It is time once again to submit my weekly Maxwell Pundit ballot. The lineup has changed completely since last week and the actual Heisman Trophy frontrunner made the list this time, although he was not the top quarterback of the week.
Based upon this past weekend's performances, here are the student-athletes who, in my estimation, are the college football players of the week:
1. Rudy Carpenter (Arizona State): The Sun Devil signal-caller ascended to the starting spot after considerable soul-searching by his coach and an ugly break between the program and his predecessor, but Carpenter has filled the void capably. Against Nevada, he threw 26 passes and connected on 17 of them, mirroring exactly the total attempts and completions tallied by Troy Smith against Texas . . . but Carpenter went for 333 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception in A.S.U.'s victory.
No, not that dadgum Rudy!
2. Ian Johnson (Boise State): If you're like me, you tend to think of B.S.U. as a team with a high-octane passing attack, but, on Thursday night, the Broncos were reliant upon the ground game. Johnson carried the ball 22 times for 240 yards and scored five touchdowns. That's impressive work, particularly when you play for a team from a non-B.C.S. league and you're going up against a team from a neighboring major conference.
3. Brady Quinn (Notre Dame): I don't care much for the male-model-turned-system-quarterback with the Neanderthal brother-in-law, but I have to give the mighty Quinn his due, as a man named Brady hit his intended target 25 times in 36 tries, covering 287 yards of real estate and garnering a trio of touchdowns to zero interceptions. Against Penn State, that ain't bad.
4. James Laurinaitis (Ohio State): While much attention deservedly will be paid to Troy Smith's 269-yard, two-touchdown performance in Austin, we should not forget that the Buckeyes' previously suspect defense primarily was responsible for the win that put O.S.U. in the driver's seat for the national championship. No Ohio State player performed more capably than Laurinaitis, as the Buckeye linebacker recorded 13 tackles (including 10 solo tackles and a tackle for a loss), forced a pair of fumbles, and had a pass breakup and an interception, the latter of which he returned for 25 yards.
Texas, which had scored 40 or more points in each of its last 12 games, was held to a touchdown, and you thought I was going to focus on the Ohio State offense? (Photograph from OhioStateJersey.net.)
5. Jeff Smith (Boston College): With a trio of offensive players securing the top three spots, I had to find a way to work in another defensive or special teams player, didn't I? Enter B.C.'s Smith, whose five kickoff returns for 213 yards (including a momentum-changing 96-yard touchdown runback) made the difference in the Eagles' overtime victory over Clemson.
Last week, Matthew Stafford didn't make the top five, but he did receive an honorable mention, as he does again this week. The evolution of Georgia's rising star at quarterback is an ongoing process in which he is making rapid progress and there is no doubt in my mind that, before the season is done, my fellow Maxwell Pundit voters and I will reach a consensus that Stafford is among the year's five best college football players.
Mark Richt, who has coached two Heisman Trophy-winning signal-callers and the winningest quarterback in Division I-A history, had this to say:
While I think Georgia's defense is making me look good so far, College Football Resource's touting of Stafford is starting to appear prescient, as well, and I am beginning to believe C.F.R. and I may be looking at a win-win scenario where the Bulldogs' up-and-coming signal-caller is concerned.