I did not make this headline up
So. What seems clear disappears into a heap of confusion as the season clatters to a halt. Troy Smith bites the dust against Florida. Darren McFadden goes meekly against Wisconsin. Slaton's fumbles still haunt WVU, and it's not like I was voting for Brady Quinn anyway but good God the NFL has to perk up to these performances sooner or later, yes/no?
Jumble jumble. So who was the best player in the country? Hell if I know. Candidates in no particular order:
PRO: Indisputably best defensive back in the country no matter what the Thorpe people think. Crusher who mixed highlight reel hits with actual interceptions (and interceptions caused either directly or indirectly). Leader of a secondary that plain annihilated Heisman winner Troy Smith. Possesses kickin' dreads.
CON: Is a safety, and not one of those run-supporting terrors that rack up a lot of tackles. Statistically thin: 6 INTs, 34 tackles, 2 TFL. (Noted that the INTs are not thin.)
PRO: Man-mountain defensive tackle was the real motive force behind the Michigan defense all year and can't be blamed for its secondary-based implosion. One of the few Michigan defenders to show well in games against OSU (two turnovers and can't be charged with any of the damage done) and USC (key in limiting USC's run game when they bothered with it). Featured abandoning the carcass of Anthony Morelli in one of the year's iconic images. Guaranteed top ten NFL draft pick, which is not what the award is about but is an indicator of his talent at a position the layman finds hard to judge.
CON: Like Nelson, plays at a position that is not looked upon kindly by statistics. Unlike Nelson, plays on a defense that was scalded in two consecutive losses at year's end.
PRO: Is Calvin Johnson.
CON: Erased in several critical GT games this year, whether it was by opposing defenses or Reggie Ball.
PRO: Few players can claim to have the sort of transformative effect on a program that McFadden did this year upon the Razorbacks. Houston Nutt was headed for unemployment at the beginning of the year after a crushing at the hands of USC followed up by limp and fortunate wins over SEC dregs Vanderbilt and Alabama. A nooner versus #2 Auburn on CBS loomed as the first step on a downward spiral that would end in a game versus a Sun Belt foe. Then -- poof -- like that, he's gone. McFadden went Keyser Soze on the Auburn defense, staked Arkansas to a lead and they didn't look back until they ran straight into vastly superior opposition in LSU and Florida. Before the ride was over McFadden had taken the Razorbacks to the SEC championship game and a New Year's Day bowl despite playing on a team with -- and I want to make this very clear -- not even the barest hint of a functional quarterback. Also was bestowed with the year's coolest nickname: "Humanity Advanced."
CON: He was bottled up and watched his team lose the aforementioned SEC championship game and New Year's Day bowl.
PRO: Is also Calvin Johnson, basically.
CON: Missed significant chunk of the year with an injury. Of no use in MNC-shattering loss to UCLA.
PRO: A defensive tackle who throws the ball willy-nilly all over the field and to extraordinary effect. Fastest waddler in history of college football. Culpepperian/Lorenzenian dimensions always good for a laugh/wonder.
CON: Singlehandedly responsible for most of LSU's turnovers against Florida and thus actively lost his team's most important game of the season. Other players with resume flaws were usually neutralized.
...but seriously, folks...
1. Reggie Nelson, Florida. I will admit to the possibility that I have been seduced by extracurriculars that have little impact on his play on the field (Orson's mancrush, his ability to fill the disappointing shoes of the last guy who looked like the Predator, Omar Jacobs, with bone-mangling authority befitting the hairstyle -- which should now be passed on to sufficiently badass Florida safeties until the stars grow cold and dim, like the #1 finds its way onto the shoulders of Michigan receivers). But six interceptions and a convincing case from various announcers during Florida games that a fair number of the rest of Florida's staggering total of 21 picks were caused either directly or indirectly by Nelson make a convincing case outside of personal biases. Florida was fourth in pass efficiency difference in a year when knowledgeable Florida fans were downright panicking about everyone other than Nelson in the secondary.
Plus... you know you're dealing with some sort of eccentric football genius if you've ever watched the guy line up 15 yards deep presnap. Who does that? Who aligns themself like that and singlehandedly removes the deep pass from every opponent? A cover-two in one body, I give you Reggie Nelson.
