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Heisman hinges on Klein/Geno showdown
David Ubben | ESPN.com
West Virginia's loss to Texas Tech on Saturday ended any talk of Saturday's meeting with Kansas State being the national game of the week, but it also opened up what had previously been a painfully boring Heisman race.
WVU's Geno Smith is still the frontrunner, but the entire race could hinge on what happens in Morgantown on Saturday. There won't be the showdown of two top-five teams like it looked like there would be a week ago, but two of the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy will share a field, and the winner will likely leave as the favorite.
After a rough outing, Smith could validate his status as the nation's best player, still immune to interceptions after tossing 25 scores and zero picks through his first six games.
"They're amazing, really, when you think about it. For Geno Smith to have all those gaudy numbers and no interceptions to go along with it, and the no interceptions is a great tribute to his decision-making ability, but also to his receivers," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "You don't very often see a quarterback and receivers like that. From what I know about Geno Smith, and I've never met the young man, but I appreciate the fact that he shows a great deal of humility with all the attention that's paid to him and he sounds like a quality young person."
Snyder's quarterback, Collin Klein, is a mini version of himself, but the workhorse seems immune to letting opponents keep him out of games. He's healthier this year than he was a year ago, but he's smarter and more productive, too.
Klein's 515 yards are fourth in the Big 12, and he's averaging 5.26 yards a carry, up from just 3.6 a year ago, and he leads the Big 12 with 10 rushing touchdowns. He's also completing 67 percent of his passes, up from 57 percent in 2011.
"They do a great job of controlling the clock and it all starts with their quarterback, Klein," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "They do a great job of taking care of the football. ... Only having a couple of turnovers all year and being good on third down and just having the understanding that they're going to control the clock, that changes what we do defensively, our job defensively is to get out there, stop the run and try to create turnovers and get off the field."
Few defenses have had much success stopping either this week, but the opportunity is on the table for both quarterbacks in Morgantown on Saturday.
There will still be a whole lot of football left to be played when it's over, but it's easy to see that both quarterbacks can look across the sideline at one another and know that whoever leaves with a victory will almost certainly leave as the most likely recipient of the most hallowed individual award in sports.