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West Virginia vs Texas: Geno Smith's Blueprint to Capitalize on Heisman Showcase

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West Virginia vs Texas: Geno Smith's Blueprint to Capitalize on Heisman Showcase
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

It may only be the first day of October, but West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is already about to lap the rest of the would-be contenders in the race for the Heisman Trophy.

Right now, the senior is undoubtedly the top quarterback in the country.

He leads all other quarterbacks with a QB rating of 208.4, a completion percentage of 83.4, 20 touchdowns and an average of 432 yards per game.

He has had three games in which he had as many touchdowns as incompletions, giving him a total of 21 touchdowns and just 28 incompletions on the year.

However, his best statistic starts with the number zero, as in the number of interceptions he has thrown in 169 attempts.

At 4-0, Smith and his Mountaineers are only one-third of the way to the end of the regular season, so there is still plenty of time for him to win or lose the Heisman.

West Virginia's life in the Big 12 Conference is just one game old, and this week the Mountaineers will begin a six-game stretch against Big 12 teams that have been ranked in the Top 25 this season.

That rock-solid slate will start in Austin, Texas, with what may prove to be the toughest test for West Virginia this season.

According to the USA Today Coaches Poll, WVU will enter the game at No. 7 against No. 9 Texas.

There's little doubt that both are looking like Top 10 teams at this point in the season. If Smith has another huge game in Austin it will be a huge gain for his standing in the Heisman race.

Brett Deering/Getty Images
Texas CB Quandre Diggs

The first goal Smith must set for this game is to preserve the goose egg that is currently in his interception stat column.

Texas already has seven interceptions on the year. You can bet that Kenny Vaccaro, Quandre Diggs and the rest of the ball-hawking UT secondary will be looking to snatch up any errant passes thrown by the Heisman hopeful.

Oklahoma State nearly pulled off an upset against Texas last week after committing just one turnover. Smith must follow that same blueprint.

Keeping with the OSU blueprint, Smith must also keep the chains moving for WVU. The Cowboys registered 24 first downs—more than any other team against Texas this year. Additionally, keeping the chains moving will also allow the WVU offense to establish its dangerous, supersonic tempo. 

A big part of that will come on third down.

The Mountaineers have been better than any other team in the country on third down this year, successfully converting more than 60 percent of the time. Texas has been one of the better teams at stopping third down conversions, allowing opponents to move the chains on third down just 33 percent of the time.

Oklahoma State was the most successful team on third down against Texas, while Wyoming was the worst—both of which showed on the scoreboard. 

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Part of the reason WVU was so successful on offense last week against Baylor was its dominance in moving the chains. West Virginia was an incredible 11-of-16 on third down tries, good for a conversion rate near 70 percent. This contributed to a total of 34 first downs, which absolutely crippled the Baylor defense.

Of course, much of Smith's success on third down and otherwise can be contributed to his elite receivers.

His two favorite targets, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, currently rank No. 2 and No. 3 in the nation respectively in per-game yardage. They also rank as the top two in the nation in receiving touchdowns, making them the most prolific receiving tandem in the country.

Smith must continue to efficiently distribute the ball to this dynamic duo along with third option J.D. Woods, who emerged as yet another dangerous receiving choice for Smith with a breakout performance last week.

Smith will also need some help from his running game.

Like any offense, West Virginia is at its best when it can find a balance. The Mountaineers were decent on the ground last week, registering 151 yards at an average of 4.2 yards per carry. However, they were most dangerous in Week 1 against Marshall when they recorded 331 yards rushing, searing through the Thundering Herd defense at a rate of 9.5 yards per carry.

WVU has been without starting running back Shawne Alston for the last few weeks, a player the Mountaineer fans and coaches are certainly hoping to have back against Texas.

Regardless of whether or not Alston is good to go, Smith must execute and move the ball the way he and his offense are capable of. Texas may have the best secondary the Mountaineers face this entire year, but at his best, Smith can move the ball against anyone.

If he continues his torrid pace of efficient, precise play, he'll be able to succeed in his first true Heisman showcase.

Not only that, but if Smith and WVU play well, it'll be an exhilarating matchup between Top 10 teams on Saturday night in Austin.

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