- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is ancient history around these parts, but I can't help myself.
I have to ask the question.
What if Smith still played in the Big East?
Would he still be the Heisman Trophy front-runner? Would he put up video game numbers against some of the very excellent defenses across this league?
Come on, you know you have thought about it, too.
These are questions I have fielded several times during my chats and in my mailbag. One intrepid reporter even jumped on the Big East coaches call Monday and asked Charlie Strong and Doug Marrone how their respective teams slowed down Smith last season. Neither coach was much in the mood to answer, and rightfully so.
As I said, ancient history.
But given how well Smith has played and how much attention he and West Virginia have gotten as members of the Big 12, it is only natural to wonder if things would be different for the Mountaineers had they stuck around the Big East.
First, I think it is pretty obvious Smith would be a Heisman Trophy front-runner. He was outstanding last season, setting the Big East single-season record for passing yards with 4,385. You all know he was my choice for Big East Offensive Player of the Year. Everybody projected Smith to be even better this season, with another year playing for Dana Holgorsen, and the return of his two supremely talented receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
The second question is much harder to answer. Smith would get his yards and throw his touchdown passes. I have no doubt about that. West Virginia averaged 433.6 yards per game in Big East play last year so it is not as if the league totally shut this offense down. Smith is clearly making better decisions this year -- having thrown ZERO interceptions.
But I still believe the Big East plays better defense than the Big 12. Every single Big East team ranks in the top 68 in the nation in total defense. Nobody is giving up more than 400 yards a game.
In the Big 12, three teams are ranked between 88-120. That includes West Virginia and Baylor following their 70-63 shootout last week. No game in Big East history comes close to the combined point total in that one. In fact, only six games in Big East history have seen 100 combined points scored. Only three of them were between Big East teams.
The Big East has made its name as a defensive league. The Big 12 has made its name as an offensive league, and that was reinforced last week. Though it appears several Big 12 teams are improved on defense this year -- Texas Tech is actually leading the nation in total D -- not many have been tested just yet. But they will be once Big 12 play begins.
It simply may be too early to judge how West Virginia will do in the Big 12 after one conference game against a pretty porous defense. But I do know one thing: West Virginia has scored 70 points twice in its last five games.
Neither contest was against a Big East opponent.