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Maxwell Pundit, Final Ballot

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On Halloween, SMQ, still futily resisting the Irresistable Force that was Troy Smith, said this of the star quarterback:

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...

Add "Gino Toretta" and "Chris Weinke" to the first sentence and all hail prescient wisdom - like Crouch, White, Weinke and Torretta before him (though not Ward), Smith's deer-in-headlights championship performance mars an outstanding senior season, one perceived as so good at that time, even before his best game against Michigan turned SMQ at last to his side, that an OSU commenter in that post scoffed at the notion his quarterback could be so maligned as merely the second-best player in the nation.

But that was then, and the moment of Maxwell Pundit truth is now:

Final Maxwell Pundit Ballot
1. Calvin Johnson WR/Humanitarian/Inventor/Statesman/Stunt Pilot/Pastry Chef, Georgia Tech
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When in doubt, pick the guy who was occasionally in a different dimension than anyone else on the field and occasionally ignored, but definitively the former the instant the maddening Reggie Ball qualifier removed himself from the situation. And who helped design, build and implement a solar-powered latrine system for destitute Bolivians in the Andes.

There are two great knocks against Johnson: his o-fer at Clemson and a minor (3 touches, 23 yards, no scores) performance at Georgia, both damaging Tech losses. The latter can't even be blamed on Ball, exactly, who at least attempted to get his receiver involved, though in typically erratic fashion. But Johnson's not considered the best player in April's draft for disappearing in big games: 7 for 111 and a touchdown against Notre Dame, 6 for 165 and two touchdows at Virginia Tech, 10 for 133 and a touchdown against Maryland, 5 for 68 and a touchdown against Miami, 8 for 117 in the misfire-heavy ACC Championship Game that should stand in companion with the UGA game a week earlier as the piece d'resistance of Ball's inaccurate reign, 9 for 186 and two touchdowns sans that albatross in the Gator Bowl. Also thoroughly dominated NC State and Virginia. But then, not all production is created equal, anyway, when it looks like this.

Better than you will ever be in every way.
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2. Colt Brennan QB, Hawaii
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Played in the WAC. So throw out about half of his overwhelming stats. Here's the other half, against winning teams (all but Alabama at least eight-game winners):

Opponent Pass D Rank Att. Comps. Comp. % Yards Per Att. TD INT
at Alabama 38 44 30 68.1 350 7.95 2 1
at Boise State 30 36 25 69.4 388 10.78 5 1
Nevada 48 47 36 76.6 419 8.92 4 0
San Jose State 67 39 28 71.8 402 10.31 5 1
Purdue 81 48 33 68.8 434 9.04 3 1
Oregon State 46 50 37 74.0 401 8.02 2 2
Arizona State 71 42 33 78.6 559 13.31 5 1

That's a pretty good non-conference schedule, to say nothing of the cache torching Boise within a touchdown of its undefeated life holds now. But what's astounding about Brennan's numbers is that they're not just the result of throwing the ball a whole lot - he led the nation in completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percent (attempts per touchdown) and voodoo passer rating, each of which is relative and has nothing to do with the number of times the ball is in the air. Even if it took 14 games against mostly WAC-ky secondaries, setting the single-season touchdown mark is pretty good; one player (Graham Harrell) got within twenty touchdowns, but no closer.

3. Reggie Nelson Perpetuator of Fear, Florida
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Hard-hitting, quarterback/receiver-terrifying, ball-seeking missile par excellence. Quiet championship, though probably not enough has been made of the Gator secondary's contributions to Smith's misery Monday, its blanket coverage at least as much as front seven dominance at the root of several sacks and probably also the throat-stomping strip cum Florida touchdown before half. SMQ was hardly the only person to link to this video last week, but he does it again here to suggest, among other feats therein, the play against Mohammed Massaquoi at 1:42 is among the most impressive in football history by a player who never touches the ball or another player and tells you pretty much all you need to know about the effect Nelson's presence alone could have on opposing offenses.

4a. Darren McFadden RB-Like Substance, Arkansas and
4b. Pat White QB-Like Substance, West Virginia
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Big play sopohomores asked to do a little of everything in their respective offenses, though both were hampered - well, as far as accolades are concerned - by the presence of a teammate (Felix Jones and Steve Slaton, respectively) whose similar exploits contributed to the perception that any decent athlete could succeed in that system/behind that line. McFadden suggests otherwise here; White did it without Slaton for much of the second half at Louisville, when he scored four rushing touchdowns, and in the Gator Bowl win. In Arkansas' "Wildcat" formation, there's not much difference between these two, though White was probably asked to actually make the occasional read on the option look. They probably also throw about equally well in a pinch, but that's only an incidental skill where either is concerned.

Don't even worry about the arm, Pat.
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5. LaMarr Woodley Hybrid of Mass Moderate-to-Severe Destruction, Michigan
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Two facts: its ongoing secondary problems against good wideouts aside, Michigan rebounded from the Ohio State gouging to control USC's ground game and finished by far the best run defense in the nation in terms of yards per game and per carry; and senior leader Woodley was the lynchpin of the unit all season. Had a Big Ten-best 12 solo sacks, including one in the Rose Bowl, and 16.5 tackles for loss, had five multi-sack games, forced four fumbles and scored the icing touchdown on a fumble return at Notre Dame. Represents not only a defense that remains, all in all, one of the best in the country, but also all those defensive end-types (see below) in a banner year for the position.

Honorable Mention
For all intents and purposes, this is the SMQ All-America Team minus offensive linemen, whom SMQ nor any other individual without the benefit of film breakdown has any right to judge individually; his season-long inclusion of West Virginia Dan Mozes as reprentative of the position eventually had to yield to his more spectacular teammates and their damned numbers. Defensive linemen, at least, have statistics to judge, and Jamaal Anderson and Anthony Spencer are specifically included as a result, though SMQ didn't really watch them play. The most regrettable omission from the above list is Dwayne Jarrett, who was consistent save two injury-robbed games and never more spectacular than in USC's biggest games. But Steve Smith actually had more yards and yards per catch and was just as arguably the Trojans' go-to receiver. There a lot of guys here, but in a year dominated by no single player, none deserve to be looked over:

Troy Smith QB, Ohio State
JaMarcus Russell QB, LSU
Brian Brohm QB, Louisville
Steve Slaton RB, West Virginia
Marshawn Lynch RB, California
Ian Johnson RB, Boise State
Dwayne Jarrett WR, Southern Cal
Robert Meachem WR, Tennessee
DeSean Jackson WR/PR, California
Jamaal Anderson DE, Arkansas
Gaines Adams DE, Clemson
Justin Hickman DE, UCLA
Anthony Spencer DE, Purdue
Jarvis Moss DE, Florida
H.B. Blades LB, Pittsburgh
Patrick Willis LB, Ole Miss
Dan Connor LB, Penn State
Michael Griffin S, Texas
Aaron Ross CB, Texas
Daymeion Hughes CB, California