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Week 14 MaxwellPundit Ballot

Just as the impending end of college football season means that my next BlogPoll ballot will be my last one for the 2006 campaign, so, too, are the MaxwellPundit standings quickly coalescing into their final form.

When I listed the top five players in college football last week, the names I provided were familiar, but my regular solicitation for reader comments garnered thoughtful rejoinders from The Realist regarding James Laurinaitis and from LD concerning the relative merits of Darren McFadden and Ian Johnson. Since I think of myself as the representative of the Dawgosphere among MaxwellPundit voters, I have heeded the wisdom of my fellow weblogging denizens of Bulldog Nation in casting a ballot that begins in a familiar way yet ends quite differently.

Ordinarily, I subscribe to the views on representation expounded by Edmund Burke in Bristol on November 3, 1774, but I make an exception when it comes to representing my constituency in the MaxwellPundit balloting. (Portrait from San Antonio College.)

Here are college football's five best players:

1. Troy Smith (Ohio State): Although it has been 17 days since the Buckeyes played a game, the memory still lingers and Smith's achievements cannot be gainsaid. The Ohio State Q.B. has completed 199 of his 297 pass attempts for 2,507 yards, 30 touchdowns, and five interceptions over the course of the autumn and he has only gotten better as the season has progressed. Smith has thrown four touchdowns in a single outing four times in his last eight games and he has been held without a T.D. pass just once in a dozen contests this fall. Since throwing two picks against Penn State on September 23, Smith has hooked up on 22 touchdown strikes while tossing just a trio of interceptions. In his last game, against mighty Michigan, Smith set season highs for attempts (41), completions (29), and passing yards (316). Maybe he's no Vince Young, but he's still the star quarterback for the country's best team.

2. Darren McFadden (Arkansas): The S.E.C. championship game was the sixth contest this season in which the Razorback tailback was held below 100 rushing yards, but, against some pretty stout Southeastern defenses, McFadden has tallied 1,558 yards on 265 carries, averaging almost 5.9 yards per rush and scoring 14 touchdowns on the ground . . . none of which takes into account the fact that his eight pass attempts in the "wildcat" formation have yielded six completions and a trio of touchdowns, giving him a 249.35 pass efficiency rating (which is, like, good, or something). There may be no player in the league more crucial to his team's success than McFadden, whose overall contributions to the Arkansas offense I can no longer overlook.

No. 5 is No. 2. Happy now? (Photograph from The Razorback Legacy.)

3. LaMarr Woodley (Michigan): In spite of the sweeping changes to my MaxwellPundit ballot this week, I couldn't eliminate the defensive players altogether, so I had to go with the best of the best. The Realist convinced me that Laurinaitis was overrated, the Gator D as a whole is more than the sum of its particular parts, and you can stick a fork in Patrick Willis's season because it is done . . . so that left the Wolverines' all-everything defensive end. When you're the best player on the nation's top run defense, you get my vote.

4. Colt Brennan (Hawaii): The Warriors' signal-caller has been touted by Sunday Morning Quarterback and I finally have overcome my East Coast bias long enough to look at Brennan's numbers, which are gaudy even by W.A.C. standards. Over the course of a 13-game regular season, Brennan has connected on 373 of his 517 throws for 4,990 yards, 53 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. No, those are not typographical errors. Of course, those numbers are purely the result of sorry defensive play in a mid-major conference, right? Actually, not so much. Against the Pac-10's Oregon State Beavers, Brennan went 37 of 50 for 401 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks. Against the Big Ten's Purdue Boilermakers, Brennan went 33 of 48 for 434 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Against the S.E.C.'s Alabama Crimson Tide, Brennan went 30 of 44 for 350 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Convinced yet? I am; not only is Brennan taking aim at the record for T.D. passes in a single season, but he's shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang, bang, he is the Warrior.

Colt's 2006 season for Hawaii has been the best performance by any Brennan since his grandfather portrayed Stumpy in "Rio Bravo." (Photograph from

5. Ian Johnson (Boise State): No, he's not as good as Darren McFadden, but the Bronco running back's ability simply cannot be denied. Johnson has gained 1,613 rushing yards on 253 carries, averaging over six yards per carry and tallying 24 touchdowns. Although injuries kept him out of the Utah State game, Johnson has gained at least 136 yards in each of his last five outings. I don't care which defenses you're going up against, those are some top five numbers.

This concludes my MaxwellPundit overhaul, with these and other contenders having their respective bowl games left within which to make their closing arguments. If I still have failed to give proper credit to an outstanding player, or if there remains a candidate ranked in my top five who has no business being there, by all means, feel free to let me know in the comments below ere time expires.

Go 'Dawgs!