Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (cornbread sold separately):
The Dash did its civic duty Tuesday and filled out its ballot -- just not the same ballot everyone else was working on. With all one precinct reporting, here are the winners of GridVote 2004 (which can and will be updated a month from now, when the regular season is over):
Heisman Trophy: Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson (1), with California's Aaron Rodgers (2) and Utah's Alex Smith (3) rounding out the ballot. Incumbent Jason White (4) is left off.
The Dash has given up trying to remember the last freshman football player it saw who was this electrifying. (Sorry, Herschel Walker, but even you were not so routinely spectacular so early.) How good is Peterson? If the NFL draft rules stand and he has to play three years of college football, he could win three Heismans. Anyone who says Peterson shouldn't win because he's a freshman should have their voting privileges revoked.
If Peterson does win, it will be the fourth time that a school has had back-to-back winners of the little stiff-armer. Yale had Larry Kelly and Clint Frank in 1936 and '37, Army had Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis in 1945 and '46, and Ohio State had Archie Griffin and Archie Griffin in 1974 and '75. It would also be the Sooners' fifth Heisman, tying them with USC for third behind Notre Dame (seven) and Ohio State (six).
(For what it's worth: Michigan sensation Michael Hart (5) picked a bad year to run wild as a freshman. He's been hopelessly overshadowed by Peterson.)
No. 1: Oklahoma (6), in a hair-splitting contest over USC (7) and Auburn (8). Yes, the Sooners were pushed to the brink of overtime by Oklahoma State last Saturday, but both the Trojans (against Cal) and Tigers (against LSU) have needed greater escapes to remain unbeaten. And both of theirs came at home.
(The Dash knows this much: if all three finish up undefeated, the outcry for a playoff will break all previous outcry records. But chances are good that at least one will lose.)
No. 117: We know, at 0-8, that Central Florida (9) is struggling. But now the Golden Knights have been made a seven-point underdog against Electoral College.
No. 58.5: At 4-4, with no winning or losing streaks of longer than two games, Syracuse (10) seems like the very essence of mediocrity.
Best Unit: The Wisconsin defensive line (11) -- impenetrable, unblockable and the key to the Badgers' 8-0 record and No. 1-ranked defense.
Best Gameplan Guy: Louisville coach Bobby Petrino (12). In large part because of his ability to script plays, the Cardinals lead the nation in total offense and his quarterback, Stefan LeFors (13), leads the nation in pass efficiency. (Worth noting: The Louisville Courier-Journal Wednesday published contents of a letter Petrino wrote last week to Cardinal football lettermen that said the coach wanted "to ensure you I will be staying in Louisville." Petrino's name has been considered in play at Florida.)
Best Trickster: Boise State's Dan Hawkins (14), who dialed up an onside kick, a fake field goal and a fake-fumble-bomb against Hawaii last week. As Hawkins said of his penchant for voodoo: "We always have the bone through the nose. We're going to think outside the box on occasion. We're going to go get it. ... If you tell your kids, 'Don't be afraid to fail,' you've got to back that up as a coach."
Captain and MVP of The Dash's All-America Team: Adriana Lima (15). What, you expected someone else?
Best Makeover: Auburn's Jason Campbell (16), who has gone from booed and belittled to a Heisman candidate. Good to see for a good kid.
Worst Attitude: West Virginia wide receiver Chris Henry (17). At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, he looks like Randy Moss. Problem is, he also acts like Randy Moss. Henry has a penchant for running out of bounds instead of picking up hard yards, and his mouth got him ejected last week against Rutgers for arguing with officials. Until he can play like Moss, Henry best not act like him.
Most Myopic Coach: LSU's Nick Saban (18), whom the SEC media relations staff quoted last week as saying on the league's teleconference, "I would say that relative to being a coach I don't have time to be a Democrat or Republican. It takes a unique ability as a coach to do what we do and focus on what we focus on. I've tried to steer clear of any type of politics. I don't think it's my place as a coach." Saban is clearly too busy figuring out the important stuff in life, like stopping Vanderbilt's option game.
Adrian Karsten Golden Suspenders Award
For coaching excellence goes to Baylor's Guy Morriss (19), whose gutsy overtime call delivered the Bears a stunning 35-34 upset of Texas A&M last Saturday. Sensing that his players were tiring at the end of the first overtime, he called for a two-point conversion instead of a point-after that would have produced a second OT. Baylor got the two, and got its first win over a ranked team in six years.
Trev Alberts Fire-Him-Now
Goes to Kentucky's Rich Brooks (20), whose team was dominated by Mississippi State, 22-7. The Wildcats are now 1-7 and rank last in America in total offense, having scored 51 flukish points against Indiana and 60 the rest of the season. But this week Brooks dug in his heels and said he'd quit before firing offensive coordinator Ron Hudson. Careful, Brooksie: a disgusted fan base would love to call your bluff.
