Sports

West Virginia makes Big 12 debut vs. Baylor

Geno Smith is second nationally in passing yards (357.3)
Geno Smith is second nationally in passing yards (357.3)patrick mcdermott/getty images

Whether it’s the shootout everyone expects or just a low-scoring defensive struggle, West Virginia’s Geno Smith will be ready for anything in his Big 12 debut.

The senior quarterback loves to play with energy and will have what should be an electrifying atmosphere in Saturday’s conference opener between the ninth-ranked Mountaineers (3-0) and No. 25 Baylor (3-0) in Morgantown, W.Va.

‘‘I know everyone’s been anticipating this,’’ Smith said. ‘‘It’s conference play now. Anything goes in these types of games. We’re just going to expect everything and go out and do our best.’’

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Smith already has done pretty well.

He’s second nationally in passing yards, passing efficiency, and total offense. He has yet to throw an interception and will face a Baylor defense that is allowing 315 yards passing per game, which ranks 113th in the FBS.

Three solid games have thrust Smith into the Heisman Trophy discussion. West Virginia hasn’t seen this much Heisman talk since Major Harris finished in the top five in voting in 1988 and 1989.

‘‘I understand that the accolades and the attention is just going to continue to come as we gain more success. I just want to be prepared for it, stay humble and just keep working as we always do,” said Smith, who is coming off a 4,000-yard season and has thrown for 1,072 yards and 12 TDs already this season.

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Another Heisman favorite, Florida State’s EJ Manuel, takes on a fellow fifth-year senior quarterback who’s sixth in Big East history in total yardage, South Florida’s B.J. Daniels. As a freshman three years ago, Daniels led the Bulls to a 17-7 upset of the Seminoles. ‘‘It was a bad feeling,’’ Manuel said. ‘‘We haven’t forgotten it at all.’’ The fourth-ranked Seminoles are 17-point favorites in Tampa, and that doesn’t surprise Daniels. “I don’t think anybody gave us a chance in Tallahassee either,’’ he said . . . No. 12 Texas is coming off its highest-scoring output in seven years, a 66-31 win at Mississippi, and ranks seventh in the nation in scoring. The Longhorns’ opponent today, host Oklahoma State, is averaging a nation-best 62.3 points per game. ‘‘We’ll know a lot more after this game,’’ Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said . . . In its first game since leapfrogging LSU for the No. 2 ranking, Oregon heads to Seattle Saturday night to take on Washington State and new coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack. The Cougars are 18th nationally with 313.7 passing yards per game. ‘‘It’s a very dangerous offense,’’ Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. ‘‘And because their mentality is to pass first, pass second, pass third, they’re always going to be in the ballgame.’’

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