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Week Four MaxwellPundit Ballot

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The weekly MaxwellPundit voting is upon us once more and, for once, I'm trying to avoid making waves.

Sit down, sit down, sit down, you're rocking the boat. (Photograph from

The fine fellows at Rakes of Mallow are administering the voting with efficiency and good humor, but I don't want to be called upon to offer another explanation of my ballot . . . particularly not while I'm biting my tongue to avoid replying to the Rakes' objection to the presumption that the Fighting Irish will lose twice without any accompanying objection to the presumption that Notre Dame will win 10 times and their claim that Georgia deserves less credit for beating Colorado than the Golden Domers do for beating Michigan State.

(Uh, like, does it matter that, in one instance, the 'Dawgs dug deep, came back, and earned the win while, in the other case, Charlie Weis stood around in the rain looking embittered and dumbfounded until the Spartans gave the game away in typical Michigan State fashion? Put another way, shouldn't Georgia get more credit for actually going out and winning than Notre Dame should get merely for happening to be in the stadium when Michigan State lost? Oh, wait . . . I was trying not to rock the boat, wasn't I?)

Quickly, before I cause any more trouble, let me turn to the task at hand and list my picks for the five best players in college football at this juncture:

1. James Laurinaitis (Ohio State): Even when the Buckeyes look sluggish offensively, the O.S.U. defense rises to the occasion . . . and no one more so than Laurinaitis, who has recorded 36 tackles in the Buckeyes' first four games. That includes 19 solo tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a sack, in addition to a trio of interceptions and three forced fumbles. Since Troy Smith looked mortal against Penn State, I don't see any way of getting around the fact that Laurinaitis is the best player on the country's best team.

Usually, when an Ohio State player is this good, he wins the Heisman Trophy, gets picked in the first round of the N.F.L. draft, receives the keys to a free Escalade, dates Laura Quinn, and/or goes to prison. (Photograph from Jill Bonnough and The Lantern.)

2. Ian Johnson (Boise State): Yes, there's another running back on my list, but I'll be getting to him shortly. In the meantime, the Broncos' workhorse has made the most of his 87 carries this autumn, rumbling for 626 yards, nine touchdowns, and an average of 7.2 yards per carry.

3. Nate Longshore (California): After Cal's season-opening debacle in Knoxville, I didn't give the Golden Bears their due, but Longshore has been convincing, connecting on 66 of his 100 pass attempts for 880 yards and 10 touchdown tosses, as opposed to just a trio of interceptions.

4. Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma): I remain unsold on the Sooners, but there is no denying Peterson's talent. Last Saturday, he toted the ball 27 times, gaining 131 yards and reaching the end zone thrice. That performance brought his season tally to 117 carries, 643 yards, and seven touchdowns.

Could it be that Adrian Peterson is even better at Oklahoma than he was at Georgia Southern? (Photograph from The Augusta Chronicle.)

5. Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech): I don't like putting C.J. on this list, for three reasons. First of all, he plays for the Yellow Jackets. Secondly, there's the reason he plays for the Yellow Jackets. Coming out of high school, Johnson was deciding between the two in-state Division I-A programs and he chose Georgia Tech because Georgia had a talented receiving corps and the Golden Tornado didn't. Frankly, it was a gutless call on his part and I don't like rewarding a player who ran away from competition in order to pad his individual legacy. Finally, I got sick and tired of hearing about him on last Thursday night's E.S.P.N. telecast, in which Kirk Herbstreit practically gave the Ramblin' Wreck receiver the Heisman Trophy and the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite all that, though, he did snag six catches last week, scoring a couple of touchdowns and covering 165 yards of real estate. That brought his numbers for the season to 19 receptions, 311 yards, and five T.D.s. Right now, an asterisk accompanies his statistics, as Georgia Tech has yet to play a road game, but he's made the grade . . . for now.

Honorable mention goes to Georgia's Joe Cox, Clemson's James Davis, Colorado's Bernard Jackson, South Carolina's Sidney Rice, and Auburn's Ben Tate, all of whom had stellar Saturdays last weekend, but none of whose season-long numbers earned them a spot in the top five.

Feel free to criticize my choices, offer alternative suggestions, or bash any and all teams that wear gold helmets in the comments below.

Go 'Dawgs!