Alex Smith can see clearly now

Of all the reasons for Alex Smith’s success in 2011, this might be the oddest.

Eagle-eyed observers may have noticed that Smith changed his facemask prior to this season.

Yes, his facemask.

Prior to this season, he used the same facemask he wore in college, which has two parallel bars at nose-level. The new, more common facemask removes the top bar along with a vertical bar down the center, giving the wearer more visibility.

Who knows why it took him five years to make the change. Or if this change made that much of a difference. But he thinks it has:

“There are less bars,” Smith told CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. “It’s different. I notice the difference. I have less stuff in my face and my eyes.”

I guess we can start the debate: What has contributed more to Smith’s newfound success, Harbaugh or the new facemask?