In 2011, the NCAA Football world was talking about a quarterback from the Pac 12 conference, a running back from Oregon and a player who does not tie his shoelaces. None of them won the Heisman Trophy. Entering 2012, the pundits were once again talking about a top quarterback from the Pac 12, a running back from Oregon and a quarterback who does not tie his shoelaces. And once again, it is another player who is dominating the early college football headlines.
In 2011, it was Robert Griffin III of the Baylor Bears. He beat out preseason favorites Andrew Luck, LaMichael James and Denard Robinson.
This season, the biggest talk is surrounding West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith. He is currently well ahead of Matt Barkley, De’Anthony Thomas and, yes, Robinson. The similarities actually go beyond the preseason favorites.
Griffin III was on the preseason Heisman Trophy watch list last season, but not expected to seriously contend for the top honor in college football. Smith was considered the same this season. In fact, many players were on the list last season as well as this season, including Barkley, Montee Ball, Knile Davis, Landry Jones, Marcus Lattimore, Aaron Murray and Robinson.
Both Griffin III and Smith play on teams who are in the Big 12 conference (although Smith was not last year when West Virginia was still a member of the Big East) and who have less than stellar defenses, meaning they will have the ball more often and have to air it out more often than not.
Both quarterbacks can also get it done on the ground as well. They have very strong and accurate arms, but Smith can run out of the pocket and make a big play just as easily, much like Griffin III did in so many games with Baylor last season.
Both also started off the season very well, averaging around 50 points through the first month of the season. Griffin III helped the Bears hang 50 points against TCU and 56 against Rice, while Smith helped the Mountaineers drop 69 on Marshall and 70 on Baylor.
Looking ahead to the bowl season, Baylor and West Virginia hung the two highest scores in their bowl games as well behind Griffin III and Smith. The Bears beat Washington 67-56 while the Mountaineers defeated Clemson 70-33.
The similarities are endless, but the net result may be the same. Smith may not be able to lead West Virginia to a BCS Championship, but he could very well walk out with the 2012 Heisman Trophy award on his way toward increasing his NFL stock heading into the 2013 NFL Draft.