Still striking the pose: Another loss won’t keep Lamar Jackson from winning Heisman

Lamar Jackson is the fourth Power 5 player with 20 TDs passing and 20 rushing in the same season. The other three all won the Heisman.
Jamie Rhodes/Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

As far as a final closing argument for his Heisman Trophy campaign, Louisville's Lamar Jackson could have picked something much, much better than a fumble that Kentucky turned into a game-winning field goal.

But the reality is, Saturday's 41-38 loss to the Wildcats is only likely to impact one aspect of Jackson's march toward the trophy: the margin of victory.

What, truly has changed with defeat at the hands of the Cardinals' in state SEC rival? Louisville is out of the ACC Atlantic Division race — that went to No. 4 Clemson — and while it may have also missed out on a shot at the Orange Bowl at 9-3, that was the ceiling.

Since that loss to the Tigers on Oct. 1, a New Year's Six bowl game was the ceiling for the team, but for Jackson it was all about the numbers and continuing to instill his dominance on a field of Heisman contenders that presented him with no true rival.

No. 3 Michigan's Jabrill Peppers had an impact in the 30-27 double overtime loss to second-ranked Ohio State, with four carries for four yards, an interception and one kick return for 44 yards, but his campaign hinges on the Wolverines staying in the College Football Playoff hunt, a place that is no longer a given.

The cases of Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook and his quarterback, Baker Mayfield — nearly a finalist in 2015 — are certain to grow if the Sooners can take the Bedlam Game on Dec. 3 and claim the Big 12 crown. They are almost guaranteed to split votes as the similar situation with Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell showed us in 2008, (the QB, Harrell was fourth to Crabtree, the WR, in fifth).

While Washington's Jake Browning and Clemson's Deshaun Watson will have stages that Jackson can't duplicate in the championship games (and Ohio State's J.T. Barrett could), those QBs were far enough behind Jackson heading into this weekend's games that Las Vegas sports book Bovada stopped pushing out odds on the race.

Jackson still accumulated 452 yards and four touchdowns — he had 281 passing with two scores on 16 of 25 attempts and ran for 171 and a pair of TDs on 25 tries — and became the sixth player in FBS history with 20 touchdowns through the air and 20 on the ground in the same season. He's also the fourth Power 5 player to do it, and the other three, Florida's Tim Tebow, Auburn's Cam Newton and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, all won the Heisman.

The loss, while detrimental to the Cardinals' place in the CFP rankings, shouldn't be on Jackson, even if his fourth turnover (he tossed two three interceptions) was turned into a Wildcats' win. Since the start of the BCS era in 1998, Tebow, Texas' Ricky Williams and Baylor's Robert Griffin III all won on teams with three losses.

Even the timing of the defeat shouldn't matter. In 1987, Tim Brown's Notre Dame team lost its last two regular season games to Penn State (21-20) and No. 2 Miami (24-0), and yet, the wide receiver still claimed 324 first-place votes and 1,442 points in total in beating out Syracuse QB Don McPherson.

Saturday may have created a bigger escape route for those who want to vote for another candidate, but it shouldn't change anything.

In the CFP era, the expectation was that those in the running to make the playoff would have a leg up as they orbit what matters in this age. But Jackson was already testing that logic after the loss to Clemson, and now he's just testing if further.

Strike that pose. There's nobody in place to deny it.

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, 'Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,' and 'The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.' are now available.