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On Putting West Virginia QB Geno Smith in Context

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West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith has looked every bit like the Heisman Trophy front-runner– and the nation’s best quarterback– through the team’s first four games– including a 45-51, 656 yard, eight touchdown performance in an evisceration of the Baylor Bears defense this afternoon which set school records for completions, yards and single-game touchdowns.

Through four games, Smith has thrown 20 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Yes, that’s a 20-0 touchdown to interception ratio. Wow.

Don’t get me wrong, Smith is a can’t-miss NFL caliber talent who will in time make more money on Sundays than I’ll see in my entire life, but we should all pump the brakes on crowning him the Heisman Trophy winner on September 29th– for several reasons.

First off, West Virginia has yet to face a defensive unit with the ability to present Smith with even an iota of adversity during the course of a game. Today, for example,  Baylor often was rushing three defensive linemen against a 5-man West Virginia offensive front giving Smith a full 6 to 7 count to check through every progression on the field and make throws under no pressure whatsoever. Poor game-planning, obviously, but even with better personnel it wouldn’t have mattered if the scheme was different.

The Baylor secondary is quite possibly one of the worst in college football, and in spite of the quality of their offense– and Nick Florence‘s largely consistent performance at quarterback–will lose several games in Big 12 Conference play simply because they can’t stop anyone. 

Through four games, West Virginia and Geno Smith have beaten up on the Marshall Thundering Herd, James Madison, the Maryland Terrapins and Baylor– all teams that were severely over-matched in their own unique ways. In 141 attempts, Smith has thrown for 1,728 yards and 20 touchdowns, gaudy numbers that obviously place him in the Heisman Trophy conversation, but just in the conversation.

Once Smith puts up similar numbers over the next four weeks as the Mountaineers take a trip to Austin to battle the Texas Longhorns, to Lubbock to face a surprising Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive unit, welcome a top 10 team in the Kansas State Wildcats to Morgantown and battle the TCU Horned Frogsthen and only then can we start to polish his Heisman crown.

Texas will be the first test for Smith. Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has kept the defensive game plan plain vanilla on purpose with October 6th marked on the calendar. Smith will see a variety of defensive fronts and combo looks with which he isn’t familiar, all in front of a well-lubricated 100K plus during a nighttime tilt on the Forty Acres.

If Smith has a big performance for West Virginia next Saturday, and can lead the Mountaineers to a big win against the Longhorns, I’ll be willing to start taking my foot off the brakes.

For now, I’m going to put his wild performances in the context they deserve, and you should do the same.

Heisman trophies are won in October and November, not in September.


Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.

Kris is also the host of the Rant Sports College Football Hour on the TSC Radio Network on Sunday evenings at 8 Central Time and Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.

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