Anyone wondering where all the elite quarterbacks have gone, the answer is they've been crushed by all the elite pass rushers. SMQ has two defensive ends among his top three players this week and two more on the makeshift "watch list."
Much of that rise is due to attrition from the top skill guys, who are dropping like flies due to injury and worse, personified by the utter disappearing acts pulled by Calvin Johnson and Garrett Wolfe, again, in conference games this week. Johnson's performance, or lack thereof, was largely a result of his team's adamant stand against allowing its most dynamic talent to touch the ball (the one time he did, he crushed a defender and still lost four yards), and could almost be looked at as a week off if his teammates hadn't been engaged in the biggest game of their season.
Rare photographic evidence of Calvin Johnson's participation against Clemson
Maxwell Pundit Ballot, Week Eight
1a. LaMarr Woodley Hybrid of Mass Destruction, Michigan
Had two more sacks Saturday, another forced fumble. More than the nation's best pass rusher, but the most consistently disruptive force on probably the nation's best defense - and almost indisputably its finest front seven - to date. Alan Branch, if you're wondering, is the "Unmovable Object" in the impending apocalyptic collision with...
1b. Troy Smith Irresistible Force, Ohio State
Up to now, SMQ has been able to delay the inevitable with Peterson, Wolfe, Johnson, laud their achievements in the absence of surrounding talent anywhere approaching Ohio State's, while plausibly resisting the notion that Troy Smith is The Only Conceivable Most Outstanding Player. But after a weekend in which the performance of one of those frontrunners was limited to beslinged clapping and of the other two were only rumors, it's only SMQ's most curmudgeonly instincts separating 2006's rolling, reigning Golden Child from his own top spot. One mediocre effort against Penn State, in the rain, in which his team still won and he was momentarily unhinged for one of the plays of the year, is too light a blemish; Smith's thrown multiple scores with no picks in every other game, which is again the itinerary vs. three of the Big Ten's very poorest defenses en route to the Game of the Century of the Century.
3. Gaines Adams DE, Clemson
The preseason overrating of Video Gaines as a "99" was one of NCAA Football's greatest projections - he has not only a sack in six straight games and the spectacular rush-strip-swat-catch-run that comprised Clemson's biggest play of the season, to spark the comeback at Wake Forest, but he was all up in Reggie Ball's grill Saturday (three hurries in addition to one sack, a swatted pass and another tackle for loss) on his team's biggest stage of the season. The running backs are going to understandably get all the Clemson ink, but Adams is the motor of the defensive resurgence.
We're all very impressed, Mr. Adams
4. Brady O'Quinn QB, Notre Dame
Ditto all the drivel applied above to Smith, this time for the one-minute drill and pump fake/mind meld magic at the end of a day of ruthless pummeling. But then, as we know, the consciousness of the Manchurian Candidate knows no adversity when his target is in sight.
5. Dan Mozes Symbol of Unselfish Dominance, West Virginia
Steve Slaton will receive all the accolades elsewhere, but SMQ is holding off the individual in an attack that leads the nation primarily by committee. You say you've got two all-Americans in the same backfield? SMQ says you have a badass offensive line. If Smith can represent the precise cogs of Ohio State's multi-faceted offense, and Woodley can carry the torch for Michigan's impenetrable front seven, four-year starter Mozes can horde the glory for the Mountaineers. On this ballot, at least. Slaton can make his move with big games against Louisville, Rutgers and Pittsburgh.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
Ted Ginn, Jr., WR/KR, Ohio State
Aaron Ross, CB/PR/Liberator of Received Passes, Texas
Patrick Willis, LB, Ole Miss
Mike Hart, RB, Michigan
Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee
Ray Rice, RB, Rutgers
Justin Hickman, DE, UCLA
Mkristo Bruce, DE, Washington State