2. Alan Branch, Michigan. The one benefit of Smith performing so miserably and OSU losing so heavily -- other than schadenfreude and a sudden thinning of the OSU troll horde in the comments and the crowd shots of OSU fans late in the MNC game and... let's start over.
One of the many benefits of Troy Smith performing so miserably and OSU losing so heavily in the national championship game is it allows me to vote for defensive players with a clear conscience, which I must confess was always my hope. For a long time it looked as if my MaxwellPundit ballot would be indistinguishable from that of an addled Heisman voter who only acknowledges that players exist on one side of the ball. Not so in the wake of Smith's sudden (and severe) mortality.
So here goeth Branch, which may be homerism of a sort, but all I can say is that I've watched every snap he's played this year and good God. Michigan returns Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson, two very promising players who were outstanding as mere sophomores this year, but Branch is a once-in-a-generation talent for the Michigan program. But, really, this is the reason:
For ten games this year the story was the Michigan defense, and though it came crashing down around him Branch remained steadfast in the middle.
3. Darren McFadden, Arkansas. Sheer improbability counts for something. Earns major style points for the Wildcat stuff. Featured in one of the year's turning point plays; threw touchdowns when too bored to run them in himself; arose and dragged Arkansas through the muck. This year's Atlas, and next year's, too, if Mustain doesn't improve quickly. Bonus points for nickname and tendency to zip into endzones.
4. Troy Smith, Ohio State. Hideous failure slides him way down. What do you do with this guy? He was magnificent when called upon, aside from that Penn State game, -- and even then he turned in one of the year's most memorable plays -- until the final hurdle, when he almost literally could not have played worse. There is much crowing about speed and pressure and blah blah from slack-jawed yokel country, but from this observer's perspective the only speed deficiency suddenly apparent in the Not Fiesta bowl existed in Smith's synapses. Particularly inexcusable was the final nail in OSU's coffin where he held onto the ball far, far too long, allowing Jarvis Moss to rattle it free from behind.
I still can't shake the terror that bastard engenders in me, though, so on the list he s tays.
5. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech. Pure sentiment, I'll admit, the equivalent of a Heisman voter slapping a token defender third on his ballot or that guy who voted for an Alabama punter one year. What could have been if Johnson had not saddled himself with -- and I submit that this is no exaggeration -- the worst four-year starting quarterback in NCAA history? No one knows.
Viva la defense!
The Heisenblog has all college commits and players helpfully listed. I distill further:
23 PACIORETTY, MAX USHL SIOUX CITY 20-Nov-88 6' 1.5" 203 * LW L
68 PALUSHAJ, AARON USHL DES MOINES 7-Sep-89 5' 11" 170 * RW R
89 WINNETT, BEN BCHL SALMON ARM 3-Apr-89 5' 11.75" 173 * LW R
90 LLEWELLYN, TRISTIN USHL TRI-CITY 2-May-89 6' 1" 189 * D L
124 RUST, MATT USDP USA U-18 23-Mar-89 5' 9.5" 192 * C L
152 CAPORUSSO, LOUIE OPJRA ST. MICHAELS 21-Jun-89 5' 9.25" 185 * C L
(Note that D commit Kevin Quick was a third-rounder last year and G commit Bryan Hogan is ranked #14 amongst goalies.)
Now, these are all "NA" rankings. The CSB holds North American Skaters separate from Euros until their final rankings, so mentally shove everyone down a few rounds. Pacioretty is probably a second-rounder. Palushaj fourth, Winnett and Llewellyn fifth or sixth, and Rust and Caporusso will either go at the tail end of the draft or not at all.
Note: if you see last week's poll it's a cache thing, I think. Refresh should cure it.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Four voters bail and swim to the flatly indefensible idea of Boise State, national champions. Don't take my word for it: SMQ demolished blue-turfed hopes yesterday. Defectors from the cause of sense and sensibility:
- Card Chronicle
- Pitch Right
- The Nittany Notebook
- 50-Yard Lion.
Penn State loves them some contrarianism or hates them some Urban Meyer, take your pick. Despite said aberrations, Florida is your 2006 Blogpoll Champion.
Grating: Wisconsin over Michigan, as there's little doubt Wisconsin's record would also feature two losses had they bothered to play Ohio State; add in the matter of Michigan's two-touchdown victory over the Badgers in the Big Ten opener and that ranking smacks of rote AP-ism. Bad voters.
