Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, September 15, 2016 at 12:19 PM
The numbers for Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson after two weeks after almost surreal. He's averaging nearly 350 yards a game in the air and almost 160 yards per game on the ground. He's thrown seven touchdowns and ran for six more, against just one interception. If you're doing the math that equates to an average game with over 500 all-purpose yards and 6.5 touchdowns.
Another number for Jackson is equally enticing as he gets set for his first real test against Florida State on Saturday (Noon ET, ABC). It's the 50-1 odds he draws to win the Heisman Trophy. This is an award that has seen plenty of players come out of nowhere in recent years, especially quarterbacks. Jameis Winston (2013) and Johnny Manziel (2012) were freshman that won. Robert Griffin III (2011) wasn't at the top of the preseason Heisman watch list. Jackson, a sophomore, who started to come on last year and then dazzled Texas A&M in a bowl game win, is very much in that mold.
Of course it's one thing to post great numbers against Charlotte and Syracuse. It's another thing to do so in the big high-profile games that will decide if Jackson can ultimately cash those longshot odds in. Along with Saturday's home date with Florida State, Louisville goes to Clemson on October 1 and then plays at Houston on a Thursday night, November 17 - speaking of Heisman longshots that could be a big showdown between Jackson and Cougar quarterback Greg Ward, currently a 35-1 bet.
The question for these games is less about Jackson and more about whether he has the help to succeed against an opponent of quality. There's reason to be optimistic. We know he's going to be well-coached, with Bobby Petrino at the helm. He's got a reasonably talented group of receivers, led by Jamari Staples, who's currently averaging over 24 yards-per-catch. Louisville can be expected to play pretty good defense - they were a Top 40 unit nationally last year and have eight starters back. Jackson shouldn't be placed in too many situations where he has to play with desperation.
Bigger question marks are whether or not Louisville has a good enough offensive line - a question particularly pertinent against a talented defense like Florida State. This was a problem area last year for the Cardinals, but they did bring three starters back and were improving by the end of 2015. Saturday will be a big test for how much improvement has been made. Regarding Jackson himself, his accuracy will be something to watch. It was his one weakness as a freshman and even in this year's dynamic start, his completion percentage of 59.7% is relatively modest by the standards of a Heisman quarterback in today's game.
Whether you think Jackson is a good bet at 50-1 is going to be dependent on your view of whether Louisville, ranked 10th in the nation, can beat Florida State in a game that will be called by ABC's #1 broadcast team of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit. We're strongly looking at this game for possible inclusion in our Saturday betting slate, but whether we include it and what way we go is information we have to reserve for clients.
What we can say is that if you're someone who believes in Louisville and Jackson, there's no time like the present to invest in his Heisman chances. If he comes through on Saturday, those odds will come falling in a hurry.