Can Mark Ingram Repeat as Heisman Winner?

First of all, a belated congratulations to Mark Ingram for winning the Heisman Trophy. I suggested in my Heisman post that any of the three people whose names I submitted for the sports blog version (which Stanford's Toby Gerhart won) would be more than qualified for the award, and Ingram is.

Now, think back with me to the one of the preseason storylines that dominated the college football world in 2008 and 2009: Could Tim Tebow win another Heisman Trophy and become just the second two-time recipient in the award's history? Get ready for Ingram to be the next repeat candidate for the SEC.

Because the sophomore running back might not be just a leading contender for the trophy in 2010, but the leading contender. Consider the Top 10 vote-getters for this year's trophy.

Player Team Class Points
1 Mark Ingram Alabama SO 1,304
2 Toby Gerhart Stanford SR 1,276
3 Colt McCoy Texas SR 1,145
4 Ndamukong Suh Nebraska SR 815
5 Tim Tebow Florida SR 390
6 C.J. Spiller Clemson SR 223
7 Kellen Moore Boise State SO 100
8 Case Keenum Houston JR 37
9 Mardy Gilyard Cincinnati SR 23
10 Golden Tate Notre Dame JR 21

While Gerhart is eligible come back for another year despite being a senior, that seems unlikely. Which means that Ingram's nearest returning probably competitor for the award in 2010 finished more than 1,200 points behind him in this year's vote. Among some of the more likely to be in the running next year, Golden Tate has already said he'll go to the NFL and Case Keenum is considering it.

Which could basically leave Mark Ingram, Kellen Moore and a bunch of dark horses. Even if Keenum returns to Houston for his seniro season, you have to wonder whether the Cougars can have another successful season: they visit rebuilding UCLA and host and an up-and-coming Mississippi State in addition to playing Texas Tech in Lubbock. Houston also has to play a Conference USA slate that it has never swept; losses in another one or two league games could kill Keenum's campaign even if Houston can go 4-0 against nonconference opponents. (Their other out-of-league game against Navy is no cupcake.) And I still haven't given up on Nevada as a possible champion in the WAC

Meanwhile, Ingram has an advantage that Tebow didn't have in 2007: His team won an SEC Championship and is going to play for a national title with Ingram as the centerpiece of the offense. Tebow didn't even win a division title in his Heisman campaign, largely because of the defense. But there's no reason for Alabama to change things at all with regards to Ingram. They might look for a few more yards from Greg McElroy, but it would be colossally stupid for Alabama to give Ingram fewer touches next season than this one.

And the Tide offense could be expected to carry the team a little more next year with several experienced defensive starters headed for the NFL. Not only will Alabama coaches want more yards and points from Ingram's side of the ball, they would like to run the clock and try to minimize how often the other team's offense is on the field.

Not to minimize the difficulty of winning the Heisman in consecutive years; after all, if one of the greatest players of our time if not in college football history couldn't do it, then it can't be easy. Alabama will lose a couple of offensive linemen -- not that that stopped them this year. The SEC West will remain one of the toughest divisions in college football (and might actually be more competitive next year) and defenses will now focus more heavily on Ingram than ever before. Then there are the injuries and other unforeseen challenges that could derail his campaign. And of course, the next Mark Ingram (unknown player coming from nowhere) could always defeat the original Mark Ingram in 2010.

But Ingram is well positioned to get another trip to New York City in December next year. Depending on what he decides after that, even then it might not be his last.

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