Heisman Forecast: What makes case of Louisville’s Lamar Jackson so intriguing
Don't overreact? Where's the fun in that? As we head into the second week of the college football season, all we have to go on are a full slate of games and the preconceived notions that fueled the preseason polls. Considering two Top-5 teams fell in Oklahoma and LSU, what would you rather go with? With the eye test as our guide, this Heisman Trophy race gained an interesting contender in Louisville's Lamar Jackson. What makes the Cardinals sophomore quarterback so intriguing, beyond his electric play, is that his case comes with a potential expiration date. Florida State's Deondre Francois is certain to generate some buzz after his debut, but with the Seminoles already having one of the early favorites in running back Dalvin Cook -- and the South voting region also boasting Georgia's Nick Chubb --it's going to be difficult for the redshirt freshman QB to emerge as a legit threats. After facing Syracuse -- 98th in total defense in 2015 -- this weekend in the Carrier Dome, Louisville hosts No. 3 Florida State, then two weeks after that, heads to No. 2 Clemson. Those two games could turn Jackson into a legitimate threat (one who still has as Nov. 17 date with sixth-ranked Houston as a late resume-builder) and vault the Cardinals into College Football Playoff status. Of course, those two games can also completely derail the season of Louisville and its star, hence the aforementioned expiration date. For now, the push for Jackson is consistency. Twice last year he had consecutive games with completion percentage over 60 percent, and those were against two teams with losing records in Boston College (60.0) and Wake Forest (73.1). The opener vs. Charlotte, in which he set a school record with eight TDs, was epic, but can he make days of 400-plus offense the norm? Before we get into the players who are poised to rise and fall this week in the race, here's a real-time look at this voter's ballot. 1. Nick Chubb, Georgia RB, Jr. 2. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB, Jr. 3. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB, Jr. Getty ImagesMichael Hickey
On The Rise: Jalen Hurd, Tennessee RB, Jr.
He and the Volunteers looked little like a Top-10 team in surviving Appalachian State in Week 1. But they did survive, and set up a spectacle at Bristol Motor Speedway against Virginia Tech, a game that will shatter the previous attendance mark of 115,109 set when Michigan hosted Notre Dame in 2013, with 150,000-plus expected to hit the World's Fastest Half-Mile. QB Joshua Dobbs got the preseason love as the Volunteers' top candidate, but Hurd -- who had 110 yards vs. Appalachian State -- is the more consistent of the two, and if he can seize the moment against the Hokies, he'll gain some traction before the SEC portion of the schedule even starts. Getty ImagesFrederick Breedon
On The Rise: Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB, Jr.
No, he didn't put up jaw-dropping numbers at Auburn and threw an interception, but that defense may go down as one of the best Watson and Co. see all season long. Expect him to kick it up a notch this week with Troy (which is coached by former Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning) coming to Death Valley. It won't be enough to vault him into the lead, but Watson should get back to the nearly 5,000-yard pace standard he set in '15. Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox/Getty Images
On The Rise: Royce Freeman, Oregon RB, Jr.
Virginia's defense struggled to contain FCS foe Richmond last weekend, giving up 524 total yards, including 337 on the ground. Now, that could mean a big weekend for Ducks QB Dakota Prukop, but the thought here is that Freeman is going to get fed, fed and fed some more after just 11 carries in the opening win over UC Davis. He's still trailing McCaffrey in the West voting region RB rankings, but Freeman's stat line should look more impressive after this one. Scott Olmos-USA TODAY SportsScott Olmos
Fall Guys: Leonard Fournette, LSU RB, Jr.
He's going to have his moments, and in a loss to Wisconsin, Fournette still had 138 yards and averaged six per carry. But this was at least one Las Vegas book's preseason favorite and it feels once again like we'll be wondering how long Fournette can keep top contender status. Jacksonville State coming to Tiger Stadium figures to be a nice remedy for this offense, but QB Brandon Harris isn't doing him any favors, and if Les Miles goes with Danny Etling, is it going to get any better? The offense is archaic and isn't doing Fournette any favors, meaning another sizzling start like he had a year ago -- when he was on pace for 2,000 yards -- seems almost implausible. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY SportsBenny Sieu
Fall Guys: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB, RS Jr.
The Sooners' CFP hopes were dealt a massive blow with their loss to Houston, and with it, Mayfield's Heisman hopes. He's not completely out of the running, as he threw for 323 yards and two scores against the Cougars, and has a chance next week vs. No. 4 Ohio State on the road to push his way back into the mix, not to mention a schedule that includes four other Top 25 opponents with No. 15 TCU, No. 11 Texas, No. 23 Baylor and No. 22 Oklahoma. That being said, he's not going to get much of a boost this week against UL-Monroe, a win that's not going to help remove the stain of losing in Week 1. Getty ImagesScott Halleran
Fall Guys: Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech QB Jr.
The nation's leader after racking up 540 yards in a dismantling of Stephen F. Austin, Mahomes has to be thinking about putting up another massive total vs. Arizona State, which allowed 369 yards to FCS' Northern Arizona. But that was without linebacker Salamo Fiso, who was held out for disciplinary reasons, he may be back and lineman Viliami Latu -- per Sun Devils coach Todd Graham -- definitely will be. Mahomes may still get to this defense, but it won't be to the insane degree with which he ate alive the Lumberjacks, and Mahomes needs astronomical numbers to stay in this thing. Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY SpoMichael C. Johnson