It's time for our weekly look at the nation's top individual performers, as part of our balloting in the Rakes of Mallow MaxwellAward watch. Candidates are listed in order of rank, with last week's rank listed in parentheses.
1. Garrett Wolfe, RB, Northern Illinois (1) Last week: 31 carries, 353(!!) yards, 3 TDs
Absolutely no way to knock our front runner down a notch after a line like that. Those are video game numbers, kids, and before I hear any "Yeah but it was Ball State" crowing, let me remind you that Indiana and Purdue combined for only 264 yards rushing against the Cardinals. And thatw was on 57 carries. There isn't a better story in college football right now. And we'll be damned if we won't be among the loudest cheerleaders for the little man. Once again: Go, Garrett, Go!
2. Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State (3) Last week: 16-25, 186 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT
The numbers aren't -quite- as silly as Wolfe's, but Smith is proving himself to be college football's best passer by a pretty wide margin. He's just lasered in right now, throwing bullets with laser-guided accuracy, making the Buckeye offense an absolute horror for defenses. You can't give Smith an inch, which means you've got to cede ground to the running game. Which just sucks. Smith's the key, and gets our nod as the nation's top quarterback right now.
3. Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan (2) Last week: 5 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD
It's so, so difficult to put up great numbers as a wide receivers on a consistent basis, in large part because your performance is directly tied into the play- and decision-making of others. Manningham isn't slowing down a bit, though, and enjoys another week of crippling deep ball catches. His outburst is the #1 reason why you have to take Michigan seriously as a contender, offensively speaking. It changes the way defenses have to play Hart and the rest of the gang.
4. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech (SC) Last week: 6 catches, 115 yards, 2 TD
When you watch Johnson make plays, like his long touchdown gallop on Saturday against Virginia Tech, you get the distinct feeling that the man is already playing on Sundays. He'd put Dwayne Jarrett on the bench at Southern Cal. He's just that good.
5. Tyler Palko, QB, Pittsburgh (SC) Last week: 12-15, 172 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Pitt hasn't beaten anyone good, which is why nobody's talking about what Palko's doing, but we're hear to serve notice that the numbers are the best in the country. His passer rating of 191.3 is simply filthy. He'll have to log a great performance or two against some real competition to stay in this conversation, but on a week when Adrian Peterson was off and Chris Leak was "merely" very good, we'll give him some official recognition.
Receiving Serious Consideration
*Chris Leak, Florida Leak probably doesn't deserve to drop out of our top five after Saturday - he was terrific again - but like we said, we wanted to get Palko's name out there. Leak's 40+ scamper, followed by a surprising burst of emotion, was inspiring. I've been meaning to write about this, but the similarities between he and Chris Simms are striking.
*Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma Is it bad karma to not put him in the top five heading into OU hate week? Maybe if you believe in karma, or doubt Texas' defense. As always, his season will be defined by this game. If he repeats his freshman performance, he'll vault to, or near, the top of everyone's list. Lay an egg and he's not gonna win this or the Heisman.
*Ian Johnson, Boise State The Broncos whipped Utah so soundly that Johnson was practically rested. Boise State's got a chance to run the table this season. Johnson's a big reason why.
*Steve Slaton, West Virginia It's all about the Louisville game for Slaton. I'm having a hard time keeping West Virginia on my radar. There's just nothing meaningful happening with them right now.
On The Radar
Dwayne Jarrett, DeSean Jackson, Erik Ainge, Robert Meachem, Limas Sweed, Michigan defensive line, Raymell Rice, Mike Hart, Jonathan Stewart