan: Played an average football game against Michigan State. Got hit, got rocked. It shows you why you can't play quarterback part-time. He has tremendous talent, but has a lot to learn. He can only get better.

Marques Tuiasosopo, Washington: The most exciting player in college football that you never get to see. If he played in the Big Ten, Big XII or SEC, people would know how to pronounce his name.

Gary Danielson writes a column every Monday for  

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Heisman Watch: Brees looking Rosey

Weekend wrap-up

Chat wrap: It's tough to bet against Nebraska

Danielson: The player vs. the system

Danielson: Cool Brees following Dayne's pattern

Danielson: Top quarterbacks beginning to emerge

Danielson: Dantzler setting the ACC on fire

Danielson: Purdue takes the ball out of Brees' hands

Danielson: Crouch looks golden

Danielson: Vick beginning to resemble a certain Tiger

Danielson: Year of the QB

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 Purdue's Drew Brees throws a 78-yard bomb to Seth Morales for the TD.
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