As Mark Knudson points out: “”Michigan’s spectacular, do-everything linebacker/defensive back/kick returner/wildcat quarterback/running back/receiver Jabrill Peppers is doing things on both sides of the ball that have not been seen since Wolverine Heisman winner Charles Woodson was going both ways during Michigan’s co-national championship season in 1997.”[/box]
By MARK KNUDSON
Just like the race to make the College Football Championship Playoffs, the run for the Heisman Trophy is far from over.
Certainly it’s fair to say that Louisville QB Lamar Jackson is the clear frontrunner. His monster seven touchdown performance against Boston College upped his totals through nine games to astounding levels: 2,753 passing yards, 1,183 rushing yards, and an amazing 45 touchdowns (running and passing.) He’s most certainly ahead in the polls – and deservedly so.
But keep in mind that Jackson likely won’t be playing in any more really big “showcase” games down the stretch – including a conference title game – and many voters don’t cast their ballots strictly on glossy statistics alone.
So Jackson’s body of work to date, including his ever expanding highlight reel, won’t be getting many eye-catching additions based on the opponents. Sure, spectacular runs and big pass plays against Houston or Kentucky won’t hurt him, but will they be enough? He still has to convince those voters who wait until the last whistle sounds before casting their vote that he’s the Most Outstanding Player in America over guys whose teams are playing for a conference or national title. He’ll be out of sight during the last weekend of the season, but will he be out of mind?
Consider this: Michigan’s spectacular, do-everything linebacker/defensive back/kick returner/wildcat quarterback/running back/receiver Jabrill Peppers is doing things on both sides of the ball that have not been seen since Wolverine Heisman winner Charles Woodson was going both ways during Michigan’s co-national championship season in 1997.
Peppers lined up at 10 different positions against Michigan State. He doesn’t just play both (all three?) sides of the ball, he excels – sometimes dominates – in multiple areas. This season he has 53 tackles, including 13.5 for a loss (3.5 sacks), has scored three offensive touchdowns, has a punt return for a TD, and even run a two-point conversion attempt back the other way against the Spartans to score two for the Wolverines.
|And Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who finished third last season, is having another great year. He’s passed for almost 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns, and rushed for another 370 and two scores. He has his team poised for a second straight run at the national title and he WILL be playing on championship weekend. That will matter.|
Jackson’s coach, Bobby Petrino, is already unhappy with the playoff committee and making the argument that he should have been running up scores on overmatched opponents all season to help his team’s playoff standing. So barring injury, nothing is going to prevent him from doing all he can to pad Jackson’s stats in the final three games in an effort to sway anyone who votes mainly on numbers (and there are many of those) that Jackson is the MOP.
But what if Peppers is outstanding and the true difference maker against Ohio State or in the Big 10 conference title game? What if an unbeaten Michigan squad qualifies for the play-off? A whole lot of college football fans don’t even know the name of the Wolverine’s quarterback (it’s Wilton Speight, by the way) but they know that Peppers – as Charles Woodson was in 1997 – is clearly the biggest name on the roster. If Big Blue is playoff bound in large part due to the broad shoulders of their “Mr. Everything,” it will be hard not to vote for him, because he will fit the bill of “Most Outstanding Player” to a T.
There are still a lot of “ifs” involved. That’s exactly why this is another race that isn’t over until it’s over.