NEW YORK — In a year when star quarterbacks were supposed to dominate the Heisman Trophy race, two running backs and a defensive tackle made as good a case to win college football's most prestigious award as any of the marquee passers.
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy were named Heisman finalists on Monday along with running backs Mark Ingram and Toby Gerhart and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
The last time as many as five players were invited to New York was 2004, when USC quarterback Matt Leinart won the award.
Tebow, McCoy and last year's winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma entered this season as heavy Heisman favorites. But Bradford got hurt and Tebow and McCoy haven't been as productive this season as last. Neither will go into Saturday's presentation as the front-runner.
Tebow, who was the first sophomore to win the Heisman in 2007, is again trying to become the second two-time Heisman winner, joining Ohio State's Archie Griffin. Tebow finished third in the voting last year, while getting the most first-place votes.
He's the first player to be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony three times since the presentation started being televised in 1981. He's also the first player to finish in the top five of the Heisman balloting three times since Georgia tailback Herschel Walker did it in the early 1980s.
McCoy was the runner-up last season and has led No. 2 Texas to the BCS national championship game this season.
Ingram has run for 1,542 yards and scored 15 touchdowns for No. 1 Alabama.
Stanford's Gerhart, meanwhile, has run for more yards (1,736) and scored more touchdowns (26) than any player in the nation.
And Nebraska's Suh had 4 1/2 sacks in an attention-grabbing performance against Texas in the Big 12 title game. He is the first defensive player to be a finalist since 1997, when Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson became the first full-time defensive player to win the Heisman.
Tebow returned for his senior season to try to lead the Gators to a third national title in four seasons, but he won't reach that goal. After being No. 1 almost all season, Florida lost to Alabama 32-13 in the Southeastern Conference title game on Saturday and was knocked out of the national championship race.
The loss likely damaged Tebow's chances at a second Heisman, too. He has passed for 2,413 yards and rushed for 859 yards this year.
Like Tebow, McCoy also returned for his senior season to make a championship run. He has Texas a victory away from its first national title since 2005, but his numbers also have fallen off compared to '08.
McCoy has passed for 3,512 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also nearly threw away the Longhorns' national championship hopes on the second-to-last play of the Nebraska game, coming within a second of letting the clock run out before Texas could attempt the winning field goal in a 13-12 victory.
McCoy could become the first player to win the Heisman the season after finishing second since Walker did it in 1982.
If there is a favorite, it seems to be Ingram.
Hesimanpundit.com, which polls 13 voters throughout the season, had Ingram on top of it's latest results, just ahead of Gerhart.
Ingram could become Alabama's first Heisman Trophy winner. He gave his Heisman campaign a late boost by running for 113 yards and scoring three touchdowns in the SEC title game against Florida.
"I'm looking forward to the experience and appreciate the opportunity to represent our team at the Heisman ceremony," Ingram said in a statement.
Gerhart also ended his season with a flourish, running for 205 yards and three touchdowns and throwing a touchdown pass in a victory against Notre Dame.
"I am most pleased that my efforts along with those of so many others this year have put Stanford football back on the national map," Gerhart said.
Nobody finished stronger than Suh, who put together one of the most dominant defensive games in recent college football history in Nebraska's near-upset of Texas. He finished the season with 12 sacks.
"It is good to see that the Heisman voters have recognized the true impact a dominant defensive lineman like Suh can have on a football game," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said.
Among the top players who didn't make the cut were Clemson's versatile tailback C.J. Spiller and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore.