Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson gained a lot of momentum for the Heisman Trophy in the early and middle parts of the season, but unconvincing performances in losses to Houston and Kentucky have opened up the door for other contenders. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (41 total TDs) and Washington’s Jake Browning (44 total TDs) both have their own case to make, but Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson should be the frontrunner for college football’s most prestigious award heading into conference championship weekend. So what advantages does he have over Jackson?
Watson Has Better Passing Statistics
One of the main sticking points for Jackson’s argument is his 4,928 yards of total offense and 51 total touchdowns, but Jackson has 122 more rushing attempts than Watson this season. In fact, Watson has carried the ball significantly less than in 2015, when he finished third in the voting for the Heisman.
2015: 207 carries, 1,105 yards, 12 TD
2016: 112 carries, 444 yards, 4 TD
Watson is ahead of Jackson in a lot of major passing categories though, including yards, touchdowns, and completion percentage. Clemson has not used Watson as much in the run game, but he has been just as good or better this season as a passer. Here’s a look at how the passing stats compare:
Deshaun Watson: 67.5% completion percentage, 3,626 yards, 34 TD, 14 INT
Lamar Jackson: 57.6% completion percentage, 3,390 yards, 30 TD, 9 INT
The 14 interceptions aren’t pretty in the stats column, but in Watson’s defense he has attempted 70 more passes than Jackson. If you count fumbles lost, Watson has turned it over 15 times compared to Jackson’s 14 times.
Heisman is Usually Won or Lost in November
The current trend of Heisman voters rewards those who play their best in November, and last year provides a prime example of that. Derrick Henry didn’t become the favorite until after the LSU game in early November, and big performances down the stretch helped him ultimately take home the hardware. Henry rushed for 180 yards or more in four of the final five games before final ballots were sent in.
If you look at the November statistics, Watson has the advantage there as well.
Watson: 75.5% completion percentage, 1,411 total yards, 15 total touchdowns
Jackson: 55.9% completion percentage, 1,410 total yards, 13 total touchdowns
Also, team success is another big factor for voters. Six of the last eight winners have played for the national championship, and Tim Tebow (2007) and Robert Griffin III (2011) are the only winners in the last nine years to finish the regular season with three or more losses. Jackson has been phenomenal, but Louisville’s 9-3 record and abrupt fall from College Football Playoff contention could be a deciding factor.
Jackson has played his last game before the final ballots are sent in, but Watson will have one more opportunity to state his case. The ACC Championship Game will be televised in ABC’s primetime spot at 8 p.m. ET this Saturday, and many undecided voters will likely be tuned in to see Clemson take on Virginia Tech.
With five turnovers and two losses in his final two games, Jackson didn’t exactly make things easy for Heisman voters. Watson, on the otherhand, is coming off a six-touchdown performance in a blowout win over South Carolina, and another big game against the Hokies could be enough for him to potentially sway votes in his favor.
- Why Clemson’s Deshaun Watson Should Win 2016 Heisman Trophy - December 2, 2016
- What Louisville’s Loss to Houston Means for the College Football Playoff Picture - November 18, 2016
- Let the Chaos Begin: Previewing the College Football Playoff Rankings - November 14, 2016