Geno Smith: Mountaineer Heisman Hunt

Is it time to start engraving Geno Smith’s name on the Heisman?

It sure seems like a safe bet after he went 45 of 51 for 656 yards and eight touchdowns (with no interceptions) in No. 9West Virginia’s crazy 70-63 win over No. 25 Baylor on Saturday.

The numbers for Smith after four games are jaw dropping.

He has completed 141 out of 169 passes (.834%) for 1,728 yards and 20 touchdowns and zero picks. His passer rating is an astronomical 208.37 and well above the NCAA mark set by Russell Wilson last season. His incompletion-to-touchdown ratio is, so far, reminiscent of what Robert Griffin III did last September when the 2011 Heisman winner had 20 incompletions and 18 touchdowns through four games (Smith currently has 28 incompletions and 20 touchdowns).

Projecting his stats out to the whole regular season, he’s on pace for 5,184 passing yards and 60 touchdown passes. If he comes anywhere close to those numbers come December, the Heisman is his, simple as that.

This game–the fourth-best passing yardage performance in major college history–was important to Smith’s Heisman hopes for a couple of reasons in particular:

1. By throwing for so many yards and touchdowns against Baylor, it gave him some statistical wiggle room as the season progresses. Smith essentially crammed two games worth of numbers into one game, which means it’s almost like he’s playing 13 regular season games instead of 12. He could theoretically miss a game due to injury and not suffer much when his final stats are calculated.

2. The meme surrounding his candidacy is now centered squarely on his stats. Because of the shakiness of the West Virginia defense, no one really expects the Mountaineers to go undefeated. As long as they win at least nine games and his stats remain undebatably superior to the other candidates in the race, then he should win the Heisman.

Other pitfalls remain, however.

Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma are all ranked and have enough defensive talent to slow down the Mountaineer attack. Smith needs to be careful not to fall into the same trap Penn State’s Larry Johnson fell into in 2002. The Nittany Lion running back had over 2,000 yards that season–normally enough yards to be shoo-in for the Heisman–but was shut down in each of his team’s three losses and finished third in the final vote. As long as Smith plays well, he’ll be in good standing with the Heisman electorate even if his team drops a couple games.

Let’s also not forget that Smith is in a unique position in the race vis-a-vis the Heisman regions. To wit, his school is physically located in the Mid-Atlantic region but he plays most of his games against schools in the Southwest region. This advantage could prove decisive in a close race.

There’s obviously still a long way to go in this campaign. Florida State’s EJ Manuel and Kansas State’s Collin Klein are still factors, as are Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas and Georgia’s Aaron Murray. Any of those players could go on a tear and emerge as Smith’s prime challenger.

But as long as their production pales in comparison to what Smith is doing on a weekly basis, they are going to be chasing him from behind.

About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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