When it comes to running backs in the college game, Adrian Peterson has no peer. In 2004, Peterson became the first freshman in Oklahoma’s storied football history to be named All-America. He also was the first freshman in eight years to be selected first-team All-America by the AP. He set a new school single-season record, and an NCAA freshman record, with 1,925 rushing yards. Of those yards, 1,365, or 71 percent, came after first contact. He posted nine consecutive 100-yard rushing games and 11 in all. He averaged 5.7 per carry, with 15 touchdowns.

He was hampered most of last season, missing all or most of four games, with a high ankle sprain, yet still led all Big 12 running backs with 1,108 yards and 14 touchdowns. Despite last year’s injury problems, his two-year career rushing totals read 3,033 yards and 29 touchdowns.

He seems to find smoothest sailing through the Oklahoma State defense, having scored on an 80-yard run vs. the Cowboys in 2004, then registering 237 yards on 24 carries with touchdown jaunts of 84 and 71 yards in the ’05 OSU game.

At 6’2”, 218 and with sub-4.4 speed, Peterson runs like a gazelle. He began rounding back into form before the end of last season, averaging 156.5 yards and two touchdowns in the last four games, and once again is poised to strike.

2005 Stat Line

220 1,108 5.0 84 14 9 50 5.6 11 0

What has to go right: He has to stay healthy. The rebuilt offensive line is going to have to jell in a hurry.

What could go wrong: The biggest stumbling block could come from an external source — the passing performance Notre Dame’s Quinn is likely to stage this year could stunt Peterson’s heroics, no matter how amazing, in the eyes of the voters.

Prognosis: Three years ago, Peterson was the consensus High School Player of the Year. Two years ago, he was the Heisman Trophy runner-up as a true freshman, an unheard-of feat. He might have won it last year had his ankle cooperated. Going into 2006, he should be the favorite, or at least one of the top two.