Geno Smith separates from fellow Heisman hopefuls with historic day
West Virginia's Geno Smith is on pace for a staggering final stat line
Texas' David Ash enters the Top 10 after another efficient showing
Jarvis Jones' Heisman chances are hurt by teammate Aaron Murray
Geno Smith's Week 5 line seems like the kind of statistical assault a teenager would deliver with an Xbox controller in hand. But Smith's 656-yard, eight-touchdown day was a reality -- and one that furthers his lead in the Heisman Trophy race.
Smith is on pace to post staggering numbers: 5,184 passing yards, which would rank sixth behind 1990 Heisman winner Ty Detmer's 5,188 on the single-season list, and 60 touchdowns, which would best the record of 58 set by Colt Brennan in 2006.
Heisman history, though, hasn't been kind to the most prolific passers in the years since Andre Ware won in 1989 behind 4,699 passing yards and Detmer won a season later. Only one player who has thrown for at least 4,700 yards -- Sam Bradford, who threw for 4,720 in 2008 -- has won the Heisman since. B.J. Symons (5,833 yards in 2003) finished 10th in voting, while Graham Harrell (5,705 in '07) didn't make the top 10, Case Keenum (5,671 yards in '09 and 5,631 in '11) finished eighth and seventh, respectively, and Colt Brennan (5,549 in '06) finished sixth.
Like those players, Smith is on a team with a defense that's struggling to slow down opponents. None of those passers, including Bradford, was supported by a defense that ranked better than 45th nationally; the Mountaineers currently rank 106th. That's unlikely to improve, as West Virginia faces upcoming matchups with four offenses that are 19th or better in scoring, including Texas (ninth) and Oklahoma State (first).
The question with Smith isn't whether he'll post Heisman-worthy numbers. It's whether those ridiculous numbers can continue to make up for West Virginia's defensive deficiencies and keep the Mountaineers from dropping games that could hurt his case.
Now, on to this week's rankings, where Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell bows out and Texas' David Ash debuts. As a refresher, here's how things stood after Week 4.
Last week: 45-of-51 passing for 656 yards and eight touchdowns; five rushes for 31 yards in a 70-63 win over Baylor.
Season (four games): 141-of-169 passing for 1,728 yards and 20 touchdowns; 21 rushes for 98 yards and one touchdown.
Watchman's take: Smith set West Virginia records for touchdowns (eight), completions (45), consecutive completions (14), yards (656) and total yards (687) in his Big 12 debut, coming 60 yards shy of David Klingler's FBS single-game record of 716 yards set in 1990. As LeBron James tweeted, "Man Geno Smith is RIDICULOUS out there man!!!" Smith pushed his nation-leading pass efficiency rating to 208.3 and has now gone 222 attempts without throwing a pick. Against Baylor, he generated as much or more offense than seven of 15 games involving Top 25 teams.
Next up: Saturday vs. No. 11 Texas
Last week: 19-of-26 passing for 242 yards and one touchdown; 10 rushes for nine yards in a 30-17 win over South Florida.
Season (five games): 88-of-120 passing for 1,147 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception; 34 rushes for 197 yards and one touchdown.
Watchman's take: Manuel didn't match Smith's firepower or his own exploits from FSU's Week 4 game against Clemson, but a workman-like outing in the Seminoles' first road game of the season didn't hurt his candidacy. He was at his best on third down against the Bulls, going 5-of-8 and throwing his lone touchdown pass, a one-yarder to Kevin Haplea. Manuel, who has hit on at least 72.7 percent of his passes in four of his five games, currently sits at 67.4 percent over his career, which puts him on line to break the previous ACC record of 67.0 set by Virginia's Matt Schaub.
Next up: Saturday at NC State
Last week: Idle
Season (four games): 56-of-80 passing for 758 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions; 63 rushes for 289 yards and five touchdowns.
Watchman's take: Klein is on pace for the fewest passing yards (2,274) by a winner since another running quarterback, Eric Crouch in 2001, and the lowest number of rushing yards since Clint Frank won for Yale in 1937. Stats, though, aren't Klein's biggest weapon. He shot up this list due to his intangibles in pushing K-State to 4-0, and he can further strengthen his campaign with a win against Smith and West Virginia Oct. 20. As for Klein's numbers, they could look a lot more impressive after this weekend as the Wildcats take on Kansas, which ranks 88th nationally in total defense.
Next up: Saturday vs. Kansas
Last week: 16-of-23 passing for 179 yards, one touchdown and one interception; 23 rushes for 136 yards in a 17-16 win over No. 20 Michigan State.
Season (five games): 76-of-121 passing for 933 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions; 90 rushes for 577 yards and seven touchdowns.
