It didn’t take long for newcomer West Virginia to make an impact in the Big 12.
The Mountaineers made their presence known on July 18 when quarterback Geno Smith, not Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, was announced as the preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
This probably came as a shock to a lot of Sooners fans and other longtime Big 12 followers. After all, Jones was the top returning name in 2012, a legitimate Heisman candidate. He plays quarterback for one of the annual powerhouses in the Big 12.
And some guy named Geno, from a school in the Eastern time zone, knocks Landry Jones off the top spot? What is this, a pizza-making contest?
Before we go any further, it must be stated that the Big 12’s preseason team and individual honors are voted on by the media. That, in itself, can explain away any illogical choices.
But there are legitimate reasons why Geno Smith is rated the Big 12’s top offensive player before he’s ever taken a snap in the conference.
He’s certainly got the statistics. He passed for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2011. Jones passed for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns last season – in 36 fewer attempts than Smith.
There’s also the most glaring statistic: Smith threw seven interceptions in 2011, while Jones more than doubled that total with 15.
The numbers boil down to West Virginia’s Smith ending with a 152.6 pass efficiency rating and OU’s Jones with a 141.6 rating.
In this battle of Smith and Jones, it was the Mountaineer who put up slightly better numbers and was more efficient.
Ultimately, it’s splitting hairs. Both are great college quarterbacks. Both have the potential to lead their teams to titles this season.
Jones is considered the better pro prospect and is higher-rated Heisman contender. Jones has been a starter for three seasons while Smith has been West Virginia’s main man for two.
And who knows what Jones and the Sooners could have done last season if star receiver Ryan Broyles hadn’t gotten hurt in the ninth game? The Sooners went 2-2 without Broyles to finish 10-3.
On the other hand, who knows what Smith can do with another season in coach Dana Holgorsen’s high-flying offense?
We’re about to find out as the season approaches. We won’t see Smith and Jones go head-to-head until the Sooners visit Morgantown on Nov. 17.