Point/Counterpoint: Halfway Heisman favorites

BY DI STAFF | OCTOBER 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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Quarterback Geno Smith, West Virginia

Geno Smith reminds me a lot of Robert Griffin III.

They both have superior playmaking abilities, and they instantly raise the caliber of any team they’re on, just because they’re running the offense.

But if you look closer, West Virginia’s quarterback is even more similar to last year’s Heisman Trophy winner than people might think.

By the numbers, they’re almost identical. Smith has guided the Mountaineers to a 5-1 (2-1 Big 12) record so far this season. He’s also tossed 25 touchdowns on 2,271 passing yards with no interceptions.

In comparison, Griffin had Baylor at 4-2 (1-2) through six games. He had 22 passing touchdowns, two interceptions, and a bit under 2,000 passing yards.

Griffin takes the edge in rushing. At the midpoint last year, he had nearly 300 yards on the ground with 2 touchdowns. Smith has just 71 with one score. They both completed nearly the same percentage of passes, too. Smith is at 76.37-percent, while Griffin gets the nod at 78.95-percent.

We all know how Griffin’s year ended: A 9-3 record, a highlight reel’s worth of offensive plays in an Alamo Bowl victory over Washington, and being crowned the best player in college football.

Smith is well on his way to replicating and maybe even topping Griffin’s historic season. Forget that he lost to Texas Tech this past weekend — Griffin had three losses and won the Heisman.

The road isn’t getting any easier for Smith to claim his rightful spot in the Heisman fraternity. He still has to face plenty of ranked conference foes in No. 4 Kansas State, No. 9 Oklahoma, and No. 23 TCU.

But at this point in the college football season, the trophy is Smith’s to lose.

— by Cody Goodwin

Linebacker Manti Te’o, Notre Dame

The Heisman Trophy is supposed to be awarded to the player who is deemed the most outstanding player in college football, according to the Heisman Trust’s mission statement. Manti Te’o, the best player on the nation’s second-best scoring defense, has unquestionably fit that definition.

The Heisman has been awarded to 76 players since its creation in 1935. Only one of those players (Charles Woodson, 1997) has primarily played on the defensive side of the ball, though. So, according to the voting panel, the nation’s most outstanding player has been a defensive player just one time in 77 years.

It’s time for the panel to eliminate its discrimination towards defensive players.

Te’o, Notre Dame’s star linebacker, doesn’t possess the sexy offensive numbers that the country is used to seeing in its Heisman recipient. What Te’o does have is 59 tackles, two of them for loss, 2 fumble recoveries, and 3 interceptions through just six games. What Te’o has also done is play a pivotal role in the Fighting Irish’s first 6-0 start since Tyrone Willingham’s inaugural season as head coach.

On Sept. 15, Te’o arguably turned in the best individual performance of the season thus far. Just days after the passing of his grandmother and girlfriend, the senior from Hawaii garnered 12 tackles, 1 for loss, and broke up 2 passes in a road win against then-No. 10 Michigan State.

The favorite to win the award, Geno Smith, is putting together the typical Heisman season. Just the thought of lining up against West Virginia’s potent aerial attack can elicit feelings of despair for opposing defenses. But until Smith and the Mountaineers can prove they can do more than beat up on lower-tier defenses, their true value will remain unknown.

West Virginia has wins against the 124th and 97th ranked scoring defenses (Marshall and Texas), the 119th ranked pass defense (Baylor), and an Football Championship Division team (James Madison). In fact, when Smith actually did line up against Texas Tech’s respectable defense this past weekend, his team was held to 14 points.

Geno Smith is having a very good season. But Manti Te’o has been the nation’s most outstanding player.

— by Ryan Probasco

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