College Football Countdown: No. 93 Ndamukong Suh

A defense-only player has never won the Heisman Trophy in its eight decades of existence. Ndamukong Suh probably should have, though.

Mark Ingram played a key role in Alabama’s first national championship run since 1992, but his nomination to the Heisman always felt like a conciliatory measure; there were four worthy nominees, but Ingram played for the best team, thus won the award.

Of the four nominees with a realistic chance to win — let’s be honest, Tim Tebow was a finalist as a sort of lifetime achievement award — Ingram seemed like the fourth-best option.

That Ndamukong Suh finished fourth is maddening in hindsight, and serves as evidence of some of the bigger problems with the Heisman voting process.

Suh’s candidacy stemmed from one game: his Herculean effort in the Big 12 Championship, which very nearly changed the complexion of the college football landscape.

With 4.5 sacks and 12 tackles, Suh made himself the most viable defense-only candidate in Heisman history. Credit the game’s proximity to the vote, which was also fresh in the mind of voters who docked favorite Colt McCoy.

As good as Suh was that night, however, his entire season deserved more recognition. One game may have sent him to New York, but that underscores just how preoccupied voters are with quarterbacks and running backs. A defensive tackle requires

The provincialism of the vote also shone through. Toby Gerhart of Stanford owned the Western vote, unfettered. Same for Ingram in the South. Ndamukong Suh made voters in the Midwest, who otherwise would have pushed McCoy, to split their ballots.

The Heisman’s a national award, but the vote is very much regional.

Ultimately though, Suh winning the Heisman wouldn’t change the face of college football quite as dramatically as if his last-second pressure on McCoy had resulted in another sack, or forced the clock to expire.

Had Nebraska completed the upset of unbeaten Texas, Alabama likely sees Mountain West Conference champion TCU in the BCS Championship Game.

No non-BCS conference team ever played for the national championship in the system’s 15-year run. TCU breaking through that glass ceiling might have had ramifications on conference realignment, which set in motion in earnest the following offseason.

For one very brief moment in the realignment game, the Mountain West had TCU, Utah, BYU and Boise State, with rumors of it pursuing Big 12 members like Kansas and Kansas State floating.

Scoff at the inclusion of Kansas now, but bear in mind that in 2009, the Jayhawks were just two years removed from winning the Orange Bowl.

Even without adding exiting Big 12 members, a Mountain West with TCU, BYU, Boise State and Utah is a power conference. Period.

Now, TCU playing Alabama for the BCS Championship hardly ensures the Mountain West’s stability, but it would have helped the league’s negotiating position with TV providers.

All that because of Ndamukong Suh.