Risers: Cal was your biggest winner, up six after blowing A&M into ag nuggets in the Holiday Bowl. Boise shot up to #4 after Fiesta Del Johnson.
Fallers: Though oddly forgiving of Ohio State's thorough beating in a bowl game because their offensive line decided they couldn't block, voters hammered Michigan six spots. Notre Dame's thorough beating for similar reasons -- sensing a midwestern trend here -- similarly cost them six spots. But the biggest dropper was Tennessee, down eight to #25 after losing to Penn State.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is 50-Yard Lion, one of our Boise fans. Other anomalies: Hawaii #16, Texas #20, Arkansas #22, BYU #10, TCU #14. Mid-major mad is 50YL.
Mr. Numb Existence Is Maize 'n' Brew; in case anyone is wondering that 0.75 is extraordinarily low. But you weren't so nevermind.
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
Straight Bangin' Award is Rocky Top Talk's for excluding Tennessee from his ballot. Since Tennessee is #25 in the poll at large, this can be safely filed under "sane" and we can move on.
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic-Depressive goes to Orange 44, and it's fairly easy to see why: WOOOOO BOISE STATE, up 18(!) to #2. The rest of the ballot follows in that vein.
Mr. Stubborn is the 614, an Ohio State blog who probably wishes it was still last week and his ballot reflects that.
Warning: if you like pot way too much stop reading right now before it's too la--
Duuuude. Freaky. I am your duly appointed nomination representative for the following awards.
The Trev Alberts Quits To Do Construction Award
(AKA "The Award Winner For Winning The Most Clumsily Named Award Category Winner Award Award," AKA "The Trev")
FOR: The funniest blog.
(Wait... where am I? This is bullcrap! This is just like the BCS.)
Best New Blog
FOR: The best blog started within the past year.
- Card Chronicle
- Fire Mark May
- Conquest Chronicles
- Saurian Sagacity
- Corn From A Jar
- Double Extra Point
Best Podcast/Audio Thing
FOR: A somewhat abstract category, this is either for the best (semi-) regularly produced college football podcast or the single best piece of audio put out by the college football blogosphere during the year.
- Lee Corso Slo Jam, Every Day Should Be Saturday
- The Orgeron Song, Verno's Blog
- Michael Lewis Interview, Every Day Should Be Saturday
- In The Bleachers, In The Bleachers
- Midwestcoast Bias, Midwestcoast Bias
- The Double A Zone
- Friday Night Lites, The House Rock Built
Note that the first three are individual things; the latter four regular podcasts.
Best MSM Blog
FOR: The best blog rocked by an Official Journalist. For the purposes of this category, "Official Journalist" is anyone blogging in said capacity at either a newspaper website or one of the big internet sites like SI.com or ESPN.com; Official Journalists with indie side projects go elsewhere.
Hurray those are the nominees hurray.
Peter Bean has the next batch of soon to be incredibly rich and famous nominated bloggers over at Burnt Orange Nation. He'll post his list around 1 PM.
Unfortunately... ballots were due like an hour ago so no revisions this time. But here.
Poll coming ASAP.
Update 1/9: Removed a fair number of commitments to other schools. Moved CA CB/S Michael Williams to committed. Added NBC's US Army Bowl "highlights" which are less highlights and more "every play." Michael Williams features intermittently, but they're under Mallett (and here: first quarter second quarter third quarter fourth quarter). You'll have to watch Mustachioed Non-Heisman Winner plug Sprint four times, but you can also get in the entire game in like 25 or 30 minutes, which is way less creepy and pedophiliac than watching it live. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself. Game fallout: guy who looks like he walked right off the 1988 World Series of Poker set and into the Texarkana Gazette goes OMG Mallett; GBW gushes; ESPN says that Mallett is at least Clausen's equal($) but they aren't "in love" with any of this year's quarterback class -- they still lifted him from #54 to #12, though.
Meanwhile, three Michigan commits -- WR Toney Clemons, S Jerimy Finch, and C David Molk -- featured in another game that no one saw because it was on ESPNU. Scout has a recap. Sounds like Molk did well; Finch has been shooting up Rivals' -- the lone dissenter on his awesome talent -- board for a while now. He's #30 with a bullet in their latest top 100.
Linked to article on NC DE Kourtnei Brown.
