Most of the time when you mention the name "Kevin Smith" people instantly think of the "movie guy"(Clerks-yaaah, Jersey Girl-booo). However, this year they should think about the Kevin Smith who plays running back for the UCF Knights. Though, if they don't, then they're probably in good company because the selection committee obviously didn't either when announcing the award's finalists.
On Monday, they whittled the list down from 10 semifinalists to 3 finalists. They are:
Mike Hart, Michigan
Darren McFadden, Arkansas
Ray Rice, Rutgers
On the surface, those might seem like great candidates, but if you check out the stats a little deeper you'll find that a case can be made for Smith's inclusion.
First, let's examine the type of defenses that the three finalists and Smith faced over the course of the season. These are stats reflecting average yards per game, and an average of total touchdowns allowed by all of the teams that each back ran against.
Hart: 147 yds/gm, 16 total TD's
McFadden: 185yds/gm, 20 total TD's
Rice: 153 yds/gm, 15 total TD's
Smith: 177 yds/gm, 18 total TD's
As you can see, Smith's averages stack up in line with the finalists. That's a good indication that the stats he's racked up at this point aren't inflated compared to the other three runners.
What about when they've faced some of the stronger teams? Here's how the four have fared when they faced opponents that were ranked at the time.
Hart: vs. Penn St.-44 rushes/153yds/3.5avg/1TD; OSU-18 rushes/44yds/2.4avg/0TD
[Average: 31 rushes/98yds/2.9avg, 1 total TD]
McFadden: vs. Kentucky-29 rushes/173yds/6.0avg/1TD; Auburn-17 rushes/43yds/2.5avg/0TD; South Carolina-35 rushes/323yds/9.2avg/1TD; Tennessee-22 rushes/117yds/5.3avg/0TD [Average: 25 rushes/164yds/5.7avg, 2 total TD]
Rice: vs. Cincy-34 rushes/94yds/2.8avg/1TD; USF-39 rushes/181yds/4.6avg/0TD; WVU-30 rushes/142yds/4.7avg/0TD; UConn-21 rushes/116yds/5.5avg/1TD
[Average: 31 rushes/133yds/4.4avg, 2 total TD]
Smith: vs. Texas-27 rushes/149yds/5.5avg/2TD; USF-18 rushes/55yds/3.1avg/0TD
[Average: 22 rushes/102yds/4.3avg, 2 total TD]
Once again, Smith's performed about the same as the other backs when facing ranked teams. In fact, only Darren McFadden seems to be far above the others in terms of average yards and yards per rush, but he doesn't have any more rushing TD's than Smith does against ranked opponents.
So, with all of those stats in mind, check out what each back has done up to this point in the season.
Mike Hart(9 games): 233 rushes/1232yds/136.9ypg/5.3avg/12TD
McFadden(11 games): 272 rushes/1519yds/138.1ypg/5.6avg/12TD
Rice(11 games): 315 rushes/1612yds/146.5ypg/5.1avg/17TD
Smith(11 games): 330 rushes/1945yds/176.8ypg/5.9avg/24TD
Kevin Smith destroys all of them in terms of total yards, average yards per game, average per rush and touchdowns. And keep in mind, that he's the only one out of the three that didn't face an FCS(division II) school all season. He's also played every game(*cough*Mike Hart*cough*).
When asked about not being one of the finalists despite his impressive numbers, Smith shrugged it off like he's shrugged off tacklers all season.
"Right now, we're trying to advance to the conference championship game," says Smith, the UCF junior who Saturday will likely become the first runner in state history to surpass the 2,000-yard mark in a single season. "That's what I'm about right now. You don't play football for awards. You play for your team.
"For them to mention me for the award is an accomplishment in itself. I congratulate those who [were the three finalists] for the Doak Walker Award."
Indeed, it is a great accomplishment to even be a semifinalist, but his stats tell the true story. This year, the name "Kevin Smith" should have been a finalist on the Doak Walker ballot, and not just thought of as that "movie guy".