West Virginia Football: Why Geno Smith Won't Win the 2012 Heisman Trophy
With expectations this high and the "Geno For Heisman" chatter this loud, someone had to play devil's advocate and lay out why Geno Smith won't win the 2012 Heisman Trophy.
Don't get me wrong, as a WVU alum, I would be absolutely elated if our boy Geno won West Virginia's first Heisman.
I personally know plenty of eternally pessimistic WVU fans (you know who you are), and I'm sure you do too. And I feel like those cynical Mountaineers haven't been rightfully represented to this point.
So, here are a few reasons why Geno won't win the Heisman:
Stats Do Not Equal a Trophy
There is almost no doubt that Geno Smith will once again put up some massive passing numbers in his second year in head coach Dana Holgorsen's air-raid offense.
In all likelihood, Smith will break his own school record for passing yards and touchdowns.
But that won't necessarily win him the Heisman Trophy.
Just ask Case Keenum of Houston, who threw for an astounding 5,631 yards and 48 touchdowns a year ago and finished seventh in the 2011 voting—not even enough to garner an invitation to New York.
You could also ask Hawaii's Colt Brennan, who tossed an NCAA record 58 (yes, fifty-eight) touchdowns in his junior season, which only earned him a total of 50 first-and-second-place votes in 2006.
Oh, but neither of them even played in a BCS conference, you say? A valid argument, sure.
So, let's take a look at a couple of Big 12 quarterbacks who Holgorsen personally watched fall short of the Heisman, despite having an overwhelming statistical advantage over those who won.
We'll go back to the 2002-03 season when USC's Carson Palmer finished with 1,328 points in the Heisman voting, crushing Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury, who finished with just 33 points.
Palmer had a nice year, throwing for 3,942 yards and 33 touchdowns. But that's nothing compared to Kingsbury's 5,017 yards and 45 touchdowns.
If you think that's bad, you haven't seen anything yet.
The following year, Oklahoma's Jason White brought the Heisman back to Norman after throwing for 3,846 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, B.J. Symons of Texas Tech absolutely eclipsed the Heisman winner's relatively modest production.
Symons, who finished No. 10 in the voting, was apparently too busy rewriting the NCAA record book to win the Heisman.
The junior threw for almost 2,000 yards more than White, netting 5,833 yards through the air to go with 52 passing touchdowns.
First Place: 3,800 yard passer. Tenth place: 5,800 yard passer.
By the way, what is Jason White up to these days?
WVU Will Have to Go Undefeated
In recent years, every one of the Heisman trophy winners has had one of two qualities (or both of them).
They have either been a standout, unrivaled athletic talent (Troy Smith, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III), or they have been on a team headed to the national title game (Newton, Mark Ingram, Sam Bradford).
While Geno Smith is a great player, he doesn't exactly fit the Newton/RGII bill in terms of sheer athleticism and, specifically, running ability.
So, that leaves Smith and WVU one choice: earn a national title berth, which presumably, they will have to run the table to do so.
Could West Virginia run the table in 2012? Absolutely.
Whether or not they actually will is another story.
There are a couple of things that bother me about the Mountaineers' prospects of keeping a clean slate this season.
The first, and this is a big one for me: consistency.
WVU has blatantly lacked consistency in recent years.
Actually, I take that back.
In the past four years, West Virginia football has been consistently inconsistent—three 9-4 seasons and a 10-3 season.
Every year the Mountaineers are favored in nearly every single one of their games, but somehow give a couple of those games away.
In order for Smith to win the Heisman, that cannot happen.
The second thing bothering me is simply WVU's move to the Big 12.
Assuming that the Mountaineers will be able to waltz into the Big 12 and take the title year one is simply foolish.
Again, it absolutely could happen. But, let's not be so quick to jump to conclusions.
The arguments have often been made that the "Big 12 doesn't play defense" and the "Big East was a strong defensive conference."
How about Oklahoma who held Iowa to just 14 points in the Insight Bowl, or Texas who stymied Cal, holding them to just 10 points in the Holiday Bowl.
