A month into the season, and already the statistic-driven preponderance of offensive skill players has overtaken the nuance of line play on SMQ's list. He didn't watch Alan Branch Saturday, for instance, and without a six-tackle, two-sack game, statistics can't reflect his undoubted dominance in the middle of the nation's best run defense. So he drops. Se la vie, when you play the Maxwell Pundit game.
Maxwell Pundit Ballot, Week Five
1. Garrett Wolfe RB, Northern Illinois
Everybody's scared off by the "Northern Illinois" thing, and the fact his last four games have been against Ohio, Buffalo, Indiana State and Ball State. But he's doing what he's supposed to be doing against those cupcakes: taking huge chunks at will, 9.3 yards at a time, at a pace that will take him well over 2,800 yards in 12 games. In fact, if he stays healthy on his current pace and Northern Illinois plays for the MAC championship and in a bowl game, where stats count these days, Garrett Wolfe will easily eclipse 3,000 yards rushing in one season. That cannot be denied. If he has the same kind of game he had at Ohio State when NIU is at Iowa later this month, the Northern Illinois thing shouldn't matter.
Seriously: 3,304 yards
2. Adrian Peterson Herculean RB, Oklahoma
AP only drops due to the fairly Herculean efforts of Wolfe, not because of the Sooners' off week. His chances pretty much rocket or plummmet against Texas Saturday, when he'll have to be his untacklable freshman self to carry OU anywhere near a win.
3. Calvin Johnson WR, Georgia Tech
Could not ever get the ball enough for SMQ's tastes. Other receivers have better numbers, but Johnson still possesses the title of "player you least want to see on the other side." There's no way to stop him if Reggie Ball is dialed to 'competent,' as he definitely was in the first half at Virginia Tech.
4. Mario Manningham WR, Michigan
Not necessarily the best all-around player Michigan has, but certainly the most dangerous right now. More of a projection based on past unstoppable Wolverine wideouts, territory Mario's moving into early here. Sixteen catches, six touchdowns in three games, entering the Big Ten schedule, will get those kinds of thoughts going.
5. Chris Leak Fleet-footed Scrambler, Florida
Beat Erik Ainge and has more yards and touchdowns than Troy Smith against comparable competition. Now with wheels!
Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State
Dan Mozes, Symbol of Unselfish Dominance, West Virginia
Alan Branch, DL, Michigan
LaMarr Woodley, Hybrid of Mass Destruction, Michigan
Erik Ainge, QB, Tennessee
Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee
Nate Longshore, QB, California
Marshawn Lynch, RB, California