Is Geno ready to strike a pose?
AFTER JUST two WVU football games, it's almost absurd to discuss quarterback Geno Smith's Heisman Trophy chances.
Then again, it's absurd to ignore where he stands in the race.
Because, in sum, the Mountaineer is now No. 1.
A Heisman straw poll of voters has him No. 1. Most college football websites have him No. 1. Even Las Vegas bookies have him No. 1. According to Bovada, Smith is a 5-2 favorite to win the award, while USC's Matt Barkley is at 5-1. The closest odds of any other "candidate" to win are those of Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas at 15-2.
Without question, Smith is receiving more Heisman love than any other Mountaineer in program history.
"It's off the charts," said WVU athletic director Oliver Luck, who watched his son, Andrew, finish second last year. "Even Pat White wasn't given this kind of deference."
Indeed, the only other Mountaineer to receive such Heisman attention was former quarterback Major Harris, who finished fifth in 1988 balloting and third in 1989 balloting.
Harris, however, didn't receive the Internet or social media attention of Smith. And, frankly, Harris was never considered a serious contender to win. In 1988, then-Oklahoma State star Barry Sanders won with 1,878 votes to the 280 received by Harris. In 1989, Houston's Andre Ware and Indiana running back Anthony Thompson landed over 1,000 votes, while Harris finished third with a respectable 709.
"It's an interesting award," Luck said. "It boils down to 900-some voters [870 from the media, 55 from former Heisman winners and one from the fans], some that pay close attention to college football and some that don't.
"Geno absolutely has a shot, but that's the last thing he should be worried about, given the games he has coming up. Those games, though, will give him the platform."
The platform is built on WVU's new conference affiliation, the Big 12.
"I'm not saying it couldn't have happened in the Big East," Luck said, "but he wouldn't have had the platform."
Here's a sampling of the exposure Smith has received of late:
There's little wonder why Smith has received the attention. In fact, the QB almost has a campaign slogan this week. Goes like this: After 75 passes, Geno Smith has as many touchdown passes (nine) as incompletions (nine).
Of course, Smith's sledding gets bumpier from here. The Big 12 portion of the schedule is nearing. Maryland's secondary is ranked No. 6 nationally in pass defense and No. 30 in pass efficiency defense. And Barkley has been such a media darling (he just might have an office at ESPN) prior to his Stanford clunker that a five-touchdown game against any opponent might vault him back to the top.
For now, however, Smith is where he should be after a stellar start. He's No. 2 nationally in total offense (408.5 yards per game), No. 2 in pass efficiency (209.81), No. 3 in passing yards per game (367) - and No. 1 among Heisman voters.
On Thursday afternoon, a regional radio report said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is re-evaluating his school's future football schedules.
It makes sense since a four-team national playoff will begin in 2014 and continue through the 2025 season.
"We'll shift a little bit and still try to schedule one Top 10. We're moving toward trying to schedule one Top 10 team and two Top 40 opponents and somebody else. In a playoff, the nonconference schedule will have some weight."
WVU's Luck said he hasn't reconsidered his school's future slates yet "because we're not sure exactly what the playoff rules will be.
"Gene Smith is probably on a [playoff] committee though. I think what he's saying is you're going to have to play very competitive nonconference games and win."
Luck said in addition to learning the new playoff format, he needs to "get a sense of the Big 12. Are we going to stay at 10 [members]?"
Mountaineer deputy AD Mike Parsons, coincidentally, spent some of his Thursday on scheduling issues.
"We're working on filling a hole in the 2013 schedule," Parsons said. "When we added Alabama in 2014, the East Carolina game for that year and 2013 went away. So we're looking for a game we don't have to return, or one we don't have to return for a long while."
When the playoff format kicks in, a selection committee will undoubtedly be in place, much as in basketball. So strength of schedule will be a factor.
In 2014, WVU is fine in that regard, with the Crimson Tide on the schedule for a meeting in Atlanta. Maryland and Towson are also on WVU's docket.
Luck, Parsons and company, however, will want to re-evaluate the 2015 schedule. Because football money floats the athletic boat, they always need seven home games. They juggle the "one-off" opportunities like last week's James Madison game and those upcoming against BYU and Alabama.
WVU's 2015 nonconference schedule, however, now consists of Liberty, East Carolina and Maryland. While the Big 12 portion of the schedule will always be difficult, that lineup won't impress any selection committee.
And finally . . .
We usually run hole-in-one news on the sports section's agate page beside standings, transactions, odds, etc.
This ace, however, is a little different.
It was carded last weekend on the No. 7, 150-yard hole at the Fairmont Field Club in Marion County. It was the first for the 75-year-old golfer.
And it was carded by the finest man I know: Bernie Vingle.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.