Auburn is undefeated and on its way to face the Oregon Ducks and their cool uniforms for the national title. At best, the Tigers/Plainsmen would have been 8-4 and Gator Bowl-bound without Cam Newton playing quarterback as well as any non-professional has played the position.

There it is, a beach ball on a tee: Add your own punchline.

Newton easily will win the Heisman Trophy and get a nice applause at the official ceremony Saturday night in New York City. On on-field production alone, it should be one of the great landslides in Heisman history.

As a voter and the Heisman Trust's state representative for South Carolina's 24 voters, a first-place vote for Newton should have been easy: I saw him play three times and he was terrific against Clemson and twice against South Carolina.

But this vote was a struggle having nothing to do with statistics.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik has cast more suspicion upon Newton by blocking media access and generally treating his quarterback as if he were an East German hammer thrower during the Cold War. That's probably partly why the SEC coaches named South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, not Chizik, the SEC coach of the year.

Some voters left Newton completely off Heisman ballots

that allow for first-, second- and third-place votes.

At the Monday deadline, there was no more time to juggle reports involving the SEC, NCAA and FBI. I narrowed my candidate list to six.

Almost No. 3

--No. 6 Da'Quan Bowers

Clemson's junior defensive end led the nation in sacks despite forcing double-team blocking most of the season. He was honored earlier this week with the Bronko Nagurski Award, given to the national defensive player of the year, the first and best of many honors. Value? Bowers with two sacks and lots of havoc was the difference in Clemson's 14-13 victory over N.C. State, the difference in the Tigers getting a bowl trip or not.

--No. 5 Colin Kaepernick

Nevada's senior quarterback is so underrated. He has 20 rushing touchdowns and 20 passing touchdowns this season, joining Newton and Tim Tebow as the only players in the 20-20 club.

--No. 4 LaMichael James

The Oregon sophomore running back missed the Ducks' 72-0 rout of New Mexico in the season opener, or he would have more than 1,682 yards rushing and 22 total touchdowns. Only two games under 121 yards rushing -- 91 against California, 94 against Arizona State. Not coincidentally, Auburn will note, those were undefeated and No. 1 Oregon's closest calls.

The ballot

--No. 3 Andrew Luck

Looks like a 30-year-old picking apart college kids. Better than his numbers (28 touchdown passes and seven interceptions), Luck vaulted Stanford into the Orange Bowl with eight TD passes and just one interception over the last four games, all wins. The poised junior is the son of former Houston Oilers quarterback Oliver Luck, now the athletic director at West Virginia.

--No. 2 Kellen Moore

Boise State's junior quarterback finished seventh in the 2009 Heisman voting. Still doesn't get enough credit as the face of the upstart franchise. Moore threw 33 touchdown passes (only five interceptions) and was at his best in the Broncos' biggest games: 8 TD passes and no interceptions vs. Virginia Tech, Oregon State and Nevada.

--No. 1 Cam Newton

The honor is supposed to go to the player "whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."

Yeah, I know.

But the classy folks at the Heisman Trophy Trust are not the enforcement arm of college football. And yet, in the case of Reggie Bush forfeiting his 2005 Heisman, have shown a willingness to make the proper adjustment.

With federal and state agencies looking into play-for-pay charges, shifty ol' "Vacated" might ultimately win the 2010 Heisman.

For now, the first SEC player to throw for 2,000 yards (2,589) and rush for 1,000 yards (1,409) in a single season deserves a large trophy.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or 937-5593.