This was my eighth year as a Heisman Trophy voter, and this was easily the most challenging yet.
The first finalist I eliminated was Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who didn't have near the productivity compared to his sophomore and junior seasons. He had a chance to get on my ballot with a stellar showing at last week's SEC title game, but that didn't happen.
Next out was Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, whose 1,736 rushing yards occurred in a league that played little defense. Stanford scored 28 or more points in its last six Pac-10 games yet went 3-3. Plus, can you award the Heisman to a guy held to 82 yards in a loss to a 5-7 Wake Forest?
The finalist who will make the quickest NFL impact is Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, but the Heisman isn't about projecting pro talent. Tallying 12 sacks and an interception is impressive, as was his performance in last week's Big 12 title game, but he wasn't dominating enough to lead the Cornhuskers to a win over Iowa State. I don't feel totally rotten about excluding Suh, because he was the runaway choice on my Lombardi Award ballot.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, Alabama tailback Mark Ingram and Clemson do-it-all C.J. Spiller wound up being my top three.
McCoy has led the Longhorns to a 13-0 record by throwing for 3,512 yards and completing 70.5 percent of his passes. He struggled early against the stout defenses of Oklahoma and Nebraska but produced fourth-quarter comebacks each time (albeit barely against the Huskers) with little help from his running backs.
No finalist meant more to his team -- look what happened to the Sooners when Sam Bradford went down -- than McCoy, the winningest quarterback in NCAA history with 45 victorious starts. The most overlooked stat is his 1,589 career rushing yards.
Ingram was a close, close second, and it's hard to fault him for Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy and backup tailback Trent Richardson playing so well down the stretch. The Auburn game proved Alabama missed Ingram less than Texas missed McCoy.
Spiller isn't among the finalists but is the nation's most exciting player with 11 rushing touchdowns, four receiving touchdowns, four kickoff-return scores, one punt-return score and one touchdown pass. He has 21 career touchdowns of 50 yards or longer, including nine this season, so can't they make room for him somewhere at tonight's ceremony?