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Geno Smith's Stumble Opens Heisman Door for Collin Klein

Yahoo Contributor Network

Texas Tech handed Geno Smith and the West Virginia Mountaineers their hindquarters on a platter on Oct. 13, hammering the former No. 5 team in the nation 49-14. In the process, Smith's stranglehold on the Heisman Trophy was loosened, opening the door for Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

Granted, Smith doesn't play defense for WVU--although considering how badly the Mountaineers defend the end zone, it might not be a bad idea--but his offense choked against a relatively tough opposing D, which is something Smith hasn't faced much this year.

Scrolling through the defensive statistics this year, three of WVU's previous four FBS opponents--Marshall, Baylor and Texas--circle the drain in both points allowed per game and yards allowed per game.

The only exception is Maryland, which the Mountaineers beat 31-21 after Smith threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Those are good numbers, but not the cartoonish numbers he's put up against bad defenses.

Facing the stout defense of the Red Raiders, Smith had his worst game of the season, completing 29 of 55 passes for 275 yards and one score, bringing his season totals to 2,271 passing yards and 25 touchdowns (with no interceptions) in six games, plus 70 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

Meanwhile, over in Manhattan, Kansas, Klein isn't killing opponents with his arm as much as he's tearing them up with his legs. Klein has only 1,074 passing yards and seven aerial touchdowns in six games, but he also has 510 rushing yards and 10 scores on the ground.

Against one of the tougher defenses in the nation, Iowa State, Klein churned out 105 rushing yards and three touchdowns while adding 187 passing yards in a 27-21 road win.

Klein's signature victory so far this season came on Sept. 22 when he and the Wildcats knocked off Oklahoma--which boasts another tough defense--by a score of 24-19 in Norman.

It's difficult to compare Klein and Smith by just lining their stats up against each other. Smith's passing numbers blow Klein's out of the water while Klein's rushing numbers do the same to Smith's. When the two quarterbacks face each other on Oct. 20, it still won't be a fair comparison because Kansas State has a defense. West Virginia does not.

Instead, Klein's Oct. 27 game at home against Texas Tech will be a good indicator of how close he and Smith are in terms of skill level. While the game will be played in Manhattan, rather than in Lubbock, if Klein does anything but flop against the Red Raiders, we might have a really interesting Heisman Trophy conversation on our hands.

Likewise, Smith's Nov. 17 game at home against Oklahoma will provide a similar opportunity to compare the two signal-callers against a common opponent. Smith won't have to face the Sooners in Norman, but OU will still give him a run for his money in Morgantown.

Smith is still the clear front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, and one ugly loss shouldn't cost him that spot. Remember that Robert Griffin III's Baylor Bears were drilled two weeks in a row--by Texas A&M and by Oklahoma State--right around this point of the season last year, and RG3 still walked away with the award.

But with Smith's stumble, the door is now open for other Heisman Trophy candidates, and Kansas State's Collin Klein should certainly be included in the discussion.

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