Editorial Opinon: I missed the Army Bowl, which I plain forgot was on, but NBC's extremely helpful video clips above are the entire game compressed into about 25 minutes, so I saw the Mallett exhibition. And... like... damn. He was ponderous on the one designed run they had, but he's ginorbous so that's okay. Most impressive to me were a couple of plays outside the pocket late in the third. One was a waggle bullet put right in his receivers' numbers well downfield, and the second was a similar rollout, only this time Mallet evaded two unblocked defenders smoothly and rifled a ball in-between a couple of defenders. There were also a couple sweet seams, but Clausen and a couple of the harried East quarterbacks found similar success looking for that route so I lean towards coverage restrictions making that a money play in this particular All-Star format.
MGoBlog philosophy on All Star games is this: chemistry and odd rules issues make a poor performance excusable -- dismiss mucho-hyped recruits based on half a game's worth of snaps at your peril -- but there are generally a few players in each game who jump out and establish themselves as no-doubt stars. Witness Justin Boren's roadgrading a year ago, Desean Jackson's explosive performance two years back, etc etc. To me, three guys leapt off the screen: USC commits Everson Griffen and Chris Galippo plus Mallett. Extremely encouraging.
Williams didn't see much action aside from acting as the punt and kickoff returner for the West. He had a couple decent returns but didn't look like a monster threat. At defensive back, he wasn't tested and it's impossible to know if he A) didn't play much, B) covered scrub-ish WRs, or C) was good enough in coverage that QBs shied away from him. Anyone with a more comprehensive opinion on Williams' game is welcome to post it in the comments.
No one saw that other All Star game, but some general impressions from, er, the impressions I've seen:
- Toney Clemons looks like a future star, emphasis on "looks." Raw as hell at the moment, so raw you might want to spell that hell "hail" and put it in italics, mentally.
- Molk is still short but a good pickup anyway. From the above-linked GBW recap:
David Molk really impressed in this All-Star game with his blocking ability and his athleticism. The East's Head Coach, Don Soldinger, when asked who the best player on the team was said -- David Molk. He possibly could be the most athletic offensive center Michigan has had in a very long time. He gets under the pads of the defensive player and drives him down the field and then he searches out the linebacker to block.
Discount for standard GBW-OMG-hype but still something in the plus column for Molk.
Many commits elsewhere. I think the only one I was holding out much hope for was Lorenzo Edwards, who ended up at Florida. That may have been presaged by some MGoBlog commenters who made it clear that majoring in architecture and playing football were not compatible endeavors at Michigan.
The Stretch: Michigan now has 20 commitments and can hypothetically take five more (or even more if they're willing to bend/stretch stuff, but that seems unlikely). Guys remaining we have a shot at:
- TN WR Rashad Mason. Proverbially "blew up" after his senior year. A true sleeper who lost his junior year to a severe car accident. Mason's a 6'6" leaper whose senior film got him offers from a bunch of places. Has set up visits to M, UCLA, and a few SEC schools. Decent shot and this is a recruit Michigan wants badly, stars or no, given the 3 or 4 wideouts already committed in this class.
- MI CB Ronald Johnson. The most shirtless of all corner recruits this year. Widely proclaimed to be a Michigan lock since his name started circulating over a year ago, but we all saw what happened with Dionte Allen. Not a stretch to say that a class with him in it is a success (albeit still slightly disappointing) and one without him is a failure. If any recruit is a must-get, it's him.
- OH LB Jermale Hines. Glenville linebacker now has an OSU offer. Not coming.
- CA CB Donovan Warren. Down to Michigan and various California schools. Not USC would be a shock.
- IN DT Jeff Boyd. Marginal Michigan recruit. Committed to KY but looking around. Teammate of Finch.
- NC DE Kourtnei Brown. Alabama soft commit that will likely firm up his verbal now that Alabama finally has a coach. Says he will decide on signing day between Michigan and a wide array of southern teams. Highly improbable.
- NY OT John Elliot. High profile tackle down to four schools with the instability at BC. All are academically good: Rutgers, UVA, Michigan, etc. Doubtful he comes but not impossible.
- MO OT Donald Stephenson. Three-star OT, Kansas decommit who is visiting. Competition is various Big Twelve schools. Maybe?
Realistically there are two-ish commitments on that list, so Michigan might go scouring for Engelmons as signing day approaches if it has some pending transfers or guys that are not returning for a fifth year and thus surplus scholarships.