2012 Heisman Horse Race, Week 1: Geno Smith, Le'Veon Bell Win The Intro

Sep 1, 2012; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith (12) reacts after a touchdown in the first quarter against the Marshall Thundering Herd at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-US PRESSWIRE

In Week 1 of the Heisman Horse Race, the big points go to Geno Smith, LeVeon Bell and Marqise Lee.

We're going to try something new this year. Heisman columns are typically rather worthless in September (and October, and, if you're the cynical sort, November and December), so let's create a race out of it! For each of the 14 weeks between now and when the Heisman votes are due, we're going to rank the week's top 10 performers. We'll give 10 points to the first-place finisher, nine to the second-place finisher, etc., and keep cumulative track of the scoring from week to week.

Here is your Week 1 top 10:

1. Geno Smith, West Virginia

Yes, Marshall was breaking in seven new defensive starters. But still, Smith completed 32 of 36 passes (completion rate: 89 percent) for 323 yards and four touchdowns. Granted, some of those passes were awfully easy, but a stat line that good is impossible to ignore. Plus, after rushing for just 171 non-sack yards last year, Smith gained 65 in eight carries and scored another touchdown. West Virginia gained 655 yards (8.9 per play) for the game, and Smith exited early with a huge lead. That is pure silliness, and it wins the week.

2. Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State

Dan Rubenstein on 2012 Heisman odds

It took an 89 percent completion rate to keep Bell from finishing first. The 237-pound sophomore was downright Javon Ringer-esque in racking up 51 touches Friday night against Boise State, and the Spartans needed every one of them. Bell gained 210 yards in 44 carries (4.8 per carry), caught six of seven passes for 55 yards, and scored twice. Over the course of a 14-game season, that's a pace of 2,900 rushing yards and almost 800 receiving yards. That's also over 700 touches ... which is entirely unrealistic. But still, he was incredible in Week 1.

3. Marqise Lee, USC

Lee's receiving counterpart, Robert Woods, did not have the best performance on Saturday night against Hawaii (13 targets, six catches, and 42 yards, albeit with three defensive pass interference calls drawn as well), but Lee more than made up for it. He caught 10 of 16 passes for 197 yards, he scored on the game's first play, and he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. His emergence perfectly coincided with USC's second-half surge last year, and if he continues to play like this, the Trojans will be 12-0 heading into Oregon-USC II on November 30. (No, I'm not looking ahead at all.)

4. Braxton Miller, Ohio State

Yes, the passing still needs work. Miller completed just 14 of 24 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns (for one of the two, the receiver did most of the work) and, including two sacks, averaged a healthy-but-not-Heisman 7.3 yards per pass attempt. But oh, those legs. You only have to be proficient, and not spectacular, through the air when you can rip off 177 rushing yards in 15 carries and add an absolutely gorgeous 65-yard touchdown run. He could be quite the muse for Urban Meyer.

5. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon.

If only Arkansas State had been able to keep the game close a little longer and force Thomas to stay on the field. Thomas touched the ball just seven times, but when you score three times and gain 119 yards in those seven touches, you get onto this list. Thomas carried three times for 64 yards and a score, and he caught four of four passes for 55 yards and two more touchdowns.

6. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska

The last time we heard this much about a re-tooled passing motion, Tim Tebow was auditioning at his Pro Day. I'll say this, though: it worked. I cannot say the motion looked drastically different from what we saw for much of the last two years, but a) his weight was properly proportioned, and b) he completed 26 of 34 passes versus a potentially decent Southern Miss defense for 354 yards and five touchdowns. He connected with 10 different receivers to boot. We'll see if the bad habits return as the season progresses, but so far, so good.

7. Bjoern Werner, Florida State

Yes, it was unfair to force Murray State to attempt to move the ball on Florida State's defense. Yes, it is probably silly to credit any one Seminole defender for what was team-wide dominance (70 plays, 156 yards, three takeaways, three points allowed). But it is impossible to ignore Werner's stat line: five tackles, all solo, all behind the line of scrimmage. He logged four sacks and broke up a pass to boot. That makes the list no matter the opponent.

8. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

Da'Rick Rogers, who? Patterson helped to take pressure off of a struggling Justin Hunter (17 targets, nine catches, 73 yards) with an efficient, explosive performance. The blue-chip junior college transfer caught six of eight passes versus N.C. State for 93 yards and a touchdown, and he rushed twice for 72 yards and a touchdown. His early scores gave Tennessee a cushion they would not relinquish.

9. Andre Ellington, Clemson

Ellington and receiver DeAndre Hopkins (14 targets, 13 catches, 119 yards) took pressure off of quarterback Tajh Boyd and staked Clemson to a 26-19 win over Auburn in Atlanta. He carried 26 times for 231 yards and gained 24 on the game's key drive. When star receiver Sammy Watkins returns, Ellington might find even larger holes through which to run.

10. Dee Milliner, Alabama

Let's put it this way: Michigan receiver Devin Gardner, against whom Milliner was lined up for much of the evening, caught just one of seven passes on Saturday night. Milliner picked off a pass, broke up four others, and logged 4.0 tackles. That is dominance.

Honorable Mention:

  • Usua Amanam, Stanford (5.0 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR versus San Jose State)
  • Matt Barkley, USC (23-for-38 passing, 372 yards, 4 TD versus Hawaii)
  • Gio Bernard, North Carolina (9 carries, 93 yards, 1 TD; 2 catches, 10 yards, 1 TD; punt return TD versus Elon)
  • Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (19-for-21 passing, 232 yards, 9.6 yards per pass attempt versus Kentucky)
  • Todd Chandler, South Florida (5.0 tackles, all solo; 3.0 TFL, 1 sack versus Chattanooga)
  • Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (15 carries, 214 yards, 3 TD against Rice)
  • Mike Gillislee, Florida (24 carries, 148 yards, 2 TD versus Bowling Green)
  • Todd Gurley, Georgia (8 carries, 100 yards, 2 TD; kickoff return touchdown against Buffalo)
  • Brett Hundley, UCLA (21-for-28, 202 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 6.5 yards per pass attempt; 5 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD againt Rice)
  • Cory James, Colorado State (6.5 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 sacks against Colorado)
  • Duke Johnson, Miami (seven carries, 135 yards, 2 TD; 3 catches, 10 yards against Boston College)
  • Jarvis Jones, Georgia (7.0 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 PBU)
  • Chuckie Keeton, Utah State (22-for-26 passing, 304 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 11.0 yards per pass attempt; 5 carries, 22 yards versus Southern Utah)
  • Taylor Kelly, Arizona State (15-for-24 passing, 247 yards, 1 TD, 12.0 yards per pass attempt; 5 carries, 51 yards versus Northern Arizona)
  • Marcus Mariota, Oregon (18-for-22 passing for 200 yards, 3 TD, 9.1 yards per pass attempt; 3 carries, 33 yards against Arkansas State)
  • Venric Mark, Northwestern (14 carries, 82 yards; 3 targets, 2 catches, 16 yards, 1 TD; 2 punt returns, 132 yards, 1 TD versus Syracuse)
  • Chase Rettig, Boston College (32-for-51, 441 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 8.6 yards per pass attempt versus Miami; nine different receivers)
  • Kedrick Rhodes, Florida International (25 carries, 130 yards, 1 TD; 7 targets, 7 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD versus Duke)
  • Matt Scott, Arizona (30-for-46, 287 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 5.8 yards per pass attempt versus Toledo; 12 carries, 82 yards
  • Bo Wallace, Ole Miss (20-for-24, 264 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 9.7 yards per pass attempt versus Central Arkansas; 11 carries, 94 yards)
  • Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (19-for-27 passing, 367 yards, 3 TD, 12.9 yards per pass attempt against Jacksonville State)
  • T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (11 carries, 111 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 26 yards versus Michigan)

2012 Heisman Horse Race Point Totals (Through 1 Week)
1. Geno Smith (10 points)
2. LeVeon Bell (9)
3. Marqise Lee (8)
4. Braxton Miller (7)
5. De'Anthony Thomas (6)
6. Taylor Martinez (5)
7. Bjoern Werner (4)
8. Cordarelle Patterson (3)
9. Andre Ellington (2)
10. Dee Milliner (1)

If somebody deserving is blatantly absent from this list, it is quite possibly because of human error. I am not above making changes, so let me know who's missing.

While we’re here, let’s watch some of the many fine college football videos from SB Nation’s YouTube channel:

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