West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith spent a significant part of his margin of error Saturday, but he didn’t stop being the Heisman front-runner just because of a loss to Texas Tech.
Smith had a huge lead on the rest of the field heading into last week’s games, so the adjustment in the Heisman rankings is that it can just go back to actually being a race and not a coronation.
Smith still leads the nation in passing efficiency (180.8 rating), is second in passing yards per game (378.5) and fourth in total offense (390.3 yards per game). He directed the Mountaineers to only 14 points in the loss to Texas Tech, and he was out-performed by Red Raiders quarterback Seth Doege, but Smith’s numbers were decent — 29 of 55 passing for 275 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions.
He has yet to throw a pick in 259 pass attempts this season.
With the big numbers — Smith is still completing slightly better than 75 percent of his passes — Heisman voters will forgive a couple of losses along the way for West Virginia, whose defense is, to put it kindly, horrific. (Remember, Robert Griffin III won the award last season, when his Baylor team had three losses.)
Smith will have plenty of opportunity, one or way or another, to make more Heisman statements.
The Mountaineers play Kansas State this week, then TCU, then are at Oklahoma State, play Oklahoma and then go to Iowa State. All good teams, and a few really, really good defenses. If Smith ends up with the stiff-armed trophy, he will have earned it down the stretch, not by resting on his early-season laurels.
So, as we’re at the rough halfway point of the season, who lines up behind Smith in the Heisman race?
You’d have to squint to find a trace of preseason Heisman favorite Matt Barkley, but the field is otherwise narrowing into a small group of quarterbacks (Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o might be the leader of a nasty Notre Dame defense, but he’s not going to win the Heisman).
Let’s take a look:
2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State — This is his week in the Heisman spotlight, with the Wildcats traveling to West Virginia to take on the Mountaineers. The way to be the Heisman front-runner is to beat the Heisman front-runner. Klein’s campaign is different than Smith’s, though. Smith has the stats. Klein can’t match that. He is on pace for 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards — a nifty feat — but his value is as a tough guy leader who wills his team to victory. So the Cats have to win.
3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M — He doesn’t fit the usual Heisman profile: He’s a redshirt freshman and he began the season with no name recognition. But he has twice set the SEC record for total yards, first with 557 vs. Arkansas and then 576 last week at Louisiana Tech, and his stats are better than Ohio State’s Braxton Miller. Manziel has been off limits to the media this season, so he’ll have to let his play do his talking. He has completed 128 of 190 passes for 1,680 yards, with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions, and he’s also rushed for 676 yards and 10 scores. Can’t wait to see what he does against visiting LSU this week and at Alabama on Nov. 10.
4. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State — The sophomore is likely to win the Heisman before he leaves Ohio State, as many good days are ahead for the Urban Meyer-led Buckeyes. Miller has led an undefeated effort so far this season, passing for 1,271 yards and rushing for 912. Amazing stat: He has rushed for at least 141 yards in five of seven games.