West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, whose team plays Saturday here at Texas Tech, has an impressive interception-free streak going. Looking at Smith's player page at ESPN.com, he has played five games this season, attempting 204 passes and completing 166 of them (81.4%), without being picked off a single time.
In Smith's final game of last season, a 70-33 spanking of Clemson in the Orange Bowl, he threw the ball 43 times (completing 32 passes) without an interception. In the game before that, a 30-27 Mountaineer win at South Florida, Smith was picked off twice. Looking at the play-by-play sheet, Smith's final interception came with 9:56 remaining in the fourth quarter, a "pick-six" (interception return for touchdown). Smith rebounded, however, to drive WVU to a touchdown and game-winning field goal. During these two drives, he threw a combined 10 passes, of which 7 were completed. (One West Virginia play was listed as "Team pass incomplete," which may have involved immediately spiking the ball to stop the clock and set up the final field-goal attempt; I'm not including this in Smith's statistics.)
All told, since his last interception, he has attempted 257 passes (204 this season + 43 in the Orange Bowl + 10 at the end of the South Florida game) and completed 205 of them (166 this season + 32 in the Orange Bowl + 7 at the end of the South Florida game).
The NCAA record book for top-tier (Football Bowl Subdivision) programs features this entry:
MOST CONSECUTIVE PASSES ATTEMPTED WITHOUT AN INTERCEPTION
379—Russell Wilson, North Carolina St., 2008-09
Thus, if Smith continues to average around 40 pass attempts per game and doesn't throw any interceptions, he could surpass Wilson in three more games. For Smith's entire collegiate career, he's thrown 15 interceptions in 1,151 passing attempts (a little over 1%). If we assume, accordingly, that each future pass he throws has a .99 probability of not being intercepted, then his probability of throwing another 122 attempts without an interception (to tie Wilson) is .99 to the 122nd power. This yields roughly a .30 chance of Smith tying Wilson.
Some observers may question the value of attempts without an interception, as under this metric a quarterback receives credit for throwing a ball away when no receiver is open. I (and others) have tried to pinpoint the NCAA record for consecutive completions without an interception, without getting final resolution. According to a posting on this West Virginia fan site, Smith is not too far behind some leading figures on consecutive interception-free completions, namely Wilson at 220 and Andre Woodson (Kentucky, 2004-07) at 223. (The fan page lists Smith with 206 straight interception-free completions, a slight discrepancy with my calculation.)
When, if ever, will Smith's collegiate interception-free streak come to an end? Vote in the poll in the right-hand column.