You don't have to have been a Dawg Sports reader for very long to know that, if it's Tuesday night, that means it's time for me to cast my weekly MaxwellPundit ballot listing my top five nominees to be named the season's best college football player.
Lately, there has been little suspense to this exercise, since my ballot has listed the same five names for four straight weeks, but that all changes tonight as one of the contenders has dropped out of the top five and been replaced by a better candidate who plays the same position for another team.
Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis hopes that the Scarlet Knights' Ray Rice has replaced Boise State's Ian Johnson on the Dawg Sports MaxwellPundit ballot.
If that didn't get your attention, I don't know what will, so, without further fanfare, I present my MaxwellPundit nominees:
1. James Laurinaitis (Ohio State): The Buckeye linebacker once again came up big on Saturday, forcing a fumble on the game's opening possession to spark O.S.U.'s rout of Northwestern and racking up five tackles against the Wildcats. Laurinaitis added the season's third forced fumble to his five interceptions, four sacks, and 91 total tackles, confirming yet again that he is the destructive force at the heart of the defense that allows the fewest points per game in Division I-A. An Ohio State player this good deserves two Escalades.
2. LaMarr Woodley (Michigan): For the second straight week, the Wolverine drive-killing machine put up pretty pedestrian numbers, registering just two tackles and receiving half-credit for a tackle for loss which cost the opposition a single skinny yard, but I suspect that is attributable primarily to opposing offenses doing what they can to neutralize Woodley the way other teams found it necessary to double-team David Pollack, thereby freeing up his teammates to do the hard work of freedom for him. Even after a pair of statistically lackluster outings, the Michigan defensive end has a season-long tally of 25 solo stops, 15.5 tackles for loss covering 123 yards, 11 sacks covering 111 yards, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries covering 54 yards. Simply stated, Woodley sets the pace for the nation's top-ranked rush defense.
There are three ways of stopping a run: Sandmen, Sanctuary, and LaMarr Woodley.
3. Patrick Willis (Ole Miss): The Rebels had the week off last Saturday, yet still no one has been able to overtake the Ole Miss linebacker as the S.E.C.'s leading tackler. In Mississippi's initial 10 outings this autumn, Willis has recorded 112 tackles while playing on a defense that has given up 27 touchdowns on 663 plays . . . which means that, in nearly 18 per cent of all the snaps taken against Ole Miss which did not result in touchdowns, Willis was in on the stop.
4. Brady Quinn (Notre Dame): I've been ranking Ohio State's Troy Smith as the nation's top signal-caller out of sheer muscle memory, but, because I promised to give the Fighting Irish the benefit of the doubt in the midst of the wave of good feelings that followed Georgia's 37-15 thrashing of despised rival Auburn, I decided to give Quinn a look, as well . . . and here is what I found: Smith has thrown for 2,191 yards, 26 touchdowns, and four interceptions in 2006, while the Notre Dame quarterback has passed for 2,786 yards, 29 touchdowns, and four interceptions during the Golden Domers' first 10 outings. Not only are Quinn's season numbers better overall, but the male-model-turned-system-Q.B. has been on a tear since a loss to Michigan that appears increasingly forgivable. In his last seven starts, the man named Brady has thrown 23 touchdown passes and just one pick. In the month of November, the South Bend golden boy has completed 37 of his 54 attempts for 553 yards, eight touchdowns, and no interceptions. I don't care if he does play for Notre Dame, I can't ignore those kinds of numbers, so Quinn has succeeded Smith as the top quarterback on my ballot.
When he's not busy posing for pictures, Brady Quinn actually plays a little quarterback from time to time. (Photograph from Athlon Sports.)
5. Ian Johnson (Boise State): Regrettably, this may be my last opportunity to rank the Bronco tailback among Division I-A's top five players. Johnson has been hospitalized and, as the impressiveness of B.S.U.'s record has waned, Johnson's numbers have declined. His yards per carry have gone down for four straight games and, despite tying a season high with 29 carries, Johnson found the end zone only once against San Jose State. Because of his achievements for the fall overall---222 carries for 1,466 yards and 21 touchdowns---the Boise State running back clings to his spot in the top five, but it ain't looking good for the Broncos' star player.
Those are my top five players, but I want to know whether there's anyone who isn't on my list but ought to be. Who's in your top five? Is there a stellar performer out there whose work I'm overlooking?