By Jim Weber
Geno Smith’s start to the 2012 college football season has been so phenomenal that he’s not only lapping the rest of the Heisman Trophy candidates, it’s time to start talking about him as a top-10 pick in next April’s NFL Draft.
No, he doesn’t have Matthew Stafford’s cannon arm, Robert Griffin III’s athleticism, Cam Newton’s build, Andrew Luck’s pedigree or Matt Barkley’s tutelage.
But through four games this season, Smith has played perfectly; there’s no other way to describe it. He has 20 touchdowns, just 28 incompletions and is on pace to throw for 5,184 yards, 60 touchdowns and 0 interceptions by the end of the regular season.
From a scout’s perspective, Smith has the necessary height (6-foot-3) to play in the league, has a good arm and is mobile in the pocket. We definitely know he can make all the throws, because he literally made them all while completing 45 balls for 656 yards and eight touchdowns in Saturday’s 70-63 win over Baylor.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper ranked Smith as the fifth-best senior quarterback prospect after April’s draft and did not have the Mountaineers QB on his big board as of last week. That should change very quickly.
Remember, draft pundits weren’t talking about RGIII as a top NFL prospect prior to last fall and Todd McShay was projecting him as a wide receiver at the next level. Smith is now mirroring RGIII’s meteoric rise and on his way to making millions of dollars eight months from now.
Yes, Smith is going to face stiffer defenses over the next two months. But it’s starting to look like Barkley has some competition to be the first quarterback off the board next spring.
OFFENSES GONE WILD: If you think defense is dead in the NFL, look around at the scores from Saturday’s action. West Virginia beat Baylor 70-63, Georgia beat Tennessee 51-44, and Texas beat Oklahoma State 41-36 – just to name a few. The average combined points for all FBS games this weekend was 60.8, the second highest ever since 1937. Think about that for a second. Air Raid and spread offenses have completely taken over the college game; defenses are at a complete loss at how to stop them. “College football defensive coordinator” is starting to look like it deserves a place on “The 10 Worst Jobs in the United States” list.
HEART! BREAK! CITY! You’ve got to feel for Oklahoma State fans after the way the Cowboys lost to Texas. That’s the kind of loss that makes fans curl up in the fetal position and cry themselves to sleep. Between a 4th-and-6 conversion, a 32-yard prayer to WR Mike Davis and RB Joe Bergeron’s touchdown that sure looked like a fumble, I can’t blame Oklahoma State fans if they pulled an Adam Morrison after this one.
PULL THE PLUG: I know that Arkansas AD Jeff Long said last week that he is committed to interim head coach John L. Smith for the rest of the season, but Long should reverse course immediately by replacing Smith with offensive coordinator Paul Petrino. Look, I feel sorry for the eternally optimistic Smith. He walked into a bad situation, is in massive financial debt and just lost his brother. But Arkansas isn’t just losing, the Razorbacks are humiliating themselves week after week. A 58-10 loss to Texas A&M should be the final straw for a program as proud as Arkansas.
L-S-EW: What in the world is going on in the Bayou? The No. 4 team in America has looked like anything but in the last two weeks. Following a sloppy 12-10 over Auburn last week, LSU was plagued by penalties, turnovers and mental miscues in a 16-point win over FCS Towson on Saturday. This is the reason why, despite all his success in Baton Rouge, Tiger fans seemingly call for Les Miles’ job after every loss. Expect more groaning if LSU losses at No. 10 Florida on Saturday.
TAPEGATE: It’s time for Big Ten opposing head coaches to stop whining about Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. First, there was the drama around Meyer’s recruiting tactics that caught the ire of Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio. Now comes Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi complaining about doctored game tape OSU sent to East Lansing last week. Was Ohio State being petty? Sure. But Meyer has a “Just win, baby” attitude and could not care less about etiquette. The sooner Dantonio and Narduzzi accept this and use it as motivation to beat the Buckeyes instead of airing it publicly to look like sore losers, the better off they will be.
THE SONNY ALSO RISES: It’s official: Sonny Dykes is the hottest coaching name outside the BCS conferences. The Louisiana Tech head coach and son of Texas Tech coaching icon Spike Dykes won eight games in his second season on the job last fall and now has the Bulldogs at 4-0 after victories at Illinois and at Virginia in back-to-back weeks. If Tommy Tuberville stumbles in Lubbock during the Big 12 schedule, Dykes would be the obvious replacement. Otherwise, keep an eye on Dykes’ name at pretty much every BCS conference opening this fall.
SUN BELT SURPRISE: The Sun Belt Conference has been at the bottom of the FBS food chain since it started sponsoring football in 2001 but BCS conference athletic directors might want to think twice about scheduling Sun Belt teams in the future. So far this season, Louisiana-Monroe has upset Arkansas, Western Kentucky has shocked Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State has blown the doors off Georgia Tech. The Blue Raiders didn’t just beat the Yellow Jackets on Saturday, they beat them down in a 49-28 victory in Atlanta that had Middle Tennessee State looking like an SEC team instead of a Sun Belt program.
Top five games: Week 6
5. Miami (FL) vs. No. 9 Notre Dame: “The U” has won back-to-back thrillers while Notre Dame is gunning for a BCS bowl. The setting at Soldier Field should be special.
4. No. 21 Nebraska vs. No. 12 Ohio State: Both somehow found a way to win on Saturday, setting up a huge night game at “The Horseshoe” in Bo Pelini’s return trip to his alma mater.
3. No. 4 LSU vs. No. 10 Florida: LSU has looked very sloppy lately and Florida’s defense is once again fierce. But Les Miles always seems to reach into the bag of tricks when he faces the Gators. Expect a defensive slugfest.
2. No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 6 South Carolina: This game could decide who wins the SEC East and represents the division in Atlanta this December. After years of being ridiculed by Steve Spurrier, Georgia fans would love nothing more than to stick it to The Old Ball Coach in Columbia.
1. No. 6 West Virginia vs. No. 11 Texas: What can Geno Smith do for an encore? Get your popcorn ready for this shootout in Austin when the No. 3 (West Virginia) and No. 9 scoring offenses (Texas) face off.
Photos: Rob Christy & Kirby Lee/US Presswire