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Maxwell Pundit, Week Nine: Get Defensive!

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SMQ feels like Stretch Armstrong with his reaching ability at the bottom of this week's Maxwell Pundit offering, which is entirely devoid of running backs, but for a single nod to Steve Slaton in the `Honorable Mention' category for his heroics in massive lanes against hypothetical defenders. Can't Adrian Peterson make an appearance, for old times' sake? His numbers remain as formidable as any.

Rule 3-2-5-e, perhaps, is to blame for the dearth of gluttonous offense outside of crazed passing attacks in remote Western lands, and for the heavy emphasis on defense in this season's stat sheets. It's certainly not reducing sack totals: almost twice as many players are averaging at least one sack per game in 2006 (nine) as in 2005 (five). Which can still change. Because change, you can be certain, is still the name of the Maxwell game.

Maxwell Pundit Ballot, Week Nine
1. LaMarr Woodley Hybrid of Mass Destruction, Michigan
Six sacks, three forced fumbles in three weeks. Anchor of the nation's most unmovable, impenetrable front seven, etc. - the Wolverines are allowing 28 yards rushing per game, which is what Stanford allows per carry. Moves into sole possession of first place after sharing with Troy Smith last week for mostly thematic purposes for another two-sack, fumble-causing performance, in which Woodley had another tackle for loss on top of the sacks and his unit held Northwestern to minus-13 yards rushing [heh heh: his unit. He is good! - ed. Well, not that good.]

Tyrell Sutton, at least, can agree with Woodley at No. 1

2. Troy Smith Irresistible Force, Ohio State
tOSU message boards will eviscerate SMQ for writing this, and that's fine: some pundit this week, probably on the radio, called Troy Smith "this year's version of Vince Young in terms of his play-making ability," and SMQ just about flipped. Vince Young had 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing in a single season, an accomplishment no other player has remotely approached, en route to leading a very good team to a championship it could have never won without him. Young was one of the most unstoppable, dynamic playmakers of the past two decades, on an entirely different level athletically, who made plays no other player could make. Smith as "Most Outstanding Player" reminds SMQ of Jason White, Eric Crouch or Charlie Ward in the same role: good athlete on a team full of weapons, makes the occasional play and mainly doesn't screw it all up (Smith's main attribute is his TD-INT ratio, which stands at 22-2 because he hasn't thrown any picks outside the two he tossed in by far his worst game, against Penn State). He may be a better athlete than he's had reason to show, and he can't be denied - he is very, very high on this list, after all - but Smith also seems right now every bit the system player in an offense more content to grind it out with its running backs. Maybe the close-to-the-vest nature of these easy victories has prevented his true, dominant nature to manifest its nature despite few opportunities for better than mediocre stats; there is still plenty of time, of course, to change that, especially against Michigan, which will be his and his team's litmus test. But even a win there won't be enough in itself in SMQ's mind - i.e., if the Buckeyes win something like 9-6 - unless Smith demonstrates some evidence another very good quarterback couldn't have pulled off the same thing with this team.

3. Dan Mozes Symbol of Unselfish Dominance, West Virginia
Another "system" guy, of a completely different variety: the Mountaineers continue to roll over opponents with the number one rushing offense in the nation, its yards coming from a variety of sources. The common factor is the line, whose motor is four-year starter and Outland/Rimington/Lombardi semifinalist Mozes. If the Mountaineers run wild Thursday at Louisville, the line is the reason.

4. Patrick Willis LB, Ole Miss
Certainly has a stranglehold for the season's Cutler Memorial Pity Award, given to the best player on the worst team. Mayor Kyle's had Willis on his list for most of the year in recognition of his tackle total, currently at second in the nation, but Willis wouldn't be considered here if SMQ hadn't seen him improbably stuff Kenneth Darby on a crucial fourth-and-one a few weeks ago and hawk down Darren McFadden in the open field for a three-yard-gain on what looked like an easy to-the-races play the week after that. He had 11 ½ tackles in that game and 12 against Auburn. Always, always around the ball.

Also once played with a badass club on his hand

5. Aaron Ross CB/PR, Texas
It's hard to advance a player from a secondary that just allowed more than 500 yards passing, especially a player highlighted a week earlier blowing a coverage that almost cost his team the game. Yet Ross redeemed himself by forcing a fumble what looked like an icing first down for Nebraska, and came back against Texas Tech with three swatted passes and a fumble recovery. Has stopped returning punts, but had a touchdown there earlier in the season and the clinching fumble return against Oklahoma. Makes a lot of plays.

Honorable Mention
In no particular order...

Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
Steve Slaton, RB, West Virginia
Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson
Ameer Ismail, LB, Western Michigan (Scoff if you must. But the guy's the Garrett Wolfe of insane defensive numbers: 18 ½ tackles, 9 sacks, 1 touchdown in two weeks. National leader in sacks and tackles for loss.)
Victor Abiamiri, DE, Notre Dame
Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame
John Beck, QB, BYU
Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii
Erik Ainge, QB, Tennessee
Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee
Daymeion Hughes, CB, California
Justin Hickman, DE, UCLA