Some of you may recall that, following the conclusion of the regular season, the Rakes of Mallow (whose final BlogPoll ballot, by the way, closely resembled my own) requested that all MaxwellPundit voters submit a watch list for the award. In my case, these were they:
Ian Johnson (Boise State)
James Laurinaitis (Ohio State)
Darren McFadden (Arkansas)
Reggie Nelson (Florida)
Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma)
Ray Rice (Rutgers)
Steve Slaton (West Virginia)
Troy Smith (Ohio State)
LaMarr Woodley (Michigan)
I agree with The Lawgiver (a 2006 College Football Blogger Award nominee) that the postseason was not kind to many of the frontrunners. Check out these sub-par bowl stat lines:
- On paper, James Laurinaitis didn't have the world's worst game in Glendale; in fact, he had 10 solo tackles, five assists, and a pass breakup to his credit, which surprised me, because I didn't think the Buckeyes made 15 tackles against the Gators all night. Among the many, many Ohio State players whose weaknesses were made plain on Monday evening, though, Laurinaitis tops the list. I've been touting him all year, but I was wrong; he's just plain overrated.
- Gush all you like, but Reggie Nelson tallied all of one assist in a game in which his team throttled the opposition. I mean, he's no Earl Everett.
MaxwellPundit finalist? No way. MarleyPundit finalist? Mos' def'nitely, mon! (Photograph from University of Florida.)
- After missing the last seven games of the regular season, Adrian Peterson amassed only 77 yards on all of 20 carries in the Sooners' Fiesta Bowl loss.
- Troy Smith made good on a whopping four of his 14 attempts for 35 yards, no touchdowns, an interception, and a quarterback rating (35.3) that is actually lower than my age. Remind me again why the Heisman Trophy is awarded before the bowl games?
- LaMarr Woodley had a sack against Southern California, but that was about it . . . not just for Woodley, but for the Wolverines as a team.
It may be unfair, but it remains a fact that, if you lose to a guy named "Booty," you drop in the standings out of sheer shame. (Photograph from Sports Illustrated.)
Who, then, are the top five performers in college football? Here they are, in ascending order from fifth to first:
5. Steve Slaton (West Virginia): All right, so he had a bad day in the Gator Bowl. If Slaton had gained 20 yards on two carries against the last Peach State squad he faced in a bowl game, last year's Sugar Bowl would have gone much like I expected. Give the guy a break, though . . . he had six multi-touchdown games, gained over 100 yards 10 times this season, and racked up rushing totals of 195 yards against Maryland, 203 yards against Marshall, and 215 yards against Pittsburgh. Slaton's 245-carry, 1,733-yard campaign earned him a spot in the final standings.
4. Colt Brennan (Hawaii): Yes, I know . . . it's just the system. Against Arizona State, though, the island gunslinger hooked up on 33 of his 42 tosses, tallying 559 yards through the air and having a five-to-one touchdowns-(plural)-to-interception-(singular) ratio. His Hawaii Bowl quarterback rating was 224.9; when it gets to 225, sell. Over the course of the regular season, Brennan piled up 4,990 yards and threw 53 touchdown passes, as opposed to just 11 picks, and those gaudy numbers were not the result of facing weak competition. Need proof? Against Alabama, Boise State, Nevada, Oregon State, Purdue, and San Jose State, Brennan threw for 2,394 yards, 21 touchdowns, and six interceptions.
In short, I think a lot more highly of Colt Brennan's quarterbacking than I do of William Brennan's jurisprudence.
3. Ian Johnson (Boise State): Against a very solid Oklahoma squad in the Fiesta Bowl, the Bronco tailback averaged only 4.4 yards per carry and his longest run of the day covered 16 yards . . . a feat equaled by B.S.U. Q.B. Jared Zabransky, who has deceptive speed inasmuch as he is slower than he seems. Nevertheless, Johnson turned his 23 carries into 101 crucial yards and a touchdown, figures which do not include the game-winning two-point conversion scamper. In 11 previous outings (Johnson did not play against Utah State), he amassed 1,613 yards and 24 touchdowns on 253 carries. On top of which, the dude proposed to a cheerleader after the Fiesta Bowl, which counts for some major style points.
2. Ray Rice (Rutgers): His 46-yard touchdown run against Kansas State sealed the deal, but he tacked on 124 more yards on top of that on his other 23 carries. In the Scarlet Knights' first 12 contests, Rice ran for 1,624 yards and 19 T.D.s, managing to score two or more touchdowns in a single outing on half a dozen occasions while posting a triple-digit rushing total nine times. In his team's two toughest tests, Rice gained 131 yards against Louisville and 129 yards against West Virginia.
Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis was pleased that a Scarlet Knight made it into the top two on the Dawg Sports MaxwellPundit ballot. (Photograph from Ask Men.)
1. Darren McFadden (Arkansas): On New Year's Day, he was distinctly the second-best Razorback tailback, although 19 rushes for 89 yards is far from shameful. Rarely do we see a player of McFadden's speed, power, and versatility, though; in addition to rushing for 1,558 yards in the regular season and in the S.E.C. championship game, he was impressive under center from the Louisiana-Monroe game forward, hitting six of his eight pass attempts for 72 yards, three touchdowns, and one pick. Those numbers are small, but their impact was large and, as someone who was sitting in the upper deck of Sanford Stadium for the 2005 homecoming game, I can tell you firsthand . . . dude is fast.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my final MaxwellPundit ballot of the 2006 season.
Let the official Dawg Sports campaign to champion Matthew Stafford's 2007 MaxwellPundit candidacy begin in earnest!