Then let's look at Louisville who gave up 31 points in a Belk Bowl loss to NC State—remembering that WVU put up just four more points than NC State against UL.
Or maybe the Big East offenses were just weak in 2011. After all, Pitt only mustered a lousy six points against C-USA foe SMU in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Bowl games may not be the best litmus tests for teams' true performances, but the point is, I'm not sold on the fact that WVU will just be able to score at will in the Big 12.
The Worst, Best Case Scenario: Splitting Votes
Let's say Geno Smith does put up Heisman Trophy-caliber numbers.
We'll hypothetically put him at about 5,000 yards, with about 47 touchdowns—much improved from last season.
And let's say WVU does clobber its Big 12 opponents and run the table, earning a berth in the national title game.
Best case scenario, right?
What if he throws 1,500 of those yards and 13 of those touchdowns to Tavon Austin (or even Stedman Bailey)?
And what if Austin adds another 1,500 return yards and five touchdowns (a slight improvement from his return numbers from last season) and becomes a Heisman candidate himself.
Those 3,000 yards (plus possible rushing yards) of total offense and 18 total touchdowns could look pretty appealing to a Heisman voter.
If Austin has a breakout season of his own and steals some votes from Smith, that would likely crush both of their Heisman hopes.
Just look at Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree from Texas Tech in 2008-09, Jason White and Adrian Peterson from Oklahoma in 2004-05 or even Ken Dorsey and Willis McGahee from Miami back in 2002-03.
They all finished in the top five of the voting, but none of them won the Heisman in those years.
Outside Competition: Running Backs
Of course, there are also an infinite number of factors that Smith and WVU cannot control.
The Heisman race is pretty wide open this year with a variety of candidates who have what it takes to win.
One of the early favorites is Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, who finished fourth in the Heisman voting last year and elected to return for his senior season.
Ball ran for just less than 2,000 yards last year to go with 39 total touchdowns—tying a mark set by some guy named Barry Sanders.
Numbers like those were hard for voters to ignore last season, and if he is able to improve on that while keeping Wisconsin in the national title hunt, Ball could easily be taking the Heisman back to Madison.
Another legitimate Heisman hopeful is Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas.
His nickname is the Black Mamba and he is fast. Really fast.
And Oregon head coach Chip Kelly is ready to really unleash him on the college football world, now that LaMichael James is no longer in Eugene.
If the Rose Bowl was any preview, Thomas could literally and figuratively run away with the Heisman in 2012.
Outside Competition: Quarterbacks
Underneath those dreads you see there is another really fast Heisman hopeful.
Michigan's dual-threat star Denard Robinson is back for his senior campaign and ready to run the race for the Heisman.
As I touched on earlier, voters in recent years have given a lot of credit to multi-talented individuals.
Troy Smith, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and most recently Robert Griffin III all took home the Heisman thanks to their arms and their legs.
That is the one big advantage Robinson has over Geno and could end up being the deciding factor.
If he can lead the Wolverines past Alabama's vaunted defense in week one, he will already be well on his way to winning the Heisman.
Let's not forget, Geno Smith isn't the only Heisman hopeful capable of putting up some impressive passing numbers.
USC's Matt Barkley threw for more than 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns last season and could even improve in 2012, as the Trojans are now once again bowl eligible.
Barkley finished sixth in the voting last year and is probably the preseason favorite to win it in 2012, and if he has USC in position to take the national title at season's end, he probably will win it.
Let's not forget the rest of the quarterbacks hoping to take the Heisman in 2012: Tyler Wilson of Arkansas, Landry Jones of Oklahoma and Georgia's Aaron Murray, just to name a few.
Like I said, it's a crowded field this year and anything could happen.
Now, if you hate me and think I'm a terrible disgrace for a WVU fan, please don't hesitate to tell me so in the comment section below!
Or, if you are one of those cynics who agrees, I embrace positive feedback as well.
Thanks for reading.