Hold on a minute. Before you start screaming at me for implying that E.J. Manuel is a better quarterback than Geno Smith (and I'm not saying that) let me explain why Manuel is a better Heisman bet.
After Geno Smith's epic performance (656 passing yards, eight touchdowns) against Baylor last Saturday, it looked like Smith was the front-runner in the Heisman race. He still is.
But so was Andrew Luck last year. So was Matt Barkley this year. And interestingly enough, both quarterbacks suffered a critical loss that downplayed their Heisman-worthiness in the voters' eyes. A tough schedule can diminish a passer's effectiveness in impressing a voter when that shocking loss occurs. And right now, West Virginia's slate looks a heckuva more daunting than Florida State's.
Of West Virginia's remaining opponents, four are undefeated in both conference and non-conference play. Florida State, on the other hand, faces no undefeated opponents. Its toughest game, against Clemson, is in the books with a 49-37 victory by the Seminoles.
West Virginia faces 4-0 Texas on the road this Saturday. It also faces Texas Tech in Lubbock and then a solid Kansas State team after that. TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are still looming in November.
Can West Virginia run the tables in the Big 12? Probably not. Remember, the Mountaineers struggled to put away a Baylor team sans Robert Griffin III. It was a great game but it was against Baylor.
Florida State's schedule looks fairly doable with Miami, Virginia Tech and Florida as its only stumbling blocks. The Seminoles look like the Coastal champions which means a trip to the ACC Championship in early December. That's an extra game for E.J. Manuel to impress the Heisman voters right before they mark their ballots.
Should an easier schedule catapult a Heisman candidate? Absolutely not, but it does give that quarterback more opportunities to pad his stats. More opportunity to shine.
Right now, Smith is the clear Heisman front-runner. If he plays relatively mistake-free the rest of the season, he'll be going to New York in December.
Smith, by the way, has already had his Heisman moment. Manuel has not. With plenty of soft games left on Florida State's schedule, Heisman voters will be anticipating a Heisman moment from Manuel.
E.J. Manuel may have that Heisman moment in the ACC Championship game. His timing couldn't be more perfect.
While Geno Smith watches the game from home, Manuel will have the Heisman voters' complete attention.
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