Lamar and the Other Guys

Photo: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The Heisman Trophy will be presented to the nations “most outstanding player” on Saturday night. For many Louisville fans, this is the last chance to capture something remarkable on what looked to be a special season before losing the final two games of the season. Lamar Jackson has been the Heisman frontrunner essentially since the beginning, but the last two games have let the field gain some traction.

To get it out of the way early, I do believe Jackson will run away with the trophy, and I believe he is the most deserving of it. My rank of the finalists is as follows:

  1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
  2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
  3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
  4. Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma
  5. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

The historical numbers certainly favor Jackson. Teammates inevitably hurt each other for the most part, due to the fact that the votes tend to get split between them. That being said, there has been one defensive player to  win the award (Charles Woodson, DB) which still puts Mayfield and Westbrook over Peppers. There is also a quarterback bias in recent years. In total, 44 of the Heisman winners have been halfbacks/runnning backs, and 33 have been quarterbacks. However, since 1990, there have been 6 running backs selected and 17 quarterbacks selected. All of this favors both Lamar and Watson, who most believe are the two front runners.

So when we rule out the three farthest from contention, we’re left with the two ACC quarterbacks. Watson was a finalist last season, finishing third behind Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry, who won the award. Here’s how the two quarterbacks stats match up:

  • Watson: Passing- 3914 yards, 37 TD, 15 INT ..Rushing- 524 yards, 6 TD
  • Jackson: Passing- 3390 yards, 30 TD, 9 INT ..Rushing- 1538 yards, 21 TD

Jackson has almost 500 more yards of total offense and 8 more touchdowns than Watson does. That’s a huge difference when you consider Jackson also played one less game.

The two biggest knocks on Jackson is the teams record (9-3 with a loss in Death Valley to Clemson) and his turnovers down the stretch of the season. In the loss to Kentucky, Jackson had 3 interceptions and also had the game-ending fumble to seal the win for the Wildcats. However, in their head-to-head matchup this season, Jackson went toe to toe Watson. Jackson finished with 457 yards of offense and three touchdowns with only one interception. Watson finished with 397 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions.

What Would This Mean for the University of Louisville?

Lamar is the schools first player to be invited to New York as part of the ceremony. Of the 81 Heisman winners, only 36 current FBS schools have a Heisman winner in their history. That means only 28% of the 128 schools have winners. That’s a huge deal and would be program changing. Louisville built a statue for Johnny Unitas in the stadium. I can’t imagine what they will do for Lamar if he wins.

We all know the “first player to…” numbers Lamar has put up this season, so I won’t rehash them here. But there is something to be said for a player, who after 81 seasons of Heisman trophy presentations, is still doing things no one has ever seen. I remember in 2007 when Tim Tebow won the Heisman and everyone made a HUGE deal about the fact that he finished with 30+ passing touchdowns and 20+ rushing touchdowns, and Lamar has done that this season. In my mind, there is Lamar and the other guys. Hopefully of Saturday night, the voters will agree.

Fansplaining: Why Clemson fans are so mad at Louisville and Lamar Jackson

Photo: Joshua S. Kelly/USA Today Sports

Since the University of Louisville lost to Clemson 42-36 at the beginning of October, the Louisville fanbase has noticed a change in behavior from our previously friendly hosts. Clemson has long held a reverence among college football fans as having one of the most hospitable fan bases in the country. Just a bunch of good ole’ preppy bunch that will gladly welcome you into their tailgate for a beer and brat. Always considered the lovable bunch that suffered a #Clemsoning (or two) every year that inevitably ruined Clemson’s chance at national prominence.

Now enter October 1. Lamar Jackson brings Louisville within inches (literally) of knocking off the vaunted Clemson team, and elevating the Louisville program into the national lexicon. So Clemson gets its win, a very strong win at that, and hey, it was a great game, right?

Clemson fans have developed a strange obsession with wanting to refute any national mention of both Louisville and Lamar Jackson, while not being able to enjoy the win and their #2 ranking. They are likely to run the remaining schedule and go back to the playoff for a second consecutive year.

