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Is Lamar Jackson a legitimate Heisman candidate?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It only took two weeks but Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has gone from not even being thought about in the Heisman Trophy discussion to now having the fourth best odds to walk away with the trophy at the end of the season.

It’s very early, considering Louisville has only played against two bad teams, but it’s time to say Jackson is a legitimate Heisman candidate.

It’s no surprise why Jackson has shot up the list of Heisman candidates. In his first two games this season he has put up inhuman numbers. Louisville beat Charlotte in the opening game of the season 70-14. In the rout, Jackson threw for 17-23, 286 yards, and an incredible six touchdowns.

That stat line is insane by itself, but even more mind boggling when it is added with his 119 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns to combine for a total of eight touchdowns in the game.

Louisville then proceeded to beat Syracuse on the road 62-28. In that game Jackson went 20-39, throwing for 411 yards and a touchdown. He almost doubled his rushing statistics, running for 199 yards and four touchdowns. In only two games this season, Jackson has a total of 13 touchdowns and 1,015 all purpose yards.

Granted, the hype surrounding Jackson may be jumping the gun slightly. Charlotte is one of the worst FBS teams in college football and Syracuse will likely lose more games than they win this year.

That being said, the talent Jackson has is real. Jackson has as much upside as anyone in college football right now. If he does not win the Heisman this year, he will likely be the frontrunner next year. It’s not hyperbole to think that his upside might be Cam Newton.

That’s not to say he’s destined to be a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback, but with what Newton did in college, Jackson has that possibility. Jackson isn’t as large as Newton, he’s two inches shorter and about 40 pounds lighter, but he has the same ability to beat a team through the air and destroy a team with his legs. Jackson has almost the perfect ratio of size and speed. He’s 6’3” and 205 pounds and runs a 4.40 40-yard dash.

Jackson still needs to improve his decision making. He has only thrown one interception, but there were multiple times against Syracuse that Jackson should not have thrown the ball when he did. Also, the way he holds the ball when running could cause problems against better opponents. He tends to keep the ball extended away from his body when running, making it more likely to be stripped.

Louisville’s next game will be the true test to help see if Jackson is good enough to play well against the best teams. Louisville plays No. 2 Florida State at home on Saturday. This will be the first time this season that Jackson and Louisville will be tested. Even if Louisville loses, as long as Jackson holds his own against Florida State, expect his Heisman odds to rise after the weekend. He may not win the Heisman, especially when players like Christian McCaffrey, Deshaun Watson, and Leonard Fournette are around, but he will be one of the best players in college football this year. 

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