SMQ's watch list, rather than shrinking as attrition selects for the strong, is growing to massive, untenable proportions at the Maxwell Pundit's midway mark. This week introduces a slew of defensive players whose early stat bounces have held up long enough to earn some legit attention; mainly, this benefits heavy-intercepting DBs, but sack leader Mkristo Bruce of Washington State is also making a rise.
One note: The Gameday crew took a little aside Saturday to slightly praise Garrett Wolfe, currently massacring every recorded pace for rushing yardage, but vehemently deny any person from a MAC school has any chance to win the Heisman. Fine, and they were probably right. Wolfe didn't light up the Leader against Miami of Ohio Sunday night.
Their dismissal is a good example of why the Maxwell Pundit is a righteous populism, if a poorly publicized one: none of the talking heads said the didn't think Wolfe shouldn't win, only that he wouldn't. At least Desmond Howard stood up for the kid's right to be a part of the party; the others dismissed his chances because he played for NIU, playing this off as, "Hey, it's not that I think he shouldn't win..." and reinforcing all of the arbitrary rules and stigmas that make the Heisman such a worthless popularity contest symbolic of some unwritten, esoteric code that automatically excludes a huge majority of "outstanding players" before the process begins, regardless of the play on the field. This is an inherent truth - so much so that any Heisman discussion now is only among a certain, small segment of almost randomly approved candidates - and probably could be proven empirically. This isn't about Garrett Wolfe, but rather the foolishness of this award's singular status.
Opposing defenders, or the record books: Garrett Wolfe's breaking away
Maxwell Pundit Ballot, Week Six
1. Calvin Johnson WR, Georgia Tech
Best statistical game of the season Saturday against Maryland (10 catches, 133 yards, 1 TD), and it occurred exclusively on the scrolling ticker. Was not a major part of the Jackets' rousing fourth quarter comeback in that one, but Johnson has caught at least six passes, scored a touchdown and gone over 100 yards in each of Tech's games against actually competitive competition (Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Maryland) and also had two short touchdown catches against Samford for good measure. This is a wise improvement from last year's games-at-a-time disappearing act, and not coincidental with Tech's sudden ascension in the polls. But we are, again, only halfway through; connecting flights from stitching mittens for the children of Mahendranagar and vaccinating humpback whales off the great barrier reef, too, are notoriously unreliable.
2. Garrett Wolfe RB, Northern Illinois
SMQ watched a bit of Wolfe Sunday night, and his solid final numbers (26 for 169, 2 TDs) belie his importance - or lack thereof - in the NIU offense. The Huskies looked like a pass-first operation against winless Miami, Ohio, and when he did get the ball, Wolfe didn't pass the "eyeball test" he had aced at Ohio State; i.e., he wasn't breaking tackles or earning a lot of extra yardage after contact. Showed some decent burst through a seam on a long second quarter run, though, and still has a game at Iowa to reestablish the "eyeball" factor. If the Huskies can get him 14 games (a MAC championship game and bowl appearance in addition to the twelfth regular season game), he's still on pace to go a nudge over the inconceivable 3,000-yard mark.
3. Adrian Peterson Slightly Chinked Herculean RB, Oklahoma
Hard to be to tough on him because he was running into the teeth of a vicious defense with no periphery threats to take away from him, but Peterson still cracked a hundred, scored a touchdown and let loose with one terrifying kick return that was called back for an illegal block. With no dominant quarterback out there, remains likely the first college player SMQ would pick if he were part of some sort of actual team-building (not an individually, statistic-based "fantasy") draft.
4. DeSean Jackson WR/KR, California
Borrowing Ted Ginn Jr.'s sexy "all-purpose" hat for a while, catching a touchdown in every game (8 altogether) and scorching Arizona State and Oregon for punt return scores. Very, very fast, and not dropping `em as much anymore.
5. Aaron Ross CB/KR, Texas
Last seen getting lapped by Ginn, but has put together a season in which, to date, he's a) snagged four interceptions, two against nemesis Oklahoma, b) returned a "fumble" for a score against the same Oklahoma, c) broken up a national best (including the picks) 12 passes and d) returned a punt for a touchdown. He also has 23 solo tackles, second on the team, which is not necessarily a great thing for a cornerback, who is often doing his job best when most invisible on the stat sheet, but is evidence enough for SMQ that he'll stick his nose into the mix when necessary, and to fill the requisite non-offensive skill player spot.
Symbolize away, young Ross. Symbolize away.
In no particular order...
Mkristo Bruce Sackmeister, Washington State: Ten sacks in six games is impressive; also makes a good number of tackles. SMQ saw him get a sack against USC, but he doesn't make the top five because he also seemed to be routinely handled on most runs.
Reggie Nelson Perpetuator of Fear, Florida: Everything about him screams "duck and cover."
Daymeion Hughes CB, California: Another oft-tackling corner; five interceptions is best of any player in a BCS conference, and has returned two for scores.
Troy Smith QB, Ohio State: You know, just keeping it rollin'.
Tyler Palko QB, Pittsburgh: Has almost as many touchdowns the last three games (7) as incomplete passes (9).
Erik Ainge QB, Tennessee: Flawless second half redeems the not-so-hot game at Florida.
Robert Meachem WR, Tennessee: Worldwide Leader announcers focused on teammate Bret Smith Saturday, but Meachem had an even better night; leads nation in receiving yards per game.
Dan Mozes Symbol of Unselfish Dominance, West Virginia: The Mountaineer run game is more than Steve Slaton, so Mozes gets the symbolic credit as representative of the entire WVU line.
Mario Manningham WR, Michigan: Will probably drop next week, though he rockets back into the top five if he manages to burn anybody on Penn State on a messed up knee.