Big 12 North: Busted
The Big 12 championship game would normally seem like a high-risk endeavor for, say, an undefeated Oklahoma trying to keep itself in the national championship hunt. (See: Last year's disaster against Kansas State.) But this year, the winner of the South figures to have a virtual walkover in December.
No fewer than five teams in the South are better than anyone in the North. Fans are grumbling in Columbia, where Missouri (21) has been a major disappointment. They're grumbling in Lincoln, where Nebraska (22) has struggled in the transition to ex-NFL guy Bill Callahan. They're grumbling in the Little Apple of Manhattan, where Kansas State (23) has forgotten how to stop anyone. They're grumbling in Boulder, where Colorado (24) has collapsed after a 3-0 start. And they're grumbling in Lawrence, where Kansas (25) is still unable to overcome program inertia in its third year under Mark Mangino. (Actually, they're not grumbling that much in Lawrence; basketball season is here, so nobody is paying attention to football anymore.)
That leaves 4-4 Iowa State (26) as the only Big 12 North school that hasn't been a significant disappointment -- thanks to a pair of one-point wins over Northern Illinois and Baylor. The Cyclones, picked for last in the division by the media before the season, host Nebraska Saturday and have a chance, with a win, to take the divisional lead. (The 'Clones also have found a new scoring threat in defensive tackle Brent Curvey (27), who has returned fumbles for touchdowns in back-to-back games. Curvey went 30 yards to score against Kansas and 65 against Baylor, which should make him the starting tailback this week.)
Croom vs. Shula
The coach Alabama thought about hiring plays the coach Alabama hired instead this week in Tuscaloosa. Former Crimson Tide hero Sylvester Croom (28) comes home Saturday, bringing an improving Mississippi State team with him. He'll take on Mike Shula (29), who is showing signs of progress in his second year on the job, guiding the Tide toward a likely bowl bid despite some critical injuries.
You might remember that Shula showed a shocking bit of insecurity last spring when he had Croom's name removed from an annual award given to an Alabama player in spring practice. The backlash was severe enough that Shula and Bama backtracked, putting Croom's name back on the award.
Obviously, a loss to a State team that has won back-to-back SEC games for the first time since 2000, would only increase Shula's insecurity in regard to Croom. Keep an eye on the early action in this game: Alabama is 1-8 under Shula when its opponent scores first and 0-8 when trailing at halftime.
McNeal Finally Messes Up
Texas A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal (30), winner of The Dash's Last Interception Pool, has finally given the opposition the ball -- with disastrous results. McNeal threw his first interception and lost his first fumble in the Aggies' upset loss to Baylor last week.
Despite that, McNeal still leads the nation in percentage of interceptions per attempt, at .46. The other quarterbacks who have thrown fewer than one percent of their passes to the other team: Georgia's David Greene (31) at .48; Bowling Green's underrated Omar Jacobs (32) at .66; North Texas' Scott Hall (33) at .67; Louisville's LeFors at .86; and Utah's Smith at .99.
Signs Of Life In Cincinnati
The Cincinnati Bearcats might be turning the corner under rookie coach Mike Dantonio (34). First they shockingly crushed Memphis, then easily handled TCU -- this after becoming the team that broke Army's 19-game losing streak. Dantonio, the former defensive coordinator at Ohio State, has the Bearcats playing better defense of late, surrendering just 17 points in their last two games against high-powered offenses.
It's not like Dantonio is working with much in the way of tradition at Cincy. In its 116th year of existence, the program is looking for its 500th win Saturday at Southern Mississippi.
Miami of Ohio coach Terry Hoeppner (35), after watching Toledo coach Tom Amstutz (36) go for it eight times on fourth down in a 23-16 RedHawks victory Tuesday night: "He oughta be arrested for that."
Puttin Out An APB For. . .
. . .Former Texas Tech tailback James Hadnot (37). The Dash has not heard a word about Hadnot, who played way back when the Red Raiders actually ran the football, in years.
Meanwhile, The Dash has learned that former Nebraska walk-on legend I.M. Hipp (38) is alive and well in Virginia Beach, Va., where he is a mechanical engineer. Last winter he voiced his criticism of Callahan's plans to strip down the school's legendary walk-on program.
Speaking of the Hippster, alert reader Robert Bowen offers the following correspondence: "I am a huge Nebraska fan, and living in Yokohama, Japan has me going through serious pigskin withdrawal. The day after I read your latest Forde Yard Dash column, I was shocked to find a book in a Tokyo store entitled The Best of the Big Red Running Backs. ... I.M. Hipp is one of the featured backs in the book."
Books in Tokyo on Nebraska I-backs? It's a small world -- and a big game -- after all.
It's not barbecue, but when hungry in the excellently idyllic college town of Oxford, Ohio, The Dash recommends the hickory-grilled prime rib at High Street Grill (39). It's likely to come with a side of lively political repartee in a town that was consumed with Election Fever when The Dash visited this week. Nevertheless, The Dash feels pangs of regret that it did not visit The Smokin' Ox (40), which claims to make the town's best 'cue.
Pat Forde is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.