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Friday, August 31, 2012
Who's the Big 12's best player in 2012?

By David Ubben

At last, our countdown has been completed, just in time for Big 12 football to kick off Saturday morning.

I'll field complaints about the list sometime next week, so if you want to be heard, let me know here.

Who's No. 1? If you don't know him by now, you need to change that.

No. 1: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

2011 numbers: Completed 346-of-526 (65.8 percent) passes for 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also ran for two touchdowns.

Most recent ranking: Smith was (obviously) unranked in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Smith: Yes, I voted for a man who has never played a down in the Big 12 as the league's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

He was that good last season. Smith is everything you'd want in a quarterback. First, he's extremely bright. That's an underrated quality in any quarterback. He's athletic, and though West Virginia won't use him as a runner, it gives him the ability to buy time in the pocket and not get himself killed on the occasion his protection breaks down.

He's more accurate than he gets credit for, though he's got a penchant for throwing balls up for grabs downfield. When you've got the kind of receivers he does, why wouldn't you? Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin make it worth the risk. Smith's got a big arm and West Virginia uses it plenty. Like Oklahoma State, the offense is predicated upon plenty of short throws that get the ball into the hands of playmakers. NFL arms like Smith's and Brandon Weeden allow those offenses to become even more dangerous when they stretch the field and make defenses respect the long ball.

Big East defenses aren't much different from the Big 12, and the argument could be made that Big East defenses are even better. That debate aside, despite West Virginia's inconsistency at times last year, only Heisman winner Robert Griffin III had a touchdown-interception ratio that would have bested Smith last year. Nobody else in the Big 12 was even close.

Smith is productive. He takes care of the ball. He makes everyone in the Mountaineers' offense look better. That's what you want in the league's best player.

That's who Geno Smith is.

The rest of the list: