Geno Smith: 2012 Heisman Trophy Is the West Virginia QB's to Lose
The Heisman voters love excitement.
Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, was a prime example of how the excitability factor can vault a player to the top and strike the pose. Griffin's performance against Oklahoma in November 2011 was nothing short of spectacular—so was his entire season.
When Griffin captured the most prestigious award in college football, he also put a somewhat unintentional Heisman tradition on the back burner.
Playing in the BCS National Championship Game is not a prerequisite for winning the Heisman.
Eight of the previous 10 Heisman winners had played in the BCS National Championship Game the same season they had won the award. It was, at times, a talking point among pundits.
If you can't guide your team to the BCS championship, how can you be the best player in college football?
The Heisman Trophy, however, is not about the best player. It's about the most outstanding player. Character is now a consideration, and excitability is a bonus.
West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith seems to have all the attributes of a Heisman candidate. He's a game-changer. He's exciting to watch, plays on a BCS conference team and he's stayed out of trouble.
Smith is a human video game, and voters are noticing.
Chris Huston of Heismanpundit/CBSSports.com (h/t Yard Barker), considered one of the leading authorities on the Heisman, has Smith holding the top spot after four weeks of play.
Smith is "topping the poll for the second week in a row," according to Huston.
But can Smith keep that top spot?
Last year the Mountaineers were in the Big East, and their 10-3 street cred was questioned. Losing to unranked Syracuse and Louisville probably dissuaded voters.
This year, they're in a new BCS conference, which could change the perception of West Virginia football. Pat White wasn't enough, but Geno Smith might have the right stuff.
If Smith can win the big games—and by big we mean at Texas and at Oklahoma State, plus hosting both Kansas State and Oklahoma—his status will be solidified.
Smith's strongest challengers—Matt Barkley, Collin Klein, EJ Manuel, Matt Barkley, De'Anthony Thomas, Marqise Lee and Manti Te'o—all have more difficult paths to overcome.
Barkley has two receivers who could win the Heisman. The USC Trojans also have depth issues on both sides of the ball, which has affected Barkley's performances so far this year.
Klein still has to convince voters he's the real deal despite having a a fantastic season last year.
Manuel looks like a huge threat, but the Seminoles schedule doesn't do him any favors—his numbers could be skewed as a result of playing some perceived softer competition.
Thomas is one of the most exciting players in football, but he doesn't touch the ball perhaps as much as he'd like.
Lee is one of at least two weapons Matt Barkley has at his disposal, but he and Barkley may cause some split votes that would take both of them out of a trip to New York.
Te'o will probably win multiple defensive awards this season, but can a defensive player break the 14-year streak of an offensive player winning the Heisman?
The Heisman likes to reward players who touch the ball a lot. Quarterbacks have contact with the ball on every snap. Running backs usually have 20-plus carries in a game.
But receivers? Not even close. Same with defensive players.
Smith is playing in the perfect position at quarterback. He's playing in the perfect offense coached by the perfect coach to showcase his talents. Holgorsen's offensive genius makes mincemeat out of a standard 3rd-and-3 play; don't look away, you might miss something.
Will Geno Smith win the Heisman?
As of this week, Smith is averaging a hair more than 357 yards per game and is the second-most productive passer in FBS behind Marshall's Rakeem Cato. Even if Cato remains at the top, Smith will reap his due as long as he doesn't make mistakes, and as long as he takes on that field-general persona and makes things happen.
Morgantown needs to become more en fuego.
West Virginia has only had 11 consensus All-Americans in the football program's history. Mountaineers fans have tried to forget the Rich-Rod debacle and that 2007 Backyard Brawl loss that took them out of the BCS Championship. They're even trying to repair their couch-burning image.
A Heisman Trophy could very well validate West Virginia's rightful place among its peers. Smith has the Heisman right now in his pocket; it'll look better on his mantle.
It's up to him to lose it.
The author of this article is a Heisman Trophy voter.
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