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In Defense of Defense

This week's Maxwell Pundit results are up at Rakes of Mallow and the head Rake, C.W., offered a valid criticism requiring a response.

Kristin Davis (left) is amazed at the glaring omission from my Maxwell Pundit ballot.

Writes C.W. of Troy Smith:

A near unanimous number one, as everyone voted him in the top two save for DawgSports, which may require some sort of ballot investigation despite naming Smith's defensive counterpart.

C.W.'s point is perfectly reasonable and there has already been a voting brouhaha between Notre Dame fans and non-Notre Dame fans this week, so I would like to pre-empt a potential controversy by offering a word of explanation.

When casting my ballot for James Laurinaitis, I had this to say:

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.

As I tried to make clear, I take nothing away from Smith and I have no quarrel with those who voted him No. 1. However, as C.W. noted in the beginning, the point of the Maxwell Pundit voting is to identify the best player in college football and not to limit it to quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers the way the Heisman Trophy does.

Gino Torretta : Heisman :: Milli Vanilli : Grammy.

There is only room for five names on my Maxwell Pundit ballot and I believe that the best player on the Buckeyes' defense outperformed the best player on the Buckeyes' offense. Look at it this way . . . if you had known beforehand that Ohio State would score 24 points on Texas, you might still have expected the Longhorns to win a shootout, but, if you had known beforehand that U.T. would be limited to seven points, there would have been no doubt in your mind that the Buckeyes would win.

Smith had an impressive day, but I believe Ohio State's defense won the game. I understand that many observers may disagree and I do not diminish the Buckeye Q.B.'s accomplishment. Nevertheless, I believe a significant portion of the value of the Maxwell Pundit exercise is the opportunity it provides to call attention to players who deserve Heisman Trophy hype but do not receive it.

This is particularly true of marquee players on small market teams (i.e., Boise State's Ian Johnson), defensive players (e.g., Laurinaitis or Florida State's Buster Davis), and kicking game specialists (z.B., Boston College's Jeff Smith).

I am not attempting to skew the voting by inflating the achievements of undeserving candidates; I am attempting to look a little harder to find the right candidates, regardless of whether they have received adequate publicity for their efforts. Troy Smith's attainments will not be overlooked just because he was omitted from my ballot, but, if Dawg Sports can call proper attention to James Laurinaitis's exceptional performance on the field, perhaps the likelihood of reaching a fully informed decision will be heightened.

Defense deserves to be given its due, as well.

It is a young season and the superstars will continue to assert themselves, pushing us toward consensus. In the meantime, though, I saw stellar play from key players in positions not normally afforded the spotlight and I gave them what I feel is their due. I understand C.W.'s legitimate concern, which he expressed reasonably, but I hope I have been able to answer satisfactorily the question he has raised.

In other news:

  • Mark Richt is getting his own Wheaties box . . . and it compares favorably to other coaches' product endorsements.
  • I don't think Burnt Orange Nation intended to start this conversation, but, in the comments following a recent posting, the question has been put forward for the good of the order: "Why explore space?"
  • An early glance at the new BlogPoll reveals that Ohio State, the recipient of 48 of 61 first-place votes, is No. 1. Auburn checks in at No. 3 as one of three teams to be listed in the top spot on four ballots. No. 5 L.S.U., No. 7 Florida, and No. 9 Georgia round out the S.E.C. teams represented in the top 10, with Tennessee dropping to No. 15. Evidently, there is a policy against ranking Southeastern Conference squads in even-numbered positions. Who knew?
Go 'Dawgs!