Watchman's take: It continues to be the Miller Show in Columbus, and so far, so good. He accounted for 82.2 percent of the Buckeyes' offense against Michigan State -- marking the fourth game that number has been greater than 60 percent -- and delivered his third 100-yard rushing game. But Miller had 23 carries, more than every other Buckeye combined, and went down twice with injuries despite ultimately staying in the game. "He got banged up, banged up, but he just kept coming back," Urban Meyer said. But how much longer can Miller continue taking the beating?
Next up: Saturday vs. No. 21 Nebraska
Last week: 19-of-25 passing for 278 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a 51-44 win over Tennessee.
Season (five games): 88-of-129 passing for 1,370 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions; 21 rushes for minus-eight yards and three touchdowns.
Watchman's take: Murray took a back seat to the freshman tailback duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall -- cleverly dubbed "Gurshall" -- threw a pick that was returned for a touchdown and committed a fumble in Georgia territory that led to another Tennessee score. But Murray still managed to complete a season-high 76 percent of his passes, threw two more touchdowns and kept the Bulldogs perfect heading into what figures to be the biggest test to his candidacy, an SEC East showdown at No. 6 South Carolina. Murray racked up four touchdowns against the Gamecocks in last year's loss.
Next up: Saturday at No. 6 South Carolina
Last week: Six rushes for 26 yards and one touchdown; six receptions for 28 yards; four kick returns for 53 yards; two punt returns for 19 yards in a 51-26 win over Washington State.
Season (five games): 31 rushes for 302 yards and five touchdowns; 19 receptions for 193 yards and three touchdowns; four kick returns for 53 yards; 10 punt returns for 150 yards.
Watchman's take: Not to perpetuate the supposed Sports Illustrated cover jinx, but in his two games since gracing the magazine's front page, Black Mamba has averaged just 6.7 yards per touch and has one touchdown. That comes after averaging 16.0 yards and totaling seven scores in his first three games. A lot of that has to do with the competition, as the Ducks have moved to their Pac-12 schedule, but Thomas finds himself in danger of being supplanted on Heisman lists by backfield mate Kenjon Barner, who ran for 195 yards and three touchdowns against the Cougars and is averaging 121 yards per game.
Next up: Saturday vs. Washington
Last week: 22-of-30 passing for 180 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-14 win over Ole Miss.
Season (five games): 73-of-111 passing for 999 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Watchman's take: It was another efficient performance, as McCarron broke Brodie Croyle's Crimson Tide record of 190 pass attempts without an interception, a streak the redshirt junior had run to 206 by game's end. McCarron also spread the wealth, hitting 10 different receivers, though it was a rather methodical outing as he averaged a season-low six yards per attempt and his longest completion was for 17 yards. It's now been eight games dating back to last season since McCarron threw an interception, but keeping that run intact could get tricky. After heading to Missouri Oct. 13, Alabama faces Tennessee (nine picks so far), Mississippi State (nine) and LSU (eight).
Next up: Oct. 13 at Missouri
Last week: Idle
Season (four games): 88-of-143 passing for 1,005 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Watchman's take: Barkley, who has thrown four picks the last two weeks, told reporters this week that his patience has been tested by defenses guarding against the deep ball. That emphasis certainly shows. In the season-opening rout of Hawaii, Barkley had four completions of 25-plus yards; in the three games since, he's managed just one in each game. That could change this week as the Trojans take on Utah, which has allowed 21 passes of 15-plus yards and seven of 25-plus. His campaign could use the lift, as he sits 48th nationally in pass efficiency (141.2) after consecutive sub-par games.
Next up: Thursday at Utah
Last week: Idle
Season (four games): 38 tackles, two tackles for loss, three interceptions, five passes defended, two fumble recoveries.
Watchman's take: Reader Alex Gambill of Bonaire, Ga., posed an interesting question: Why is Te'o in the Heisman conversation instead of Georgia's Jarvis Jones? The Bulldogs' linebacker has impressive credentials: He's tied for second nationally with three forced fumbles, ranks ninth in tackles for loss with eight and has 4.5 sacks. But Georgia hasn't played a ranked opponent, and Te'o came up big in consecutive matchups with Top 25 teams. But most importantly, Te'o isn't competing with a contender at a power position on his own team, as Jones is with Murray. Jones may be the nation's top defender, but that won't necessarily get him in the Heisman mix.
Next up: Saturday vs. Miami
Last week: 30-of-37 passing for 304 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a 41-36 win over Oklahoma State.
Season (four games): 85-of-109 passing for 1,007 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception; 15 rushes for 40 yards and one touchdown.
Watchman's take: Remember when the Longhorns had a quarterback controversy? Ash has certainly put any doubts to rest, showing vast improvement after completing 56.9 percent of his passes last season and throwing more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (four). He's proven steady, throwing 10 touchdowns on the season to just one interception, as well as clutch, hitting on four passes for 70 yards in Texas' game-winning drive against Oklahoma State. Currently second in the FBS in pass efficiency at 184.0, Ash gets a crack at the nation's leader when Smith and the Mountaineers come to Austin in Week 6.
Next up: Saturday vs. No. 8 West Virginia