At this point, the Heisman race really is just a case of Geno Smith … and everyone else.
If anything, the West Virginia University quarterback’s biggest competition could come from within house, as receivers Stedman Bailey (second in the country in scoring) and Tavon Austin are putting up huge numbers and running back Andrew Buie stole some of the spotlight in Saturday’s 48-45 statement win at No. 11 Texas, racking up 207 yards and two scores on his 31 carries.
But Smith remains “the show” … in all of college football.
In his worst game to date this season, the senior completed 25 of 35 passes for 268 yards, four scores and no picks in directing the eighth-ranked Mountaineers out of the “how good can they can be, look at how they played” world of wonder and into legit, national-title-contender status.
Currently, he’s the runaway leader in passer rating, completing 81.4 percent of his attempts for 1,996 yards in five games, and here are the most telling numbers: 24 TDs and 0 INTs.
Now ranked fifth in the country, WVU can mark down two more crucial contests in 2012, against No. 6 Kansas State and No. 13 Oklahoma – both in Morgantown, W.Va.
Clearly, the path has been made to afford Smith a good chance to capture the sport’s most coveted individual honor.
That being said, half the season still has to be played. With that, keep an eye on these guys, too:
Braxton Miller, Ohio State QB – The sophomore is the most dangerous dual-threat in the game, ranking among the nation’s top runners with 763 yards and eight TDs. He’s also thrown for 1,060 yards and nine scores. He led the No. 12 Buckeyes past 21st-ranked Nebraska, 63-38, on Saturday with 186 yards rushing and a score. For good measure, he added 127 yards and a TD through the air. If OSU goes unbeaten, which is very possible, his candidacy only strengthens.
AJ McCarron, Alabama QB – Compared to Smith, and maybe even Miller, McCarron’s numbers seem pedestrian. But he is the triggerman on the nation’s best team, top-ranked squad and reigning BCS champ, and he’s not exactly a slouch. The junior has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 999 yards and 12 scores – against no picks. He currently is fifth in passer rating. Like Miller, should his squad go unbeaten, his candidacy becomes much more serious.
Kenjon Barner, Oregon RB – It’s time the national media moves on from being mesmerized by the electric, big-play ability of teammate De’Anthony Thomas and realize that Barner is the Ducks’ best player and the one likely to lead the charge in it challenging Alabama. The senior may challenge for national honors in rushing, and he’s the one, consistent staple in No. 2 Oregon’s arsenal … aside from overall team speed. After Saturday’s 122-yard effort in a 52-21 whitewashing of No. 23 Washington, Barner has 727 yards on the season.
Sean Mannion, Oregon State QB, and EJ Manuel, Florida State QB – Both played their way into Heisman consideration by carrying their teams into the national spotlight. Manuel, in fact, arguably posted the best individual effort of 2012 last month in an ACC showdown against Clemson, throwing for 380 yards and rushing for 102. But his candidacy took a major hit with Saturday’s upset loss at N.C. State that dropped the Seminoles nine spots in the poll to No. 12. Mannion, meanwhile, may have seen his chances disappear with a knee injury suffered in a subpar performance against Washington State. Under his guidance, though, the Beavers reached the top 10.
Others to consider – Kansas State QB Collin Klein, Nevada RB Stefphon Jefferson, Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins, and the obligatory defensive choices from two of the nation’s top, and unbeaten, teams, Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o and South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney (although, in reality, Penn State LB Michael Mauti is having the most impact on his team in every way).