Toppling Tigers Could Mean Super Stardom For Jackson

Is it just me, or has the early season college football schedule been packed with potential barn burner matchups that haven't quite lived up to the hype? We opened the season with what looked like a CFP showdown, with top-ranked Alabama taking on the third-ranked Florida State Seminoles. It turned out to be a fairly uneventful (with the exception of a major injury to a star QB) Crimson Tide submission special, as Alabama did just enough on offense while suffocating FSU on defense to come away with the easy 24-7 victory.

Last week, No. 2 Ohio State took on No. 5 Oklahoma in another "CFP preview"-type game. What we saw was a masterful performance from now-perennial Heisman contender Baker Mayfield, and a ho-hum game from the kind of meh J.T. Barrett.

Last week also saw the defending national champion Clemson Tigers put on a dominant defensive performance against No. 15 Auburn, recording 11 sacks and holding their Tiger-counterparts to a miserable 117 yards of total offense. This week presents an even greater challenge for third-ranked Clemson, as they will travel to No. 14 Louisville to take on the Cardinals and reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. Jackson is staking his claim early to repeat as the best player in the country after racking up an absurd 1010 total yards in victories over Purdue and North Carolina.

Why is it then, that it seems the national media is only just now recognizing Jackson as a marquee player? Jackson did not appear in the top 25 on Mel Kiper's preseason Big Board, finally making his debut as the 13th-ranked NFL prospect in the country entering this week. The junior QB from Boynton Beach, Florida is now in his third season as Louisville's starter, and has thrown for over 6,000 yards and 47 touchdowns in his time on campus.

If we take a look at some recent underclassman Heisman winners who returned to school the following season, we see players who became instant household names: Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel, and Jameis Winston. Jackson, on the other hand, still seemed to be a relative unknown heading into the 2017 campaign, and many around the country would be hard-pressed to identify the Louisville quarterback. Could it be that after flying out of the gate last season, Louisville lost their final three games in 2016, including a sloppy defeat in the Citrus Bowl?

Or could it be Jackson's quiet, humble, and unassuming demeanor, a stark contrast to Manziel's bravado or Tebow's Christian demi-god personality. Jackson has not been embroiled in rumors of misconduct like Winston was, and plays for a football program that has only recently made their mark on the national scene. Whatever it may be, Jackson is as under-the-radar as any reigning Heisman winner in recent memory, but a victory this Saturday over the defending champs will surely vault him to the national forefront.

Jackson and the Cardinals nearly knocked off Clemson last season, falling 42-36 as Jackson was stopped one yard short on fourth down with 33 seconds left to play. And that game was played at Death Valley, the Tigers' intimidating, blindingly orange home domain. This will be a home game for Louisville, and while Papa John's Cardinal Stadium doesn't sound nearly as scary as playing at a place with a moniker like Death Valley, home-field advantage certainly plays in Louisville's favor.

All Jackson and the Louisville offense has to do is overcome what ESPN's Chris Low called "the new D-Line U" featuring All-American Christian Wilkins, junior Austin Bryant (school record 4 sacks against Auburn) and sophomore Clelin Ferrell. The Clemson defense has yet to allow a touchdown this season, surrendering just 9 total points over their first two contests.

The real MVPs for Louisville could be their offensive line, which has paved the way for a rushing attack averaging 5.95 yards per carry and totaling 458 yards over the season's first two weeks. Also key for the Cardinals could be 6'3", 220-lb senior running back Malik Williams, who's rushed for 149 yards on just 13 carries this season. More touches for him could aid in wearing down Clemson's vaunted D-line, opening up opportunities for Jackson's speed late in the game.

The old cliche rings true, to be the best you have to beat the best. Lamar Jackson's opportunity to seize the spotlight is upon him.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site