CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

West Virginia's Geno Smith more than passes as Heisman favorite

The Mountaineers quarterback, who tossed for eight touchdowns against Baylor, has a chip on his shoulder and an upcoming Big 12 test vs. Texas.

We had most of it right. This year's early Heisman Trophy favorite was correctly identified as the quarterback with "unfinished business."

He returned for his senior year to lead a high-octane offense, featuring the nation's best receiver tandem, on a national title quest.

We just had a messed-up GPS device.

He wasn't from Tinseltown. He was from Morgantown.

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith didn't specifically mention the preseason fawning over USC quarterback Matt Barkley. Yet, on a conference call Tuesday, you could hear the indignation in his voice only a few days after he threw for 656 yards and eight touchdowns against Baylor.

Barkley's hype was understandable given that his return was a surprise. He would also be leading a team that capped a 10-2 season with a 50-0 win over UCLA.

What other quarterback out there could match that kind of 2012 ramp-up?

Smith saw one every morning in the mirror.

He ended his own junior year by throwing for 407 yards and six touchdowns in a 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

Yet, all he heard in the off-season was crickets.

It wasn't just that. The chip Smith says he's carried on his shoulder since high school now includes being a three-year starter at West Virginia and not getting much ink for it.

As a sophomore and junior, Smith threw for 55 touchdowns with 14 interceptions.

"And people still don't think you're good enough," Smith said. "I think that's where it's coming from."

Safe to say "people" are starting to warm up to Smith. It's difficult to imagine a quarterback having a better September. Through four games, Smith has thrown for 1,728 yards. He has 20 touchdowns and no interceptions. He is completing 83% of his passes and last week blew the doors off America with his performance against Baylor.

Smith completed 45 of 51 passes, meaning he had two more touchdown throws than incomplete passes.

West Virginia plays at Texas on Saturday and it sounds as if Longhorns Coach Mack Brown is conceding Smith the first 30 points.

"This isn't going to be a shutdown game," Brown said. "This guy just scored 70 points. I mean, unbelievable. It's just amazing."

In a month, Smith has swapped places with USC's Barkley and become the prohibitive Heisman Trophy favorite. Smith is the nation's leader in NCAA passing efficiency while Barkley languishes at No. 48. In fact, Barkley is only the fifth-highest-rated passer in the Pac-12 Conference.

Smith isn't buying any of this yet. He knows that no matter what "people" are feeding into his ear, this isn't over by a longshot. He knows that scoring 70 points against what is now the NCAA's worst-ranked defense cannot sustain him.

"I'm not going to get caught up in the hype," he said. "If I go out and do poorly in the next game, I'm pretty sure the story line is going to be 'Geno fails.'"

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