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Maxwell Pundit, Week One

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Rating the most outstanding college football player in the nation

SMQ's initial ballot for The Rakes of Mallow's distinguished, dozen-blogger Maxwell Pundit panel features only one member of the actual Maxwell Award Watch List, and two others that do not appear on either that list or the lineup for the Maxwell Football Club's defensive award, the Bednarik.

But, rest assured, forlorn and anonymous warriors: even if they're not watching you at White Marsh Valley Country Club, we are here at Maxwell Pundit.

SMQ tried to stick closely to players who actually amazed his cynical sensibilities, and not just stat sheet wonders, though this was not possible in all cases.

Week One Ballot
1. Buster Davis MLB, Florida State
SMQ is proud now to have mentioned this potbellied monster as an unheralded gem even before last season, when he was again overshadowed by the svelte and felonious combo of A.J. Nicholson and Ernie Sims, and was justified when Davis' hustle and bone-rattling tackling jumped off the screen about a dozen times Monday night. Was everywhere, and in superbly ill temper.

2. Kenny Irons RB, Auburn
The only part of the Auburn-Wazzu game SMQ actually watched was a long WSU touchdown pass to a tight end from a backup quarterback with the game basically out of hand. Far be it for him to deny Irons, though, who by then had smashed his way to 183 yards and a touchdown on an ungodly 9.2 per carry average, and had 40 yards receiving on top of it. Washington State's defense is a sorry collection, for sure, but not that sorry.

3. Arron Sears OT, Tennessee
Erik Ainge was a composed, veteran leader against Cal, putting up the nation's best pass efficiency rating despite being intercepted once, rather than the indecisive paranoiac on display most of 2005, a transformation for which the offensive line deserves much the on-field credit (measuring the off-field contributions of one David Cutcliffe is a more slippery venture). The front five shut Cal out on sacks and gave up just one hurry while rolling over a touted, veteran front seven for 216 total rushing yards on more than five yards per carry. Three different Vol rushers topped 50 yards. Symbolically, SMQ recognizes the line's best player, Sears, who led the way to daylight on a number of pulls.

4. Glenn Sharpe CB, Miami
Gave up at least half a foot to Greg Carr Monday, and was consistently perfect in positioning and timing to overcome the difference. Florida State's unwillingness and/or inability to either a) block Miami's front four by itself or b) provide Drew Weatherford more than half a second to throw against a blitz meant FSU's offense was reduced to near-blind tosses in the general vicinity of Carr and DeCody Fagg (ha ha!) , the former of whom made exactly one catch, of a ghastly 11-yard underthrow on the sideline, against Sharpe. The pass rush from hell is many times more difficult without such reliable man coverage behind it.

5. Robert Meachem WR, Tennessee
Two players from the same unit at the same school may seem like overkill, especially when a third also gets an honorable mention (see below), but such are the rewards of delivering the most impressive victory of opening weekend. Plus no UT defenders particularly stood out as individuals, and Brady Quinn was just OK. Like his quarterback, Meachem was an instant starter whose promise seemed to bite the dust as a sophomore, but his two touchdowns Saturday matched his season total from last year, and his 182 yards was close to half of his '05 tally. That besides the generally demoralizing effects of a 36.4 per catch average over five grabs, and the repeated sight of a 6-foot-3, orange gazelle loping freely through the secondary.

Yes, Robert, you are good, but, unlike SMQ, the Maxwell Football Club was not even watching.

Honorable Mention
Quentin Culberson, MLB, Mississippi State
Adrian Peterson RB, Oklahoma
Troy Smith QB, Ohio State
Erik Ainge QB, Tennessee
Garrett Wolfe RB, Northern Illinois