Heisman Forecast: In appreciation of Lamar Jackson's historical pace

BY foxsports • October 5, 2016

And on the sixth Saturday, he rested.

Louisville's Lamar Jackson gets a week off following an epic against now No. 3 Clemson, a 42-36 loss that put a serious crimp in the Cardinals' ACC Atlantic Division title plans. But the Heisman Trophy -- and yes, even the College Football Playoff for the nation's seventh-ranked team -- is very much still there for the taking for this quarterback.

The numbers have been staggering from the get-go, but with the Cardinals on a bye week, it's an optimum time to sit back and appreciate all the action Jackson has supplied us with.

He had 295 yards and a touchdown through the air (along with an interception) and 162 yards and two scores on the ground vs. the Tigers, and while a loss doesn't make him as bullet-proof as he could have left Death Valley, at this point there just isn't a player who has been more outstanding.

Or more historically prolific.

Averaging 462.6 yards per game of total offense, Jackson is on pace for 5,551 yards. That would be the sixth-highest single-season total in FBS history -- behind only Texas Tech's B.J. Symons (5,976 in 2003), Hawaii's Colt Brennan (5,915 in '06), Houston's Case Keenum (5,829 in '09 and 5,666 in '11) and another Texas Tech QB, Graham Harrell (5,614 in '07) -- and 327 more than Oregon's Marcus Mariota when he won in 2014 with the record yardage among Heisman winners.

Where it truly gets eye-opening, though, is when you look at where Jackson could be when stacked up against the past at the time of voting.

That 5,551 figure would be be 699 more than what Mariota had when ballots are due, and would be the second biggest regular season ever at just 30 yards behind Keenum's 5,581 in '09.

If we're being honest, Jackson could also leave Keenum in his dust, given the schedule that lies ahead for the Cardinals.

While there's that Nov. 17 date with No. 6 Houston, which is sixth in the nation in total defense, Boston College is No. 1 once again, allowing just 202 yards per game, and NC State is 21st, things do lighten up considerably.

Louisville has Duke (49th), Virginia (109th), Wake Forest (53rd) and Kentucky (108th). That sets the stage for Jackson to put up even bigger numbers when you consider what we saw him do vs. Clemson and its 12th-ranked defense.

It's still very much Jackson's trophy to lose, but it's where the contenders stack up below him where things get interesting.

Before we dive into this week's Risers and Sliders, here's a real-time look at the Forecaster's virtual ballot.

The Huskies have arrived, and their poster boy is very much on the trophy radar as Browning and Co. simply torched Stanford. It would have been almost unfathomable this summer to imagine Christian McCaffrey being displaced as the Far West voting region's leader, but Browning -- who is the Power 5 leader in pass efficiency (196.3) -- is nipping at his heels after the Washington defense bottled him up (more on that later). Oregon has taken a step back this season, but considering the Huskies have dropped 12 straight in this rivalry, a win in Eugene will give Browning another boost.

He threw for five touchdowns against Louisville in that instant classic, and has delivered back-to-back games with at least 300 passing yards. Doing it again this week would be impressive given he's facing the nation's top-ranked defense in Boston College. That being said, Watson did torch Steve Addazio's defense for a season-high 420 yards and three TDs through the air, so better to expect some fireworks on Chestnut Hill and he's got a captive audience to do it in front of with a Friday night affair.

There's the issue of his missing the Week 2 game against Lamar (as stated before, it's been difficult for anyone to miss action and win in the modern era) and he's also from a non-Power 5 team (which has made it nearly impossible to win since 1990), but Ward is a viable threat to get to New York if the Cougars remain in the CFP hunt. He just totaled 400 yards of offense vs. UConn and in the five weeks before that meeting with Louisville, faces four defenses that are 32rd or lower, including Tulsa (61st), SMU (91st), and this week's opponent, Navy, which is 57th. SLIDERS

It's one of the benefits of being the runner-up in last year's voting that a performance like McCaffrey had against the Huskies doesn't completely derail him. He had 17 touches for 79 yards -- 4.1 yards per play -- and zero scores, that coming after racking up 300 yards the previous year in this game, and he has not had a rushing or receiving TD in two games. The good news is he remains the country's leader with 214.5 yards per game, but out of the gate following that setback he's got a 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff vs. Washington State and just one ranked opponent remaining in No. 21 Colorado on Oct. 22. The margin of error is that much slimmer for one of the preseason favorites.

How good would Dobbs and the Volunteers be if they played a complete game? Incredibly, they have a minus-31 scoring margin in the first quarter this season, which ranks last in the SEC, but they remain undefeated thanks to some continued second-half magic (sorry for the reminder there, Georgia). Dobbs is growing more efficient as the season wears on, posting season highs in his passer rating over each of the past three weeks (150.6 vs. Ohio, 162.5 against Florida and 166.2 at Georgia), but Myles Garrett and No. 8 Texas A&M are 12th in scoring defense and second in the nation in tackles for loss at 10 per game. If the Volunteers find themselves in a hole again, this Aggies defense may not be the group to put together another comeback on.

Mahomes had his least productive game of 2016 against Kansas, throwing for a season-low 277 yards against a 90th ranked Kansas defense. To be fair, backup Nic Shimonek did throw four TDs of his own as Mahomes left after going down hard on his right shoulder and is day-to-day going into this weekend's game against Kansas State, so Mahomes could have been in for a monster day. If he sits this week, it only cements his falling out of this race, but if Mahomes plays, he's in for a major test vs. a Wildcats defense that is fourth in total defense (239.8) and 12th against the pass (154.5).

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His book, 'Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,' is out now, and 'The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners' will be released Nov. 22, 2016.


in this topic

share story