GENO SMITH is an unforgiving perfectionist, but he came dangerously close to living up to his expectations Saturday.
West Virginia's senior quarterback torched No. 25 Baylor for what could well be the best display of aerial wizardry ever seen at the college level. Sure, he may not have set national records against the Bears — some FBS marks, like touchdown passes (11), are ridiculously high — but the sheer fact that Smith threw for 656 yards and eight touchdowns on 45-for-51 passing against a ranked opponent warrants consideration. This was not an unjustifiable assault on some overmatched directional school; Baylor was a top-25 program that nearly overcame Smith's heroics in a 70-63 thriller.
For his efforts, the Mountaineers' superstar is, unequivocally, the September favorite to take home the Heisman. His reaction: “I could've completed those five or six passes that I had incomplete."
Smith, who spent part of his summer honing his pocket-passer skills in elite quarterback camps, has an opportunity to piece together one of the most prolific passing seasons in FBS history. Colt Brennan's FBS record of 58 touchdown passes? Smith has thrown for 20 touchdowns in just four games. Russell Wilson's record-setting 191.78 passer efficiency last season? Smith has not thrown a pick this season, and is on pace to shatter that mark (208.4).
Yes, it's true that he has yet to face a top-tier defense this season — both Baylor and Marshall are among the ten-worst scoring defenses in the country — but his numbers are too good to pass off as a product of so-so competition.
The Texas Longhorns' will provide West Virginia with its stiffest test of the season next weekend. Geno Smith may expect perfection, but the rest of the country will gladly settle for another clinic.
Replacements are catching a bad rap. With the public scrutiny that followed the NFL's substandard officiating fill-ins, the very word "replace" is now taboo is sports culture. But, occasionally, replacements work out. Occasionally, even Keanu Reeves can throw a touchdown.
College football has provided such examples, as these players are making it easier for their programs to forget the last guy:
Nick Florence, Baylor: Robert Griffin III is the greatest athlete in school history, but Florence is already breaking some of his not-so-old records. Griffin's old backup ranks top-10 nationally in passing yards (1,585) and touchdown passes (16).
Nick Clancy, Boston College: Clancy is cleaning up for the Eagles while replacing one of the most efficient tacklers in NCAA history, Luke Kuechly. Though five weeks, he ranks second nationally in tackles per game at 13.25.
Robert Lester, Alabama: In not-so-shocking news, Alabama could have another high NFL draft pick at safety. Lester slid into the strong safety spot for NFL rookie stud Mark Barron, leading the top-ranked scoring defense (seven points per game) with 1.5 sacks and an interception.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: Ryan Tannehill may have embarrassed himself singing "Lean On Me," but redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel is holding his own. The young playmaker broke Tannehill's single-game record with 453 passing yards in a 58-10 win over Arkansas this weekend.
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: If there's a list without Clowney's name on it nowadays, it's probably a bad list. Though he started as a true freshman last season, with Melvin Ingram moving on to the NFL ranks, Clowney has had to step into the primary pass-rusher role. Some say, if he were eligible, he'd be the top pick in next year's draft.
Every Saturday matters, so the saying goes, in college football. A few top teams almost learned that the hard way.
SEC schools in particular gave their fans all they could handle Saturday, with now-No. 4 LSU looking lackluster against FCS Towson, while Georgia and South Carolina each trailed with significant time expired against mediocre (or awful) conference foes. These were trap games for all three teams, as even media members were guilty of looking ahead to a weekend featuring LSU-Florida and Georgia-South Carolina matchups.
The same logic could be applied to Texas, as a meeting with Geno Smith (See above) and No. 9 West Virginia was almost diluted by a loss to Oklahoma State.
The only anomaly among the top teams was Florida State, which underwhelmed against South Florida. Without a trap game (N.C. State next week) to look ahead to, the only conceivable answer is that the Seminoles were still hungover from the Clemson buzz. Seminole quarterback, E.J. Manuel, was efficient enough to keep his Heisman hopes alive … but, once again, he joins everyone else in looking at Smith's taillights.
At least, until next week.