"If you can box that up and get approval from the Heisman committee, I'll give you my vote," said one extremely likely voter.
Can't be done, of course.
And no one has stepped into the Heisman void left by Peterson. Smith is so far ahead, not even the 13-of-23, 108-yard clunker he dropped off in last week's slog past Illinois has tightened the polls, at least not enough to notice.
What would have happened to Jason White or Matt Leinart or Reggie Bush if they had played like that? Larry Fitzgerald or Peterson or Vince Young would have won the Heisman, maybe.
But how would Smith's sudden mortal appearance have been received if on the same night, Peterson had run for 167 yards (Patrick's total) to help OU beat Texas A&M?
And while we're at it, does anyone think Peterson might have run for more yards than Patrick these last three games?
Maybe they'd have defensed OU a little differently. Maybe OU, which has given Patrick an average of 34 carries each game, wouldn't have fed the tailback quite as often (although that would seem strange strategy, considering Peterson is the team's best weapon).
Still, it's not a stretch to believe Peterson would have surpassed Patrick's numbers against Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M.
Now, consider the Sooners' immediate future. You think A.D. might have romped in the homestretch against Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State — with rush defenses ranked 66th (140.9-yard average), 97th (167.0) and 85th (154.1), respectively?
(Quick aside: It's been suggested that if Peterson comes back for Bedlam, there's no real risk. When has a Cowboy ever laid a hand on him?)
Without the injury, it's not a stretch to think Peterson might have run for 2,000 yards. Or more. And that would have been mighty appealing to those Heisman voters.
We'll never know, of course. And if Ohio State keeps winning, Smith seems a sure bet to take home the Heisman.
Without A.D., Smith isn't running unopposed. It just seems like it.