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Louisville’s Jackson tops Heisman list

Jerome Davis/Icon Sportswire

Big games all around this weekend. Could that mean the first real definitive direction for our weekly Heisman Trophy predictions?

Maybe.

We’re bound to have more twists and turns before the 82nd Heisman Trophy is presented on Dec. 10.

Of course, starting hot doesn’t mean you finish hot. That actually guarantees nothing (not even a trip to New York, right, Mr. Fournette?).

An invisible beginning doesn’t rule you out, either.

We will reset our picks each week. Expect the order to jumble continually, unless a predictable pattern develops. Unlikely. This is college football, remember?

My top five:

1. LOUISVILLE QB LAMAR JACKSON: When the season began, everyone expected Jackson to take the next step after showing some promise in his true freshman season (960 yards rushing, 11 rushing touchdowns, 12 touchdown passes and 1,842 passing yards).

He has done a bit more than that.

* THE LATEST: In two games, Jackson has accounted for 1,015 yards (more than 97 Football Bowl Subdivision teams) and 13 touchdowns. That’s not a misprint. In a 62-28 win at Syracuse to open the ACC schedule, Jackson was 20 of 39 passing for 411 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, he rushed 21 times for 199 yards and four scores. In the season opener, he accounted for eight touchdowns and 405 offensive yards in a 70-14 romp against Charlotte.

* NEXT UP: The Cardinals face a true litmus test Saturday when the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles (2-0) roll into town for FSU’s ACC opener. You can bet that Jackson will pick on FSU’s 75th-ranked pass defense, which will be without injured star Derwin Jackson, the sophomore safety.

December 05, 2015: Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey (5) braces for contact during an NCAA Pac-12 Championship football game between Stanford and USC at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photograph by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire)

December 05, 2015: Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey (5) braces for contact during an NCAA Pac-12 Championship football game between Stanford and USC at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. McCaffrey is not chasing many players in this year’s Heisman race, but Lamar Jackson is one. (Photograph by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire)

2. STANFORD RB CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY: McCaffrey undoubtedly has a huge target on his back after setting an NCAA record for all-purpose yards (3,864) last season. He affects the game by rushing, receiving, returning kicks and even passing (he threw for a TD in the Pac-12 Championship Game).

It’s difficult to visualize any opponent completely shutting him down.

* THE LATEST: McCaffrey and the Cardinal had last weekend off. In a season-opening 26-13 win against Kansas State, McCaffrey had 210 all-purpose yards. He rushed 22 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns, including a 41-yard scamper that put the game away with 2:22 remaining. He caught seven passes for 40 yards. He had one kickoff return for 28 yards and two punt returns for 16 yards.

* NEXT UP: Stanford hosts the USC Trojans (1-1) in Saturday’s Pac-12 Conference opener. McCaffrey had 249 total yards — including 115 rushing — in last season’s 41-31 victory against the Trojans.

3. FLORIDA STATE QB DEONDRE FRANCOIS: If I said I had Francois on my preseason list of Heisman favorites, I would be:

A). Lying.
B). Fibbing.
C). Stretching the truth.
D). All of the above.

Correct answer: D.

Know what? The kid looks really good. He belongs.

* THE LATEST: Francois was 25 of 32 for 262 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a 52-8 victory against Charleston Southern. In the opener against Ole Miss, he was 33 of 52 for 419 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, while also rushing for 59 yards.

* NEXT UP: Now it’s time for a severe test. Francois and the Seminoles open ACC play at high-flying Louisville (2-0), which leads the nation in scoring (66 points per game), but ranks 72nd nationally in pass defense.

September 3 2016: Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) breaks thru the line on his way to the end zone for a late fourth quarter touchdown. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels 33-24 at the Chick fil A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.(photo by Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire)

September 3 2016: Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) breaks thru the line on his way to the end zone for a late fourth quarter touchdown. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels 33-24 at the Chick fil A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.(photo by Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire)

4. GEORGIA RB NICK CHUBB: He’s a 5-foot-10, 225-pound runner who has recovered from last season’s catastrophic knee injury. At that moment, he was coming off his 13th consecutive 100-yard rushing game — tying the school record of Herschel Walker — but suffered an injury at Tennessee. Some wondered whether he would be productive this season. Chubb seems back in form.

* THE LATEST: For the first time in his career, Chubb failed to hit the 100-yard rushing mark in a game when he was healthy. Who knew it would happen this time? Chubb was limited to 80 yards (on 20 carries) against Nicholls State, a Football Championship Subdivision school. Georgia narrowly escaped, 26-24, a huge comedown from its riveting opening-weekend victory against North Carolina.
After two games, Chubb has 302 rushing yards, so he’s still very much in stride for a special season.

* NEXT UP: Georgia goes to Missouri (1-1) on Saturday for the SEC opener. The Tigers got their first victory, 61-21, against Eastern Michigan after opening with a 26-11 defeat against West Virginia. Missouri’s defensive front entered this season with a great reputation, but the Tigers surrendered 241 yards rushing against West Virginia.

5. CLEMSON QB DESHAUN WATSON: He has the pedigree (quarterback on a team that could win the national championship) and the history (a brilliant 2015 season, including 4,104 passing yards, 1,105 rushing yards and 47 total touchdowns).

Maybe it’s because the expectations are so high, but Watson has yet to make a huge impact.

* THE LATEST: In a much-closer-than-expected 30-24 home win against Troy, Watson was 27 of 53 for 292 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He rushed 10 times for 55 yards with a long gain of 14. That followed a 19-13 season-opening win at Auburn, when he was 19 of 34 for 248 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He rushed 11 times for 21 yards with a long gain of 6.

* NEXT UP: Seemingly, it’s another opportunity for Watson to run up some big stats on Saturday when Clemson hosts South Carolina State (0-2), which has lost against UCF (38-0) and Louisiana Tech (53-24).

* NEXT FIVE: Houston QB Greg Ward Jr., Oregon RB Royce Freeman, LSU RB Leonard Fournette, Florida State RB Dalvin Cook, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield.

HEISMAN TRIVIA: Tennessee is one of the nation’s most prominent football programs to not have a Heisman winner. The Volunteers had four players finish second in the voting — Hank Lauricella (1951), Johnny Majors (1956), Heath Shuler (1993) and Peyton Manning (1997).

The Purdue Boilermakers also have never had a Heisman winner. They were close in the late 1960s, but Bob Griese (1966), Leroy Keyes (1968) and Mike Phipps (1969) each finished second.

Louisville’s Jackson tops Heisman list

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