Heisman Watch: Jackson a thriller
At a news conference Monday, two days after his team improved to 2-0 with a sluggish win against Troy, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson apologized for the “negative energy” that has stymied the Tigers’ early follow-up to last season’s 14-1 finish.
Through two games, Watson is completing just under 53% of his attempts with three interceptions and averaging 3.6 yards per carry. So what ails Watson and Clemson? It might just be the postchampionship-game hangover; maybe all the Tigers need is another week or two to shake off the cobwebs.
For now, however, Watson has fallen from his preseason perch atop the Heisman Trophy race to outside of the top five. Here are the early rankings after Week 2:
1. LOUISVILLE QB LAMAR JACKSON Jackson is easily the nation’s best player through two weeks, blending sublime athleticism with a passing game tailored to his strengths. He can put an even stronger hold on early front-runner status by leading the Cardinals past Florida State on Saturday.
2. STANFORD RB CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY After a bye week — McCaffrey ran for more than 120 yards in Stanford’s season-opening victory — the Cardinal retake the field in a matchup against Southern California. Look for McCaffrey to run around, over and through the Trojans defense.
3. SAN DIEGO STATE RB DONNEL PUMPHREY It’s time to start paying attention to Pumphrey, the Aztecs’ best skill player since Marshall Faulk and one of the nation’s best players regardless of position. After leading SDSU past California, Pumphrey has his team in the mix for an undefeated season.
4. OREGON RB ROYCE FREEMAN Freeman was slightly overlooked during the preseason, but the first two weeks of the season have served as a reminder of just what the junior means for Oregon’s hopes of winning the Pac-12 Conference. He’ll have a really nice opportunity to take another step up the ladder in the Heisman race when the Ducks travel to Nebraska this weekend.
5. OHIO STATE QB J.T. BARRETT Heavy rain during Ohio State’s lopsided win against Tulsa led the Buckeyes to focus primarily on the ground, so Barrett didn’t quite replicate his six-touchdown performance from a 77-10 destruction of Bowling Green in the opener. Barrett still added two touchdowns on the ground, showing the sort of dual-threat explosiveness that makes him one of the nation’s most dangerous quarterbacks.
JUST OFF THE LIST
Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage Clemson QB Watson Florida State QB Deondre Francois Georgia RB Nick Chubb Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. Pittsburgh RB James Conner Texas QB Shane Buechele Washington QB Jake Browning Wisconsin RB Corey Clement
Lamar Jackson, hurdling a Syracuse defender, has displayed his athleticism in a Louisville offense tailored to his skill set.