So the Louisville fan base has just one question for the Tiger faithful. Why you mad bro?

While I do find it strange and frustrating the sudden disdain Clemson fans have for Louisville, I do understand it. I do. I’m here for you Clemson fans. I want to explain your change to the masses and help you find peace in your undefeated season. But to truly understand the Clemson dilemma, you have to go back to 2012.

In the 2012 season, Florida State beat Clemson and finished 12-2, 7-1 in the conference and edged out Clemson (11-1, 7-1) for the Atlantic title. Clemson had won the division previously, but this was the start of the Florida State reign. The next season, Jameis Winston’s first season starting, Florida State won the final BCS Championship and again kept Clemson from national prominence.

In 2014, Louisville’s first season in the new ACC, Florida State made it to the first ever College Football Playoff unscathed, only to lose to Oregon. Clemson was again second in the Atlantic Division, but Louisville gained a win in conference play, with Bobby Petrino’s system starting to catch on with Charlie Strong’s remaining players.

Last season, sensing an opening with Winston jumping to the pros, and touting their own Heisman candidate at quarterback, the Tigers finished the regular season undefeated and found themselves in the National Title game against Alabama. While Alabama ultimately won 45-40, Clemson showed they were for real and should be a top threat this season in returning to the championship. Lead by most of their offense returning, including running back Wayne Gallman and third place Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson, they finally had their opening.

Enter Lamar Jackson. Louisville was slowly adjusting to the ACC and building their recruiting up, but Lamar Jackson was the game changer Louisville needed to elevate the program into the limelight. just two weeks after completely dismantling Florida State at home, Jackson led the Cardinals into Death Valley and showed everyone in the country that they were for real. Jackson was already garnering tons of national attention as one of the most prolific playmakers college football has ever seen, and Watson was off to a rocky start, despite Clemson remaining undefeated.

I’ve seen it argued that if Clemson loses a game, and still wins in the ACC Championship, that Louisville should get the ACC nod into the Playoff. I’ve seen it argued that if it wasn’t for the referees in Ref Death Valley, that Louisville would have indeed won the game and should be undefeated, so they deserve the nod. I’ve also seen it argued that both teams should make the playoff and we will see the result on a neutral field.

I’ve heard every week that Lamar has already locked up the Heisman trophy. I’ve heard that he’s the greatest player college football has ever seen, and that he is 5x better than Michael Vick (from Michael Vick). And I’ve heard that Deshaun Watson just isn’t the same player he was last season. That Lamar’s number are so far ahead of everyone else’s that he could average enough points alone that would beat most teams.

This is why Clemson fans are panicking. They had their opening. They were primed for at least a couple years of uninterrupted dominance and shots at the National Title, along with a Heisman trophy. And, in their opinion, Louisville ruined it. Louisville has taken all the national attention for the ACC, Lamar has taken the Heisman conversation by the throat, and Clemson got left standing in the cold.

The thing about all of this is: Clemson will probably get to the playoff. They win out and they are in. They control their own destiny, and proved that they could even hang with Alabama last season.

Louisville is coming. They put everyone on notice by hosting their first ever College Gameday, and thoroughly destroying Florida State. Lamar Jackson will be back for at least one more collegiate season and the quarterbacks coming up behind him (Jawon Pass, Malik Cunningham) show the tools to continue Louisville’s ascent. And by the way, Bobby isn’t going anywhere.

Florida State will rebound too. Deondre Francois is going to be a problem if Jimbo can figure out how to keep him upright, and Florida State is recruiting in the most talent rich state in the country. They have several young stars on the defense and are already showing the turnaround is in place. But for this season, enjoy yourselves Tiger fans. You’re undefeated, ranked #2 and likely going to be able to showcase yourselves for a second year in a row on the grandest stage of them all. Just don’t get comfortable at the top.

Updated 11/3/2016: I misspelled Deshaun Watson’s name in the Michael Vick paragraph. I had it very politely pointed out by a Clemson fan. My deepest apologies.